Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
A day late (blame the tryptophan-induced coma), but never a dollar short. It’s time for our weekly breakdown of the Mavs’ three hottest and three coldest performances.
This was an interesting week for the Mavs. They were blown out by the Indiana Pacers, but then bounced back the next night in Cleveland against a bad (though young and spry) Cavaliers squad. After a fairly woeful home loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Mavs proceeded to take down the league-leading New York Knicks on the strength of a (mostly) impressive second-half comeback.
So who was hot? And who was not? I’m glad you asked….
Week 4 (@Pacers, @Cavaliers, Warriors, Knicks)
1) OJ Mayo
Make it three in a row on the hot list for Mayo. Once again, the Mavs’ starting shooting guard was excellent offensively. He shot 32-of-60 (53%) on the week, including 10-of-21 (48%) from long range. He led the Mavs in scoring all four games, dropping 19 points in each of the first two games and 27 points in each of the latter two. His assist numbers weren’t great (3.5 per game), but they didn’t need to be. With Dirk Nowitzki still on the mend, Mayo’s primary responsibility is to score. He’s doing just that, and he’s doing so quite efficiently. Mayo is currently 8th in the NBA in scoring (22.2 PPG), and among the top 10 scorers in the league, he has the lowest usage rate (25.3%) and the the highest effective field-goal percentage (61%). In other words, Mayo isn’t racking up points by dominating the ball. He’s being judicious, taking mostly good shots, and making them at a very impressive (though likely unsustainable) clip.
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Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”
-William Allen White
This game was not beautiful. It wasn’t a sight to behold, aesthetically pleasing, or even “ehhh, kinda cute.” This was an ugly affair in which neither team could perform at any competent level offensively, and though the final margin was relatively tight, there wasn’t a photo finish of any kind. The defenses just mucked up the game in every regard, and any chance at having a good game was slashed with each forced turnover.
And it was absolutely glorious.
There are contests where both teams just can’t buy a bucket, and the Bobcats have been a part of plenty of them. But this was simply a triumph of defense, as the Bobcats held down the Mavs for nearly the entire game, and Dallas managed a defensive exhibition all its own. It wasn’t a clinic; neither team’s performance in this game will be flagged in the annals of the NBA, because despite how grand the defense was at times, it simply didn’t meet historical levels of greatness. But as far as ugly, early March games go, this one was surprisingly fulfilling.
Part of that is because while last night’s affair wasn’t necessarily a good game, it was certainly a good win. The Mavs only led for two minutes and 10 seconds prior to the fourth quarter, and they again overcame a double-digit lead in the second half to pull out the victory. Their own inability to stop Charlotte’s limited offense in the first half had a lot to do with that lead, but the Mavs holding the Bobcats to a 31-point second half was far more impressive than allowing them a 53-point first half was distressing. It’d be nice to see Dallas thoroughly dominate teams for 48 minutes, but asking that is pretty unrealistic. Instead, take pride in the fact that the Mavs refuse to cede significant ground to their opponents even during their worst stretches, and there’s absolutely no disputing their fourth-quarter effectiveness. This is a team that was built to endure, and while the first three quarters consist of some feeling out and ‘guess and check’ work, the final twelve minutes is where these Mavs shine.
The spotlight was on Jason Terry (20 points, 8-17 FG, four assists, two turnovers), who played an absolutely stellar fourth quarter. JET dropped 13 in the fourth quarter, and 11 of those points came over a four-minute span in which he personally outscored the Bobcats 11-4. Terry hasn’t been dropping in points in tremendous volume lately, but he’s been incredibly efficient; this was actually the first game that he’s shot less than 50% (and it’s 47.5%, which is damn near close enough for me) since the 0-for-10 debacle against Miami on February 20th. This is only the second time he’s registered 20 points over that same stretch (with the other being his 30-point night against L.A.), but JET’s shooting has been wonderfully efficient of late.
Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 12-23 FG, 13 rebounds, two blocks, one turnover) is one of the most effective isolation weapons in the game, and most opponents’ best defense on him in late-game situations is to double aggressively (leaving them vulnerable to the kick-out) or pray that he misses. Charlotte is a beast of a team on the defensive end, but even with their group of talented, athletic defenders, the Bobcats had no means of halting Dirk’s high post game. Tyrus Thomas (16 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks) was matched up with Nowitzki in the fourth, and though he’s one of the more physically gifted defenders in the league much less in Charlotte, Dirk pump faked and spun his way to a few crucial buckets.
One of Josh Howard’s most publicized shortcomings was his inability to provide stable scoring behind Nowitzki and Terry. It’s something he struggled with throughout his injury-plagued campaigns, and though Howard would occasionally show flashes of what could have been (had he been healthy and comfortable in the rotation), he clearly wasn’t able to provide in that capacity this season. Caron Butler (22 points, 10-16 FG, three steals) on the other hand, is looking more and more like a perfect option as a third scorer. Caron’s averaged 20.5 points on 55.9% shooting since sitting out two games due to complications with a medication, along with 1.0 turnovers and 3.5 steals per night. Two games is an incredibly small sample size, but Butler really does look more comfortable in the Mavs’ sets and, just as importantly, his teammates are more aware of where and when Caron wants the ball.
Everything is still not perfect, as evidenced by a mere five-point win and only 89 points on the board. But the things the Mavs have improved since the trade — defense, balanced scoring, activity level — are more than enough reason to keep looking up.
- This win pushed the Mavs up to 2nd place in the Western Conference, which is even more important than the fact that it was Dallas’ eighth straight victory.
- Stephen Jackson (20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, six turnovers) looked to be a big problem early in the game. Rick Carlisle clearly has tremendous respect for Gerald Wallace’s (11 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) game, and matched Crash with Shawn Marion. That left Caron Butler and Jason Kidd to defend the lanky, streak-shooting Jackson, who had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and three assists in the first quarter. Letting a shooter like Jax build confidence early in a game can be particularly dangerous. To some extent he was, as his 20 points are pretty significant in such a low-possession, low-scoring game. But those six turnovers were ruinous. Three of them came in just over three minutes in the second quarter, and by the time Jax had reeled in the TOs in the fourth, his shooting had gone cold. This is kinda what you get with Stephen Jackson.
- Brendan Haywood (seven points, six rebounds) had an incredibly quiet night, but at least picked the right time to do so. Some scoring would’ve surely helped, but Haywood’s defense wouldn’t be especially helpful against the monster that is Theo Ratliff (four points, two rebounds). Theo is a force that you can only hope to contain.
- I have no way of explaining what has happened to D.J. Augustin (two points, 0-3 FG, three turnovers). Last year he looked like a legitimate option at point guard moving forward. But this season? A mirage of his former self, accurate only when he’s shooting himself in the foot. I’ve always thought of Augustin as a scoring point guard first and foremost, and that’s where he found his biggest successes at Texas. The scoring’s stopped — as a matter of failure to execute, not a change in approach — and Augustin’s play makes Raymond Felton, even on a night where 4-of-14 from the field, rather indispensable.
- 1-for-9 shooting for Jason Kidd. Blech. Seven assists to three turnovers. Meh.
- Still no playing time for Von Wafer, and I don’t suspect we’ll see him play until the Mavs can create some fourth quarter separation. If you didn’t have another reason to cheer for a blowout, here you go. No DeShawn Stevenson or Rodrigue Beaubois either, which made for a rather short bench that did little to produce aside from JET. Eddie Najera and J.J. Barea combined for two points (1-4 FG), three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, two steals, and two blocks in 25 minutes. Nothing to write a bullet point about.
- The Bobcats really miss Nazr Mohammed.
- As impressive as Caron Butler was, he wasn’t even on the floor for the critical moments in the fourth quarter. Rick Carlisle rolled with Kidd-Terry-Marion-Nowitzki-Haywood, leaving Butler’s big scoring night sitting on the bench in favor of Marion’s defense and rebounding. And it paid off. Marion may not have had incredibly visible box score contributions, but he still was a crucial part of Dallas’ fourth quarter surge.
- This was the second straight game that the Mavs gave up the advantage at the free throw line (15 attempts to Charlotte’s 28) and the offensive boards (five to Charlotte’s eight) to the Bobcats. Not a good habit to get into, although in this case it wasn’t the difference between a win and a loss.
Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning New wrote a piece outlining which of the Mavs’ assets are the most tradable, and also gives a pretty hefty list of potential targets that could be on Dallas’ radar. Pure speculation? Maybe. But Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com thinks there’s more to it, and that there may be some legitimate team sentiment behind the rumors.
Dallas needs to do something. Rotation shake-ups and motivational speeches have gone just about as far as they can go. The team has some appealing assets and they have plenty of needs. There are really two questions though. First, can the Mavs even get the “right deal” done? And second, does the “right deal” do enough to get the Mavs out of the first round of the playoffs? The fan in me says yes, but the realist in me says no. To say it’s an uphill battle is underselling it.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it, right? So without further ado, a breakdown of each of Sefko’s proposed trades:
Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier to Sacramento for Brad Miller and Kenny Thomas.
Why it works: The trade turns Stack’s contract into a player that’s immediately useful in Brad Miller, and Dallas doesn’t sacrifice 2010 cap flexibility. Miller finally gives Mavs fans the scoring from the center position that they’ve always pined for, and he’s a much better passer than Dampier. When Miller is focused, his ability to facilitate the offense can really open things up for the fringe contributors on the team. Kenny Thomas also gives the Mavs another look at the second string power forward (or third string, whatever), and he’s not as bad as you probably think he is. The Kings aren’t playing him, but Thomas hasn’t been all that bad in his few appearances for Sacramento this season, and could be able to contribute to a playoff team.
Why it doesn’t: Brad Miller just so happens to occupy the same offensive space as Dirk, meaning that someone is going to be out of their comfort zone on almost every play. Miller also happens to be an inferior post defender, shot-blocker, and rebounder to Dampier. Granted that Miller is in fact a more gifted scorer than Damp, he also relies on a higher usage rate that could require taking touches away from Dirk, Josh, and JET in order to accomodate Miller’s usual production. Is that worth it? Probably not. You might be able to argue that this trade slightly favors Dallas, but even so it would be a marginal upgrade at best.
Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Golden State for Stephen Jackson.
Why it works: This one is definitely the most interesting to me. The 2 guard has been a problem all season, and Antoine Wright/Gerald Green/Dwane Casey’s kid probably aren’t the answer. Wright’s passable some nights and unspectacularly awful others, and Green ranges from smile-worthy offensive explosion to migraine-inducing “rookie mistake” factory. Jax would give the Mavs a great defender, a vocal leader, and a player who can drive, shoot, and set up his teammates. Plus, this trade would give Dallas a quality wing player without giving up Josh Howard.
Why it doesn’t: The bench would be a disaster. Who plays power forward? James Singleton? Ryan Hollins? Shawne Williams? It wouldn’t be pretty on the backlines, and Dallas would be hit hard in the low post and on the boards. Or, I guess Carlisle could just play Dirk for 43 minutes a night. That would work really well. But the trouble doesn’t stop there; Stephen Jackson signed what is actually a pretty reasonable three-year, $28 million extension this season. The wittle bitty problem with that is the fact that Jackson is nearly 31 right now, and at the end of his deal (2012-2013), he would be 35 years old. Who knows how productive he’ll be by that time, and it could be a nightmare to move an aging wing scorer if things don’t work out.
Photo from Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images via ESPN.
Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Chicago for Andres Nocioni.
Why it works: Noc gives the Mavs another weapon off the bench, or possibly a small forward to start alongside Howard. He can stretch the floor, he’s a physical player, and would add firepower to a team that has trouble scoring at times.
Why it doesn’t: Nocioni’s contract is entirely too long, stretching to 2012-2013 (although that last year is a team option). Some might call him an “irritant,” but I merely cite him as the primary example under the dictionary definition of “fake hustle.” He’s almost constantly overaggressive both in terms of shot attempts and fouls, and while he is a physical defender he isn’t that great at D in general. Trading Bass would open up a huge hole at the 4 (see above), and while Chicago may play Noc at the 4 for stretches, Dallas should have no business doing that. He’s 6’7”, 201, and just tends to push people in the back. Not exactly a dream come true. Plus, his better offensive days look more like an exception than a rule at this point.
Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Minnesota for Mike Miller.
Why it works: Mike Miller is a great player on the down year of all down years, somehow appearing to be one of the worst players in the Wolves’ regular rotation. And that’s saying something. I’d find it hard to believe that the Real Mike Miller isn’t buried beneath layer upon layer of Minnesota-induced psychosis, and the Mavs would hope to save Miller from himself. When he’s rolling, he’s creating for his teammates, getting to the hoop, and one of the deadliest shooters in the game. When he’s not, well, just look at his stats on the season. Not too pretty.
Why it doesn’t: This trade doesn’t really seem like a possibility. All indications point to Minny demanding back more compensation that just Bass and an expiring deal, and I’m sure they have their eyes on draft picks around the league. Beyond that, Miller only makes the Mavs better at doing what they already do: shooting. He would fix the starting shooting guard problem but open up the power forward Pandora’s Box, which could actually end up being a wash. On top of that, there’s no guarantee that Miller won’t continue his reign as the Archduke of the Royal Principality of EPIC FAIL.
Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier to Toronto for Jermaine O’Neal.
Why it works: It really, really doesn’t.
Why it doesn’t: Probably the worst deal on the list. Turn our prized expiring deal and a healthy starting center into a possibly-more-talented-but-definitely-more-washed-up, oft-injured center. Where do I sign up?
Brandon Bass To Detroit for Arron Afflalo.
Why it works: Arron Afflalo is exactly the type of young point guard the Mavs want to have going forward. He’s already a good defender, shoots well, and plays the game without forcing the issue or making careless mistakes. Another quality young playerdrafted by Joe Dumars. Plus, dude has an awesome name.
Why it doesn’t: This trade could only make sense in tandem with another deal that would bring in frontcourt depth. The Mavs already have J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, and even Matt Carroll to back-up Kidd if the situation calls for it, while Brandon Bass is the only line of defense between a potential Dirk Nowitzki energy and complete Maverick apocalypse. I love Afflalo’s game and I love his potential, but this move doesn’t make sense for Dallas right now.
Photo from AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.
Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Oklahoma City for Earl Watson.
Why it works: I’m not really sure. I guess Earl Watson would be another Kidd back-up, or possibly an insurance policy if Dallas decides to go another way this summer. Otherwise, I’m speechless.
Why it doesn’t: Earl Watson just isn’t that good. His jumper is errant, his playmaking skills are slightly above average, and his defense is unimpressive. There’s a reason that his “steady veteran presence” has made its rounds throughout the league, let’s just put it that way. Plus, giving up an expiring deal and arguably Dallas’ most promising young player for a piece that doesn’t fit on the team, isn’t a youngster, and isn’t anything better than average seems awfully silly.
Photo from NBAE/Getty Images/Kent Smith.
Josh Howard and J.J. Barea to Charlotte for Raja Bell and Raymond Felton.
Why it works: Raymond Felton would be the Mavs’ point guard of the future and Raja Bell would be a capable starting 2 guard who still retains some of the skills of a lockdown defender. At once, this trade will fill a glaring hole for the Mavs at the 2 and procure Kidd’s protégé.
Why it doesn’t: The Mavs are giving up quite a bit for two ill-fitting pieces. Josh Howard is still a hotbed of talent, whether he can harness it or not. J.J. Barea not only holds status as a Mavericks folk hero, but penetrates well, knows when to look for his own shot, and has plenty of time to improve on a perfectly reasonable contract. Meanwhile, Raymond Felton would possibly be forced into the shooting guard slot alongside Kidd or in a back-up role, meaning that he won’t have experience running the point full-time when he takes over and/or he won’t have the added experience of playing against top-flight players. Meanwhile, Raja Bell could be an interesting addition to the Mavs roster if it still featured Howard, but in this case filling the hole at the 2 leaves an even bigger one at the 3. Devean George might actually start. I’m doing my best to keep in my enthusiasm. Beyond that, Felton isn’t a great shooter, has stalled at times in his progression, and Raja Bell is already a shade behind his former self and only getting worse.
Photo from NBA.com
Josh Howard and Brandon Bass to Memphis for Mike Conley and Darko Milicic.
Why it works: Mike Conley is going to be a stud. He has all the physical tools required of a great point guard, and while his play has been up and down, I see the good in him. He’s probably the best option listed here in terms of young guards, and the Grizz apparently aren’t entirely opposed to the idea of parting ways with him. If Memphis was rumored to be interested in Milwaukee’s Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander for Conley, why wouldn’t they be interested in Howard/Bass? Darko on the other hand, despite his neverending status as a 2003 Draft punchline, is a pretty decent big man. Like Conley, he’s had good days and bad. But he’s also a legit 7-foot shot blocker with plenty of room to grow and a nice presence in the low post.
Why it doesn’t: It doesn’t help the Mavs this season. Darko would be able to play either power forward or center on any given night, but the small forward position would be awful. Conley doesn’t fill any specific short-term need,and would be a luxury I’m not sure the Mavs can afford on a roster that needs some help.