A few more detailed looks at the Mavs’ upcoming season are on their way, but in honor of the CelticsBlog-hosted NBA preview circuit, I present to you a first look at the immediate future of the Dallas Mavericks:
Last Year’s Record: 55-27; best in the Southwest, second in the West.
Key Losses: Erick Dampier, screen-setter extraordinaire and instantly expiring contract, Eduardo Najera, a signed-and-released Tim Thomas, Matt Carroll, Rodrigue Beaubois’ preseason, and hope for a big name free agent.
Key Additions: Tyson Chandler, Ian Mahinmi, Dominique Jones, Alexis Ajinca, Rick Carlisle’s faith in Beaubois, the benefit of a full training camp.
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Dirk Nowitzki was re-signed on a bargain deal relative to his current production. Brendan Haywood was inked to a long-term contract that has brought the Mavs a fair bit of criticism, though the partial guarantees written into the deal and the market this summer (not to mention the fact that re-signing Haywood was a flat-out necessity) make his deal fairly palatable. Erick Dampier was traded for Tyson Chandler, and the Mavs shed Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera’s contracts while picking up an interesting young big in Alexis Ajinca. Mark Cuban shelled out $3 million for the chance to select South Florida’s Dominique Jones in the first round of the draft. Ian Mahinmi, a per-minute wonder with plenty of promise, was had for two years and minimal salary commitment.
Yet the biggest moves of Dallas’ off-season were the ones never made. The Mavs’ brass made pitches to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Joe Johnson in an effort to lure them to Dallas via sign-and-trade, but the former two had grander ideas and the latter his eye on a much larger paycheck. Erick Dampier’s instantly-expiring contract was a hell of a trade chip, but it sat unused while the most attractive free agents on the market committed to playing anywhere but Dallas.
The Mavs also made runs at two candidates for their mid-level exception. Al Harrington: miss. Udonis Haslem: miss. Dallas wasn’t sinking any battleships.
Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban then turned their attention to the trading block, where they found an eligible bachelor in Al Jefferson. His fit with the team may have been a bit awkward, but there’s no mistaking Jefferson’s talent. Reportedly, the Mavs were but Dampier’s contract and a few draft picks away from working out a deal with Minnesota, yet the Mavs balked. Maybe it was the luxury tax implication. Maybe Nelson and Cuban were hoping for an even better return on Dampier’s contract. Maybe it was concern over how Nowitzki and Jefferson would play together. Regardless, the Utah Jazz swooped in to collect Jefferson while giving up little more than cap space and a pair of first rounders in return, and the Mavs leave the summer in only a slightly better position than when they entered it.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Dirk Nowitzki. In an otherwise unremarkable offense, Nowitzki is one of the few unmistakable standouts. He still presents a match-up problem for every player in the league, and even at 32, Nowitzki’s offensive game is as potent as ever. His rebounding rate has dropped a bit. His defense is still lacking, though probably underrated on the whole. But Nowitzki is the player through which all things come and all things go for the Mavs.
Taking care of the ball. The Mavs had the 10th best offense in the league last season, but were ranked 13th in effective field goal percentage, 26th in offensive rebounding rate, and 15th in free throw rate. How? Dallas turns the ball over on just 12.2% of its possessions. Nowitzki is an absurdly efficient go-to scoring option in part because of how deliberately careful he is with the ball. Jason Kidd may pick up quite a few turnovers, but between Nowitzki and a few other high-usage, low-turnover players (Jason Terry, Caron Butler), Dallas puts up plenty of shots without giving up scoring opportunities.
Creating turnovers without fouling. Typically, successful NBA defenses fall into one of two general categories: a more conservative, field goal percentage-limiting style, or a more aggressive scheme based on forcing turnovers. Great defenses can sometimes manage to do both. Dallas manages to do neither, at least to the full extent of each defensive theme. Of the 10 teams that forced the most turnovers last season on a per possession basis (GSW, BOS, CHA, MIL, DET, UTA, OKC, MIA, PHI, and DEN), seven were also among the bottom 10 in opponents’ free throw rate. This is pretty intuitive; the more teams pressure ball-handlers and try to force turnovers, the more likely they are to be whistled for fouls.
Dallas, however, has managed to be fairly successful in creating turnovers (they ranked 11th in the league in that regard last season) without picking up all that many fouls (the Mavs were 3rd in the league in opponents’ free throw rate). It’s a strange balance, but thanks to anticipation on the wings and an overall conservative style (perhaps a bit too conservative at times), Dallas has made it work. Not well enough to do serious damage in the playoffs in the last few years, but well enough to remain in the West’s second tier in spite of other defensive shortcomings.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Shot creation. Nowitzki can manufacture a reasonably good shot attempt against almost any opponent when covered one-on-one, but aside from Dirk, Dallas doesn’t have many players that can create quality shots reliably. Rodrigue Beaubois is likely the team’s second best option in that regard, as Beaubois can use his speed to free himself up for an open look or execute relatively simple drive-and-kick sequences. Otherwise, Jason Terry’s shot-creating abilities looked stifled in last year’s playoffs, and Caron Butler is a decent isolation option…which might make a difference if decent isolation options were considered useful for offensive success.
Jason Kidd is, oddly enough, the question mark. Against San Antonio last season, he wasn’t able to create open looks for the likes of Terry, Butler, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood, and the Mavs suffered. One of the reasons why Beaubois seemed so brilliant in that series was his stark contrast to Kidd; while the future Hall-of-Famer claimed to be troubled by illness and a bad back, Beaubois was slicing to the hoop in a way that no other Maverick can. If Kidd can stay healthy for the playoffs and redeem his performance against the Spurs, the Mavs’ offense could be pretty potent. It comes down to Dirk providing another year of solid production, Dallas recognizing the kind of shot-creating star it has in Beaubois, and Kidd finding a way to make the rest of the offense work. Without all three of hopes points coming to fruition, the Maverick offense will struggle at times.
A lack of elite production in any particular category. When people say that the Mavericks lack a team identity, they’re wrong. What they really mean to say is that Dallas isn’t really a top-level team in any particular statistical regard. The Mavs were a solid team in most capacities last season, but with the Lakers looming above and so many other team fighting for the no. 2 seed in the West, just being solid may not be good enough. The Mavericks were neither an elite offense nor an elite defense last year, and that’s troubling, particularly because their primary off-season acquisition was a back-up center that will replace the already steady Erick Dampier. Any improvement that will thrust Dallas into elite company will have to come internally, and that puts a lot of pressure on Rodrigue Beaubois, Caron Butler, and Brendan Haywood.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Win 50 games to extend the Mavs’ current 10-year streak, rest the veterans as much as possible, and make it to the conference finals. Any playoff series would be a step up from last season’s first round exit, but Dallas has enough talent to aim high. Not ‘up, up, away, and through the Lakers’ high, but high enough to be L.A.’s stepping stool on the way to the Finals.
Here are some developmental goals for some of the younger guys:
Rodrigue Beaubois needs to prove that the production from his fantastic rookie season is sustainable, while working to improve his ability to run the offense and defend opposing point guards.
Dominique Jones needs to find a way to crack the Mavs’ wing rotation, which is currently clogged with veteran talent. Jones’ on-ball defense and ability to get deep into the paint could be quite useful, but nothing will be given to Jones. He’ll have to pry every minute he gets from Terry, Butler, Beaubois, and J.J. Barea’s fingers.
Ian Mahinmi needs to continue to work on his face-up game, work the offensive glass as well as he did in the preseason, and focus on improving his ability to defend centers. There aren’t all that many minutes to be had behind Dirk, but if Mahinmi can grow into a capable defensive option in the middle, he could become a Maverick fixture.
Alexis Ajinca needs to outplay Ian Mahinmi and force the Mavs to give him a serious look. He’ll start the season at the back of the center rotation, but if Alexis can outplay Ian in practice and in his limited floor time this season (which won’t be the easiest thing to do considering Mahinmi’s gaudy per-minute numbers), he’ll have a chance to feast on the Mavs’ center minute scraps. Other than that, Ajinca needs to continue honing his hook shot, and improve his defensive positioning.
J.J. Barea needs to be a bit more choosy with his shots in the paint, and really hone in on his coverage of the pick-and-roll. All things considered, he’s not a bad backup, but it’s his D on screens that really gets him in trouble.
5. Do you have a video of Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash playing guitar that could take us back to the simpler times, when defensive inadequacies were just a cute little quirk of our beloved Mavs?
UPDATE: The Mavs have confirmed the trade via press release.
Here’s what Donnie Nelson had to say about the deal: “We wish Erick, Eddie and Matt nothing but the very best. They are consummate professionals that represented the Mavericks family with class and integrity. We could not be more excited to add Tyson Chandler. He is one of the most versatile big men in the league today. He gives our front line a defensive, shot-blocking, athletic punch we haven’t had here in awhile. Alexis Ajinca is a fine young center with significant upside.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Mavs have traded Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, and Eduardo Najera to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. The chip has been traded, and while it’s not LeBron James, or Dwyane Wade, or Joe Johnson (or Al Jefferson, or Andre Iguodala, or…), the Mavs did trade Damp to fill a bit of a positional need.
This move isn’t a particularly good one, and it’s not going to thrust the Mavs into the title discussion. However, like the Ian Mahinmi signing, it stabilizes the frontcourt rotation and gives Dallas some depth in the middle. It’s important, but definitely underwhelming. Dampier’s contract was thought to be much more valuable than this.
If the Mavs could have picked up Chandler circa ’07-’08, when he was one of the game’s elite interior defenders and a Chris Paul sidekick? This would be a definite upgrade. Yet as it stands, it’s actually very debatable whether Chandler is better than Erick Dampier at all. Even gifting Chandler the advantage, it’s entirely possible that Damp’s contract, which was supposed to add a significant, long-term piece for the Mavs, could have no direct roster impact past next season. The Mavs may choose to let Tyson walk next summer, and for all of the hullabaloo, that’s awfully anticlimactic.
Plenty more to come on the Mavs’ “big” off-season move.
Jason Terry on LeBron, Wade, and Bosh uniting in Miami (via Rey Moralde of The No Look Pass): “They gotta come through Texas first. We’ll see what happens. I’m still mad about the ’06 Finals. LeBron just walked into a fire he doesn’t know about.”
Udonis Haslem, to whom the Mavs had reportedly offered their MLE, will re-sign with the Miami Heat for a significantly lesser salary. Hard to blame him, especially when he’s choosing both loyalty to the franchise/fan base and a better shot at a title over the extra coin.
Rick Carlisle on John Wall’s debut (via Kevin Arnovitz): “He has fantastic ability and tremendous upside. He’s a different version of Derrick Rose, a little different kind of player, a little different body type and a little different style of play. They both have a great ability to defend. As they learn more, they’ll both get better and better. Wall is a little longer athletically and maybe a little more of a scorer.”
Al Jefferson wouldn’t have been a suitable replacement for Brendan Haywood, nor is he a particularly wise usage of Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract. But what if he could be had for something far less? That’s apparently what the Mavs are asking of the Timberwolves, according to Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas:
Dallas, meanwhile, is determined not to ship out Dampier’s fully unguaranteed $13 million contract just to take back someone else’s long-term deal. The Mavs are telling teams that they have to furnish a clear roster upgrade if they want the ability to acquire Dampier, cut him instantly and wipe $13 million off the books.
Sources say Minnesota has been urging Dallas to part with Dampier’s contract and draft considerations in exchange for Al Jefferson, who has three years left on his contract at $42 million. The Mavericks keep telling the Wolves that they won’t surrender Dampier’s contract in a Jefferson deal because they have it earmarked for a Gasol-type trade, such as a theoretical sign-and-trade arrangement for James or as the centerpiece of Dallas’ longstanding pursuit of Paul. The problem? It’s a steep drop in terms of difference-makers that might be available after LeBron and his good buddy CP3.
The Mavs’ hard-line stance could always change if they miss out on their other summer targets. For now, though, look for them to take a measured look at their options on the trade market for the next month or so, disappointing as it would be if they can’t turn their best asset into tangible help for Dirk Nowitzki after so much hoopla. Just to be clear, though: Sources say Dallas does remain interested in Jefferson if the Wolves prove amenable to a deal that does not involve Dampier’s contract.
The Mavs would understandably want to pick up Al Jefferson for expiring contracts and Matt Carroll while holding on to their most valuable trade chip, it just seems awfully unlikely that Minnesota would ever agree to such terms. Al’s contract is rather large for a player with such glaring holes in his game, but he’s not enough of a burden that he warrants unloading for cap savings alone. If Dallas really wants to add Jefferson, it’s most likely going to take Dampier. Expecting anything less is just a part of the negotiation, but hardly worthy of anything more than a rumor.
There are only a few core deals that the Mavs could use to trade for Al Jefferson without using Erick Dampier’s contract, assuming that the only player coming to Dallas is Jefferson:
DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract, Matt Carroll, and Eduardo Najera (with his partially unguaranteed 2011-2012 salary) for Al Jefferson
DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract, Matt Carroll, and J.J. Barea for Al Jefferson
Jason Terry (and his partially unguaranteed 2011-2012 salary) and Matt Carroll for Al Jefferson
Jason Terry (and his partially unguaranteed 2011-2012 salary) and DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract for Al Jefferson
Terry and Stevenson make the most sense for the Wolves, but only if their intent is to clear as much salary as possible. They would trade Jefferson’s $13 million salary for $5 million guaranteed if they opt to waive Terry, and Dallas could include cash and draft picks to sweeten the pot if they so choose. Would all of that be worth it to earn the right to pay Jefferson over the next three seasons? Perhaps, but only if the Mavs don’t intend to force him into an uncomfortable role: playing center alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk is a unique cat, and his game isn’t easy to build around. It takes a particular set of players that can complement his strengths while making up for his weaknesses, and in that regard Jefferson disappoints. They’re not comparable, just familiar; even if Nowitzki and Jefferson aren’t the same in form, they are in function. It’s a neat diversion, but wouldn’t work as a starting pairing.
Now, a big rotation of Dirk, Brendan Haywood, and Al Jefferson? $13 million is a lot to pay for a big off the bench, but yeesh. Diversion turns to full-time fancy, and concerns about fit are obliterated. It would likely be painful for Mark Cuban to absorb both Jefferson’s deal and the tax implications, but considering it’s salary the Mavs would have been paying out to benchwarmers (and possibly Terry) this season anyway, the financial difference this season would be rather negligible. It’s all about how optimistic the Mavs are in their ability to move under the tax line (and conceivably the cap) in the coming seasons. With Nowitzki, Haywood, Marion, and perhaps another player yet to be determined all eating up space until 2014 at least, it may not be as financially liberal as it seems to throw in Al.
“We got to get the ball in people’s hands who can put it in the basket, that’s the bottom line,” Jason Terrysaid. “Their bench outplayed us all night. Clear as day. It can’t happen. They just outplayed us.”
Jason Terry’s not wrong; the trademark of a functional offense is appropriate shot selection. The distribution of possessions in last night’s game was mostly regular, with one glaring exception: Dirk Nowitzki was anything but a part of the offense in the fourth quarter. Much credit goes to the Suns’ defense, but quality offensive outfits find ways to get shots for their best scorers.
Starting from the top of the graph and going clockwise, players are ordered in terms of their possession usage. The white area of the graph represents the player’s PER, with the two optimally being relative close, or at least proportional (though, it’s definitely worth noting that usage and PER are in no way measured by the same scale. They’re completely different metrics.). So let’s break it down on a player-by-player basis, shall we?
HIGH USAGE PLAYERS:
Dirk Nowitzki (23.20 PER, 29.16 usage) – Dirk is the king of the castle. The top banana. The big enchilada. The MVP-caliber power forward who has the license to shoot any shot he wants any time he wants it. It’s his prerogative. Nowitzki is the team’s most effective and consistent scorer by far, and the team appropriates possessions to him accordingly.
Josh Howard (11.36 PER, 24.37 usage) – Lo, our first hiccup. Josh has had a rough season in terms of efficiency, but it hasn’t stopped him from chucking up shots at will. It’s ye olde premise of shooting oneself out of a slump…only Howard’s still mired in it. To Josh’s credit, he’s performing better since his return to the bench. But the high number of field goals attempted and high number of turnovers send his usage rate to, at least, upper tropospheric heights. It’s one thing for Josh to be an ineffective, “invisible” player, but Howard was routinely making his team worse by being ineffective while using up a lot of possessions. That’s a definite no-no, and one of the biggest reasons why the Mavs have struggled offensively with Howard in the lineup.
Rodrigue Beaubois (14.24 PER, 22.94 usage) – Having a high usage point guard is a bit unusual, but the situation with Beaubois is a bit more complicated. For one, he’s played a vast majority of his minutes this season off the ball, which puts him in a position to shoot more than your average combo guard. Playing alongside a pure distributor like Jason Kidd doesn’t hurt in that respect either, nor does starting with other low usage players like Shawn Marion and Erick Dampier. Once Roddy was relegated into duty as a deep reserve, his occasional minutes were rare chances to showcase his abilities. It’s only natural that those at the end of the bench will put up shots during garbage time, and while I wouldn’t call Beaubois selfish by any means, he was certainly determined to get his.
Jason Terry (15.68 PER, 22.45 usage) – In theory, this usage is about right. Terry recorded a career high in usage rate last year (25.56), but with the additions the Mavs made in the off-season and the full-time return of Josh Howard, that number was sure to dip. What’s more troubling is JET’s merely average PER, which is his lowest in his career excluding his rookie year. Terry’s efficiency has started to pick up, but he’ll need a pretty stellar second half to meet his career numbers. Still, the important thing isn’t how Terry’s production is represented statistically at the end of the season, but how he performs from now until then. What’s done is done, and though JET’s poor shooting has played a role in plenty of Dallas losses, it’s far more important that he shoots well going into April than going into February.
MID-LEVEL USAGE PLAYERS:
Kris Humphries (15.30 PER, 21.58 usage) – Checking Humphries’ numbers over the course of this season (both in New Jersey and Dallas), I can’t help but think that the Mavs weren’t properly utilizing Hump’s talents. He was impressive, but not overwhelmingly so. Could that be because Hump was primarily playing out of position? It seems a logical argument to me, but 82games doesn’t agree. Could it be that he wasn’t valued enough in the offense? Possible; his relatively high usage rate would seem to betray the notion, but keep in mind Hump’s incredibly high offensive rebounding rate. He was creating possessions on his own, for the most part, and most of his shot attempts were coming around the basket. It goes against the scouting report I would write on Hump, but is it possible that New Jersey has figured something out about Kris Humphries’ game that the Mavs could not? Or is this just another case of a big man on a bad team boasting a bloated PER?
Tim Thomas (15.58 PER, 21.13 usage) – Tim Thomas is pretty versatile, but make no mistake: his job is to shoot the ball. Sometimes that involves working the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop. Sometimes it involves spotting up from the corner. And more often than you’d think, it involves setting up on the low block. As for the PER? It’s among the best outputs of Thomas’ career. Can’t ask much more from Thomas than what he’s given the Mavs in limited playing time this season.
Drew Gooden (16.82 PER, 20.15 usage) – In coming to Dallas, Drew Gooden was asked to occupy different spots on the floor and change his position entirely. So naturally, he’s responded by putting up solid numbers at an efficient rate…just as he’s done throughout his career. PER doesn’t really measure defensive performance, and that’s largely a reason why Gooden is rated so highly. But in terms of offense, the Mavs have a clearly above average player occupying their back-up center spot…which isn’t something that a lot of teams in the league can say (only Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Charlotte, by way of these rankings). That makes his usage rate completely understandable, especially given the help that the Mavs need in terms of bench scoring.
J.J. Barea (12.61 PER, 19.94 usage) – Like Beaubois, Barea has logged plenty of time as the 2. Rick Carlisle clearly finds great comfort in having two ball-handlers on the floor, and J.J.’s drive and kick style is different enough from Kidd’s more traditional point guard play and Terry’s pull-up game that the skill sets aren’t redundant. In the Tony Parker mold, J.J.’s passing is a product of the threat of his scoring, which contextualizes his high possession usage. As for the PER? Well, Barea’s good, but not that good. He’s a solid back-up point man, and perfectly capable of taking over a game when he’s on a roll. But the rest of the time his production falls right in line with his role on the team. A good back-up point is hard to find, and though Barea’s game is definitely flawed in a few ways, he qualifies.
Matt Carroll (5.74 PER, 18.31 usage) - Matt Carroll used to make basketball shots. Now he just shoots basketball shots. And sits on the bench. A lot.
LOW USAGE PLAYERS:
Shawn Marion (15.67 PER, 17.57 usage) – Though Marion’s on-court offerings have been translating to the scoreboard lately, that’s not quite in his job description. Shawn’s primary objective is to defend, and the rebounding and points that come as a result are simply organic byproducts of the game. Marion gets rebounds because he’s a natural rebounder, nevermind the fact that Nowitzki, Dampier, Gooden, and Kidd are all strong relative to their positions. Marion gets points because he’s open, and because Jason Kidd knows what he’s doing. But without impressive game totals in points, rebounds, etc., Shawn’s PER was never going to be sky-high.
James Singleton (9.13 PER, 16.81 usage) – Despite James’ occasional delusions of jumpshooting grandeur, he usually sticks to the script. Singleton is in the game as an energy guy first and foremost, and strictly speaking his contributions should be limited to defense and rebounding. But you throw a guy some shots every now and then, even if he’s not necessarily great at converting them. His usage is in a range where it’s hardly damaging, and his extremely limited playing time makes it a virtual non-factor regardless.
Jason Kidd (15.68 PER, 12.90 usage) – What more can I say about Jason Kidd? He makes the offense go. His instincts as a point guard are All-World, and though he isn’t the box score stuffer he used to be, his offensive numbers on the season are still quite solid. Kidd’s no longer the type of star you can build a team around, but he is the kind of star that can produce quality shots for himself and his teammates. He doesn’t turn the ball over that much or force many shot attempts (hence the low usage), but he doesn’t have the kind of top-notch statistical production needed to register a higher PER (hence…well, the low PER).
Erick Dampier (15.92 PER, 12.52 usage) – Basically in the same boat as Shawn Marion. Dampier is fighting the good fight by cleaning the glass, setting picks for his teammates, and scoring on minimal shot attempts.
Quinton Ross (5.74 PER, 9.49 usage) – Not applicable. I think Q-Ross is a solid contributor to a team like the Mavs, but nothing he does on the court would translate to PER.
“Every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction.”
How do you even begin to make sense of a game like that? It was the largest win in franchise history. It was an on-court massacre unlike anything we’ve even dreamed of, and it was so violently actualized that children would probably have been best served covering their eyes. The Mavs didn’t even need Jason Kidd, who missed the game for personal reasons, to post their season best in offensive efficiency (140.7 points per 100 possessions). And they didn’t need Erick Dampier, who missed the game due to his knee effusion, to register their most effective defense performance since November 13th (85.7 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Mavs were shorted a critical piece on both ends of the court, and still went on to pillage Madison Square Garden and burn it to the ground.
The first quarter was competitive, but by the end of the second the Mavs had established a double-digit lead that would only grow and grow. They held the Knicks to just 13 points in the third frame, while pouring in an incredible 38 of their own. There was no specific dominance; Dirk (20 points, 6-12 FG, five rebounds) and Terry (20 points, 8-12 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) shared the honor for the team-high in points, but they were two of just seven Mavs in double figures. The real question isn’t which Mavs did well, but which ones didn’t. And the real answer is…well, no one. 11 Mavs logged minutes, each scored at least four points, and everyone but James Singleton shot over 50% from the field. Even the seldom used Matt Carroll finished with seven points on 3-4 FG, the highest total of his Maverick career.
It’s indisputable that the Mavs played fabulously on Sunday. You don’t win a game by 50 points playing so-so, good, or even great basketball. This was a once-in-a-something collision of white-hot offense, terrific defense, and an opponent that isn’t particularly great at either. But once we’re a day removed, what does this win even mean?
For one, it shows what the Mavs are capable of. This team isn’t offensively challenged, even if they’ve seemed that way throughout most of the season. And while I wouldn’t expect such ridiculous production every night, this collection of players has clearly been underachieving on that end of the court. Josh Howard and Jason Terry’s struggles are well-documented, but just as crucial is finding scoring elsewhere; Drew Gooden (15 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks), J.J. Barea, and the rest of the reserves are still a bit inconsistent, and though they don’t need to necessarily be dependable on an individual basis, there needs to be some accountability among the bench collective. Again, don’t expect them to reach this level of production or efficiency (and definitely not opportunity) on the regular, but when called upon, the reserves need to respond as they did on Sunday.
Also, it shows that the offense is capable of performing without the calming influence of Jason Kidd. J.J. Barea (11 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals) and Rodrigue Beaubois (13 points, 5-8 FG, 3-6 3FG, five assists, six rebounds, five turnovers) did a tremendous job of keeping the ball moving, and the team totaled 25 assists without their primary facilitator and statistical leader in that category. That’s an impressive feat considering how many points the Mavs were able to put on the board, and an even more impressive one considering the substantial playing time and production of nontraditional offensive threats. Dallas was able to rest its starters plenty, and in doing so, should have experienced some a drop-off in offensive production; instead, a fourth quarter that prominently featured Beaubois, Matt Carroll, Quinton Ross, James Singleton, and Tim Thomas (a lineup that played the final eight minutes) actually managed to add to the lead by scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter to the Knicks’ 22.
Beyond that, it’s impossible to say. All we can hope is that team-wide production trends upward after such a dominant performance, and that the Mavs find themselves a way to level out and resolve their consistency issues.
Oh, and if you’ll allow me to step away from the season contrasts and the bigger picture for just a second: Your Dallas Mavericks just beat a team by 50 points. Fifty. Points. Despite how negative my assertions may seem in this recap, nothing on this planet can take away the fact that the Mavs completely obliterated another NBA team by an ungodly margin. They played what was probably the closest thing to flawless basketball I’ve seen out of a Maverick team ever. It’s almost unfair to expect more than that, but a game’s just a game and the Mavs have miles to go before they sleep.
As is to be expected in a game like this, the Mavs provided plenty of fuel for the highlight reel. James Singleton threw down a monstrous jam. Tim Thomas worked baseline for a contested throw-down. And Roddy Beaubois brought out the oooohs and ahhhhs with this.
Drew Gooden’s plus/minus for the night? +41. Unbelievable.
A fifty-point blowout, an empty-the-bench fourth quarter, and Eddie Najera still doesn’t play. Still waiting on Najera’s first minute on his second stint with the Mavs.
Josh Howard came off the bench again, with J.J. Barea taking the place of Jason Kidd in the starting lineup. Drew Gooden started in place of Erick Dampier, giving the Mavs a starting five of Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Gooden.
Beaubois was getting playing time as early as the first quarter, and was clearly determined to make an impact. Sometimes that resulted in turnovers, but sometimes it resulted in spectacular plays (both offensively and defensively) for himself and his teammates. Roddy has a lot of growing up to do before he’s ready for a full-time gig, but this guy is still ready, and waiting, to contribute.
Josh Howard didn’t hav ea great game, but he had a tidy seven points on six shots, and played some nice perimeter defense. Howard still struggles to defend the post, though…which probably sounds worse than it is given the lack of small forwards with real skill down low.
Jared Jeffries, who is averaging 4.6 PPG for the season, dropped 12 points in the first quarter on 4-6 shooting. A little surprising to say the least, especially if you’re familiar with Jeffries’ limited offensive game. And somewhat predictably, he missed all of his field goals the rest of the way, and added just two more points off of free throws.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Rodrigue Beaubois. If you’re going to make me pick and choose between all of the Maverick contributors, I’m going to tag the guy who hasn’t played many meaningful minutes in the past month and a half. He’s a truly engaging player, and though his opportunity may not come today, games like these keep us looking forward to tomorrow.
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
In watching, writing about, and loving the Dallas Mavericks, I’m frequently treated to the incredible basketball stylings of Dirk Nowitzki. And every once in awhile, he does something so incredible, so breathtaking, that it’s almost indescribable. Unbelievable.
Tonight was one such night. He was truly unbelievable. That word bounces around in my head, back and forth consuming just about everything else. Unbelievable. There is now just a pile of jelly where a perfectly fine brain used to be, an empty blackness where there used to be coherent thought. This guy blows minds, and if you happened to be watching the Mavs-Jazz game amidst a flurry of competitive games and photo finishes elsewhere in the league, you were treated to something special.
I was ready to write the other recap. The one that mentioned how the Mavs were undefeated on the road, but had yet to win at home. The one that mentioned how Dirk and Jason Terry were mysteriously pedestrian with their jumpers. The one that talked about how even though the Mavs did an admirable job trying to defend Deron Williams, he was simply too hot from midrange and the Mavs’ own offense just couldn’t keep pace. That recap was already being pieced together in my mind as the Mavs were down 16 points with 8:17 left on the clock. Maybe it wasn’t right, and maybe it wasn’t fair, but with the way Dallas had been performing on offense, I hardly think you could blame me.
Then, Dirk Nowitzki decided he was going to change everything. He cured cancer, he invented the time machine, he solved world hunger, and he even stopped by to drop 29 fourth quarter points directly onto the heads of the Utah Jazz. That’s good enough to snatch away the franchise record for points in a quarter from Mark Aguirre, and just short of the league record of 33. Dirk’s takeover couldn’t have come at a better time, as 25 of his points came during a keycrucial an impossible 36-9 run that stole away a 16-point lead from the Jazz. 25 of that 36 came courtesy of Mr. Nowitzki himself, who went 7 for 8 from the field, 1 of 2 from the 3-point line, and made all 14 of his free throws in an absolutely dominant fourth quarter performance.
It’s a good thing Dirk showed up when he did, because it took such a fantastic offensive performance to counterbalance the rest of the team’s offensive misery. The rest of the Mavs shot just 34.3% from the field, and a frigid 30.2% if you take away Jason Kidd’s 6 of 11 night. That is beyond horrible, and even worse when you consider how good these Mavs are capable of being on offense. That’s supposed to be the end of the floor where Dallas wins games. The old heroes and the new kids are supposed to flow together into an amorphous, flexible, and all-consuming blob of a basketball team. Despite their occasional flashes of brilliance, this season’s Mavs couldn’t be farther from, and the sooner Josh Howard and Jason Terry’s jumper can get back to the team, the better.
That paragraph then begs the question: If the offense didn’t win the game, what did? Well, Dirk Nowitzki did. But, if Dirk only went NOVA for the better part of one quarter, how were the Mavs even within range? Well, that you can credit to the defense that seems to be the trademark of this year’s Mavs.
This marks three games in a row that an opposing team’s offense was completely discombobulated, as Dallas held Utah to three quarters of 20 points or less and 41.5% shooting from the field. Both teams played sloppy basketball, a fact which worked to the Mavs favor. When the shots weren’t falling the Mavs’ way, they threw gum into the game’s works in almost every way possible. As a result, Carlos Boozer was way off for most of the night courtesy of Erick Dampier, Mehmet Okur was hounded by Dirk, and virtually every other Jazz player not named Deron Williams was a non-factor. There were contributors here and there, but early Dallas turnovers inflated the offensive numbers of a good chunk of Utah’s roster. When things really got bogged down in the half-court, the Jazz turned into a two trick pony: Deron Williams went to work with jumpers, or he tried to find Mehmet Okur for a bailout. The former is the central reason why the Jazz were able to brake free in the third quarter, but one man rarely an offense makes…unless that one man is suiting up for the home team. But neither option was of much use during the fourth quarter implosion, when Dirk Nowitzki and a train powered by pure momentum steam rolled the captive Jazz as they lay tied helplessly to the tracks. The Jazz may have lent a hand in tying themselves up, but it was primarily the diabolical schemings of the dastardly Mavs, who played the part of the mustached villains to ruin what could have been a nice outing for Utah.
Just for fun, here’s a breakdown of Utah’s final fourteen possessions, only four of which ended with points of any kind:
At the rim
3 (2 blocked)
2 steals, 1 other TO
The day that solid defense and consistent offense coincide for the Mavs will be a beautiful one, but until then I’m perfectly content to watch this squad gut out ugly win after ugly win.
Although the Mavs’ fourth quarter offense was comprised almost entirely by Dirk Nowitzki field goals and free throws, the Mavs could not have won this game without Jason Kidd (19 points, 5-8 from three, 5 rebounds, 6 assists). He was pretty horrible in the first quarter (3 turnovers in that frame alone, with 7 for the game), but made up for it by striking from long range for some huge buckets. No basket in this game was bigger than Kidd’s dagger three with 50 seconds remaining, stretching the lead from 4 to 7.
Erick Dampier didn’t near a double-double with just 4 points, but his 12 rebounds and 6 blocks speak volumes about what Damp was able to offer aside from scoring. For what it’s worth, his two buckets did come when the Mavs were desperate for points in the first, so even those were bigger than they seem.
Quinton Ross left the game in the first half with a bruised lower back. It doesn’t seem serious, but no official word from the team as of yet.
The Mavs’ point totals by quarter: 17, 18, 17, 44. Yeah.
Credit to Rick Carlisle and the Mavs on the floor down the stretch for going to Dirk time and time again when it mattered most. Nowitzki has a powerful will, and he clearly had the need to win this game or at least bring the Mavs close. When he gets that look in his eyes and his tongue starts wagging, it’s usually best to get him the ball, spot up on the 3-point line, and stay out of the way.
Matt Carroll played, but he did not play well.
Want a visual to understand just how dismal the Mavs’ offense was in the first three quarters? Dirk and JET combined for three airballs.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to…who am I even kidding? 40 points (12-22 FG, 15-16 FT), 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals 5 blocks, 0 turnovers. You know his name, you know the snarl, and you’ll probably name your first-born son after him.
Just minutes into the Mavs’ 2009-2010 season, we already have our first curveball.
Actually, make that three curveballs.
The starting center? Not the anointed Drew Gooden, which makes sense considering Dwight Howard is about as true as centers come. Damp may be slow of foot, but in theory he can body up Dwight a la Kendrick Perkins.
The starting shooting guard? Not the injured Josh Howard or even the projected J.J. Barea, but garbage time all-star Matt Carroll.
The starting small forward? Not the newly-acquired Shawn Marion, who’s sidelined with a minor calf injury, but hometown hero Quinton Ross.
This could be par for the course as the Mavs try to get healthy for the real deal, so keep your pencils and lineup cards handy.