Where Are They Now?

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 10, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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The free agency period is pretty much over. Scratch that. The free agency period is almost over. The Dallas Mavericks announced on Tuesday the signings of Fab Melo, D.J. Kennedy and Richard McConnell to expand the current roster to 18 players. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein was the first to report in the Mavs’ interest in Melo, the 22nd pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

With 15 players under contract but 18 on the roster, it’s important to remember that they can take up to 20 to camp. They don’t have to get down to 15 until just before the season starts. Most teams like to take 15-20 players into camp to allow veteran players a little easier of a path through the rigors of camp. An added sense of competition for the end of the roster players isn’t a bad thing, either.

There may be a few more names that pop up in the next few weeks, but the next big date is Sept. 30 (media day). That means the machine is getting ready to roll again for another new season. While there is still a little time left, I wanted to take a unique look at free agency. There are nine names on the list of remaining free agents that have direct ties to the Mavs. It’s interesting to see how they joined the Mavs and what has happened to them since they left the team.

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Fortune Faded

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 9, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Maybe that should actually be, how the perceived mighty have fallen. Remember when Roddy Beaubois was a player that wasn’t available?

“With a few exceptions,” owner Mark Cuban said back in early 2011 when it came to the possibility of holding on to Beaubois.

The reason for the short leash on making Beaubois available was due to his potential, which he displayed in his rookie season back in 2009-10. He averaged 7.1 points in 12.5 minutes per game. He also shot an incredible .518 percent from the field, .409 percent from 3-point range and .808 percent from the free throw line. With those shooting percentages, he became the first rookie in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 80 percent from the free throw line.

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Unpredictable

Posted by Brian Rubaie on April 10, 2013 under Commentary, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

Unpredictable

Encapsulating a team’s essence in one word is difficult, particularly when that team is the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks and one isn’t supposed to curse. Those conditions standing, however, the word which best describes both the current and future outlook of these Dallas Mavericks is “unpredictable.” The instability which characterized the Mavs this season will become the new normal as Dallas prepares to enter another hyperactive off-season.

As the primary topics of discussion shift away from the playoffs and beards, talk of free agency will ramp up. A rush of predictions, rumors and opinion pieces will attempt to assign a method to the ongoing Mavericks madness. It is a void into which I will willingly plunge as an analyst, but I wish to first beg your forgiveness. The task of predicting Dallas’ moves this offseason, or offering reasonable advice to its ownership, is a tall task, and potentially a fool’s errand. Anyone searching for a definitive answer would be wise to remember that little in this Mavericks era can be anticipated; most everything has yet to be determined.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 107

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 17, 2013 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

Strike

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Expect the lack of shot attempts for Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 8 of 10 shooting) to become a narrative for the Mavericks in the coming days, though it’s something I’ve been concerned about since Dirk returned to form. Against the Thunder, he started off 8 for 8 from the floor off of a variety of different looks. His final make came at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter. He took two more shots in the quarter, then didn’t have a field goal attempt for the remainder of the game. Credit must go to the Thunder defense, but the responsibility falls to Dirk, the coaching staff and his teammates. His teammates are the biggest problem, as Mike James, Darren Collison, and O.J. Mayo seem bewildered as to how to get the big German the ball. Dirk posts up well, sets good screens and is the league’s most dangerous trailer. He’s had to resort to calling for the ball more and more often this season as his guards don’t seem to see him unless he’s yelling at them. He’s big, he’s blond, he even has an insane beard.  He’s also a former MVP and an NBA Champion. If this team still thinks it can make the playoffs it’s not going to do so on the backs of anyone other than Dirk Nowitzki. Get Dirk the ball.
  • Contrast Dirk’s stat line to that of once and future scoring champion Kevin Durant (31 points, nine rebounds). Prior to the fourth, Dallas had managed to keep Durant in check with 12 points while forcing a variety of turnovers. In the final period, Durant scored 19, taking full advantage of his size mismatch and demanding the ball from Russell Westbrook. In most cases Durant simply got the ball at the top of the key and went to work, very similar to the way Dallas used to use Dirk.
  • The development of Jae Crowder (11 points, four rebounds) has been a roller coaster. I greatly enjoy his man to man defense, but he has brief lapses in judgement that really hurt the Mavericks. Kevin Martin scored two layups on simple back door cuts when Crowder got caught watching the ball. Additionally, each of his turnover were very frustrating to watch; he somehow failed to see a Thunder player between him and his teammate. Each lead to easy fast break points in a tightly contested game.
  • The offensive rebounding from the Thunder, particularly from Serge Ibaka (18 points 16 rebounds including seven offensive) badly hurt the Mavericks. Due to the threat of Russell Westbrook (35 points, six assists), the Dallas big guarding Ibaka was forced to cheat over for additional help defense when Westbrook got a Maverick defender in an isolation situation. As a result, a smaller player usually had to rotate down to try to box out Ibaka which did not work.
  • In recent weeks, I’ve been a big fan of how O.J. Mayo has let the game come to him. He’s made smart choices and put himself and his team in a position to win. Though Mayo didn’t hurt Dallas against the Thunder, his nine points and three assists are not enough from a player many consider to be the second offensive option. Despite his growth as a player this season, he doesn’t give Dallas enough on a consistent basis.
  • We’ve most likely seen the last of Roddy Beaubois in a Dallas Maverick uniform. He broke a bone in hand in a rather strange play involving Kevin Durant. Though he’s out indefinitely at the moment, we here at the Two Man Game wish him a speedy recovery.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, Cleveland Cavaliers 86

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 16, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Sunrise

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Time makes us all fools, and the tale of Rodrigue Beaubois (6-10 FG, 18 points, five assists) firmly lives and breathes within the changing rhythms of time.
  • Not so long ago, Beaubois represented the Mavericks’ future; this year, he has unfortunately become a representation of disappointing present. The 2012-2013 season has easily been the worst of Beaubois’ career – his ability to score efficiently has submarined and Rick Carlisle has responded by keeping Beaubois out of the rotation.
  • Such a turn of events from the glory of three years’ past is difficult to contemplate and reconcile, but for one night, reconciliation deemed itself unnecessary. The Beaubois of March 15th, 2013 represents the basketball player every Mavericks’ fan once expected him to be – a scorer of flash and genius, an able passer, and an athletic marvel. In the bubble of a single instance, past expectations became reality, and we were allowed a brief glimpse of what could have been, of what should have been.
  • However passing that glance may be, the present is temporarily glorious, and the potential in Beaubois’ game will remain forever enthralling.
  • Of his 10 field goal attempts, only one occurred from between four and 23 feet. He’s never shot remotely well from the mid-range, so removing reckless jumpers in that alluring area could help keep Beaubois in the rotation. (I hope so.)
  • Brandan Wright (6-8 FG, 13 points, five rebounds) has essentially usurped the ‘scoring center’ role of Chris Kaman (2-4 FG, four points, six minutes) over the recent string of games, which I view as a positive development.
  • If Kaman can no longer embody the role he played in the earlier portions of his career, allowing Wright the chance to use those valuable minutes more effectively is the right choice, especially with the added bonus of an exciting block or dunk present.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (6-17 FG, 13 points, 11 rebounds) struggled a bit to begin the game (0-5 FG in the first quarter), but settled into a decent groove over the last three quarters. Early-quarter struggles followed by late-game success has been a trend for Dirk over this recent stretch of games.
  • A more odd and pleasant recent development has been his staunch rebounding, a trait never yet attached to his name. Dirk posted another double-double, his fifth of the season.
  • All five of those Dirk double-doubles (alliteration is fun!) are over the last 11 games. Are we witnessing a completely unforeseen and unlikely rebounding renaissance? (Probably not.)

Untouchable

Posted by Zachariah Roberts on February 22, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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Zachariah Roberts is a basketball connoisseur of sorts and runs AllOutPress in his spare time.  If you wish to see more than just his analytical musings of the game, then feel free to watch him ramble on Twitter @TheZRoberts.

Rodrigue Beaubois was the next big thing; the evolutionary Tony Parker. In limited minutes (12.4 per contest), he used his quickness, length and solid outside stroke to a mount a 50-40-80 rookie season and steal meaningful playoff minutes for the Mavs in the ill-fated 2009-10 season. He was then made untouchable by a franchise with plenty of incentive to contend as soon as possible, and four years later, he’s rewarded that faith by becoming a bit-part player who largely sees the floor behind journeyman point guard Mike James

What happened?

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 111, Orlando Magic 96

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 21, 2013 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Rabbit in Hat

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • With 2:03 in the third quarter and Dallas down 79-73, Darren Collison took a three point shot which rebounded badly off of the front of the rim. Vince Carter made an attempt at a tip out and Shawn Marion and J.J. Redick chased the rebound past half court. Marion saved the ball from going out, slapping it towards an open O.J. Mayo. Oddly, Mayo did not react to the ball bouncing towards him. Jameer Nelson hustled and beat Mayo to the ball and passed to a cutting Redick for a lay in. Somehow, Mayo recovered defensively and blocked Redick’s lay up attempt. Mayo grabbed the rebound, drove the length of the floor and found Carter for an ally-oop dunk. This play, and the following Carter three pointer, brought the momentum back to Dallas in a game they could not afford to lose.
  • I rewound and watched this particular sequence five times. As delightful as the end result was, that Mayo was even beaten to the ball by Nelson is inexcusable. Mayo was closer, but made no attempt to get the ball. The Maverick announcing crew made no mention of this initial lack of effort and I wonder if they would have had Redick converted the lay in. Though the narrative will be “O.J Mayo’s effort saved the day” and it did, apparently Dirk pointed out post game that Mayo should’ve gotten to the ball before Nelson. In a way, it felt like the O.J. Mayo experience in a nutshell: unbelievable poor decision making followed by a high light reel play.
  • Vince Carter had a season high assist night, dishing eight out in a mere 26 minutes and only posting one turnover. His best assist occurred in the fourth quarter: Carter stole an outlet after an Orlando rebound and whipped a behind the back pass to Shawn Marion for a dunk.
  • The Mavericks have the league’s worst point differential in the first six minutes of a game this season. An emphasis on getting off to a good start was an apparent sticking point during all star break practices. The Mavericks answered the call, outscoring Orlando 22-14 in the first six plus minutes and scored 51 points in the first 15 minutes of game action.
  • On Tuesday, Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned Darren Collison’s atrocious defense, saying Collison is “lost on defense, prone to confusion and especially to veering way off course negotiating picks. Point guard defense matters, and Collison’s is a big net negative.” Early in the season it felt as if the main Maverick problem was the lack of a solid rim protector (and because I pine for Tyson Chandler). As the season has progressed it’s become glaringly obvious that the Maverick back court would have a hard time staying in front of a bolted down park bench. Orlando is not a good basketball team and that the Mavericks had trouble stopping their penetration all night long is really concerning.
  • Elton Brand (17 points on 6 of 9 shooting) showed his value repeatedly against the Magic. His shot making abilities bolster the Dallas offense, particularly on nights when the Big German’s shot won’t fall. At the end of the first quarter, he scored on three straight possessions: a face up jumper from the left block, a driving lay up after facing up on the same block, and a fall away jumper from the free throw line. His lift may be limited, but in the right situations he can carve up a defense.
  • For some reason, I felt Chris Kaman looked like a giant substitute history teacher with his bench wardrobe. Get well soon, Mr. Kaman.
  • During the week long break, I spent a fair amount of time watching Dirk Nowitzki highlights from the 2011 title run.  To call him a different player now is a mild understatement. The level of explosive strength in his legs simply isn’t there in his moves this season. That’s an obvious side effect of his knee surgery, but it’s also been two seasons without a training camp for Nowitzki. Dirk hasn’t been ready to play in a way that he’d be satisfied with since the summer of 2011. It’s clear in the way he’s shooting, and while he looked better before the all star break, a 4 for 13 shooting night for 12 points is not a the kind of game Dallas can get from Dirk if they expect to make any sort of run for the final playoff spot.
  • Mike James (12 points, four assists) received back up point guard minutes and his numbers were solid. I think we’d all prefer Roddy Beaubois at this point, mainly because decent statistical nights like this one seem to bolster the confidence Jones has in himself. Prior to the game against Orlando, Jones was shooting a dreadful 26.9% from the field.
  • Case and point with Collison’s defense happened with 3:29 in the first quarter. Jameer Nelson saw Collison open himself up defensively as he anticipated a high screen.  Nelson simply drove to the basket, right past a bewildered Collison. Shawn Marion had to leave his man and rotate to the driving Nelson, who passed to a wide open DeQuan Jones for a dunk.
  • The rare jump shot from Brandan Wright (eight points, eight rebounds) is something to see. He jumps very high and when he took and made one in the forth quarter on the right baseline, the ball nearly went out of the TV camera’s range, so high was his shot arc.
  • One of the simplest defensive principles when trying to stop fast break is this: you must make the ball handler make a decision. With five minutes in the first, Shawn Marion grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. He was facing a three on two with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo on the wings. Oddly, the two Magic defenders stuck with Mayo and Collison, never forcing Marion to do so much as alter his direction. Marion drove the length of the floor and finished with a monstrous dunk.
  • Dirk has been reduced to a jump shooter this season. His shots tonight all came within the flow of the Dallas offense, but the offense doesn’t seem to end up with Dirk getting the ball, back to the basket, in his former sweet spots. It’s unclear to me whether this is by design, a matter of the Dallas guards being unable to make entry passes, or if Dirk isn’t working for the ball the way he used to. Against the Magic, Dirk did not take a single shot closer than 12 feet from the rim.
  • Watching J.J. Redick move without the ball is entertaining. There wasn’t a single Maverick assigned to him tonight that had much success at all in staying in front of him. His career numbers compared to O.J. Mayo are not that different, but Mayo could learn a thing or two from Redick about how to get the most out of his talent.
  • This recap seems overly negative for a game Dallas won by 15. It was a close game from the 2nd quarter until the 5 minute mark of the fourth, when Carter hit a three to push the Dallas lead up to seven points. Within three and a half minutes the lead ballooned up to 18 points. This late game 14-0 run masked a number of problems which aren’t going away for the Mavericks.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

 

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Portland Trailblazers 99

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 6, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Wednesday night victory over Portland was game one in a five game home stand for Dallas which stretches out until February 22nd. This home stand is really a last stand, of sorts, in terms of Dallas hoping to make the playoffs. Winning all five seems unreasonable, since a four game win streak is all Dallas has been able to muster to date, but four out of five would be steps in the right direction
  • We’ve not seen the O.J. Mayo-Dirk Nowitzki pick and roll as much as I would have hoped this season, but there were a number of instances of it tonight which bodes well for future games. The best example happened towards the end of the third quarter. Dirk and Mayo ran the pick and roll at the top of the key with Mayo driving right and using the Dirk screen. Due to Mayo’s 20 point first half the Blazers were concerned with him turning the corner and getting to the basket. Dirk saw that Mayo drew both defender’s attention and drifted to an open spot near the left elbow. Mayo saw an opening between the defenders and fired a quick pass to Dirk who nailed the ensuing jump shot. It was the sort of “pick your poison” option that used to happen between Dirk and Jason Terry.
  • Damian Lilliard started the game with 12 points in the first quarter yet finished the game with 19. I was unable to see the first half due to a League Pass snafu, so I’d be interested in hearing what, if anything Dallas did different defensively beyond the first quarter.
  • The difference in execution when Vince Carter (17 points, three assists) is in the line up is something to see. After the ugly Thunder game, the impact of Carter was felt throughout the game. His ability to shake off bad plays and make important ones was seen at the end of the third quarter. He somehow missed both free throw attempts, then forced a lay up, and then followed that up with a turnover when he made a sloppy pass to Dirk. Portland capitalized on these mistakes to go on a 10-0 run to go up by eight points. After a 5-0 run from Jae Crowder, Carter followed up nailing a huge three pointer at the end of the quarter to bring Dallas back within two.
  • Great to see Roddy Beaubois (nine points, two assists) get 25 minutes of game action. He’s the best option available for back up minutes. He might not run the offense with the urgency of Mike James, but he’s smooth when he’s playing under control and really gives Dallas a bit of an “x-factor” when he sees his shot start to fall. His three pointer to start the fourth fully shifted the momentum back to Dallas after a bit of a frustrating end to the third quarter.
  • Jae Crowder’s 5-0 run near the end of the third quarter was vital for the Mavericks heading into the final period. I still cringe at his shot selection, but the three he made to start the run was huge. His steal on the following Blazer possession was an instance of hustle and basketball awareness, two things he was said to bring to the table when he was drafted. When he plays within himself, he can be a very effective basketball player.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog

 

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 91, Oklahoma City Thunder 112

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 5, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • I spent most of the game watching and rewatching plays that involved O.J. Mayo (eight points, six assists). His five turnovers were inexcusable. After a rough stretch in December and a horrible game against Miami to start the year, Mayo seemed to get his turnovers under control. Over this road trip, however, he managed to turn the ball over just under four times a game. He started this game with a turnover when he didn’t see Kevin Durant in the passing lane on the game’s second possession. His final turnover occurred when he lost the ball on an out of bounds play. These turnover are due to lack of focus and when Mayo isn’t focused he really hurts the Mavericks.
  • There should be no question why Vince Carter was not traded recently to the Grizzlies during the Memphis-Toronto trade talks. He’s simply too important. Since Dallas does not seem to have a functional back up point guard, his passing ability is necessary to the Dallas bench. That he can get off a shot whenever he chooses is also vital. The offense bogged down with alarming regularity against the Thunder with no one able to get to the rim.
  • Dirk is now 11 for 41 from the field in the three games he’s played against the Thunder. It’s easy to read into this, though. The first game he shot 3 for 11, which was one of his first games back from his surgery. The second game Dirk shot 4 for 19, and still looked to be missing his legs. This third game he was forced to take a number of low percentages looks late in the shot clock because Dallas was having trouble getting any sort of clean look at the basket.
  • Bernard James set a new career high with four blocks to go along with his two points and six rebounds. His timing is really impressive.
  • The quiet dominance of Kevin Durant was on full display against Dallas. 19 points on 11 shots, 10 rebounds, and four assists in only 28 minutes of action. That he’s only 24 is simply unfair.
  • Not to continue to pick on Mayo, but his understanding of team defense is non-existent. In the second quarter he was guarding Kevin Martin (17 points) who was on the weak side wing. Kevin Durant was on the other wing, with the ball. Martin made a simple back cut and Durant found him wide open under the goal for a dunk. Mayo had no idea Martin had cut until it was way too late. A similar play happened a few possessions later when he got caught watching Durant. Thabo Sefolosha slipped behind Mayo and Durant found Sefolosha for a lay up which he missed. Mayo gets caught watching the ball a lot and as a result he’s often late on rotations, particularly when “helping the helper”. Helping the helper means rotating to a teammate’s defensive assignment when that teammate is forced to rotate elsewhere, often due to penetration.
  • In the first two match ups Darren Collison played very well, scoring 32 and 15 points respectively. Midway through the second quarter the Thunder opted to go very small, with Durant playing power forward. Durant switched onto Collison repeatedly during the Dallas high pick and roll action and shut down Collison, blocking his shot aggressivley on one possession. Between this and Russell Westbrook’s challenging defense, Collison stopped probing the lane early and the Dallas offense suffered.
  • Serge Ibaka (12 points, five rebounds) took and made his 8th three of the year. That’s a pretty good indication of how well the Thunder offense was clicking.
  • Mayo’s not the only one who needs a course in defensive awareness. In the second quarter Nick Collison was on the left wing being guarded by Dirk. Jae Crowder was guarding Kevin Durant, who was close to the left corner a few feet away. For some reason Crowder decided to leave Durant briefly  acting as if he was going to trap Nick Collison with Dirk. This was a really, really poor decision as Durant recognized what Crowder was thinking and cut to the basket. Collison threw a simple bounce pass between Dirk and Crowder which Durant caught and dunked it with a foul from Wright. It’s usually a good idea to not leave a MVP candidate wide open for a cut on the baseline.
  • Additionally, there was no way Brandan Wright was going to be able to block Durant as he slashed, mainly due to him being Durant, but also due to the angle Durant took to the basket. Wright has to be smarter than this. Either be in place earlier to challenge the shot better (unlikely since Wright seemed as surprised as everyone else that Durant was left open to cut) or just let the dunk go.
  • It’s interesting to watch how Darren Collison plays with contact. Against the Suns, he went into a zone late, scoring often in the fourth quarter, including one shot where he absorbed contact to finish a touch jumper. Against the Thunder he seemed to shy away from it and he missed three of his four attempts in the lane. One instance in third stands out: a posted up Dirk found a cutting Collison, who actively avoided contact in the paint and blew the layup/jump shot attempt.
  • Coach Carlisle opted to go with Mike James (two points, two turnovers) first when looking for back up point guard minutes. I cannot understand why. Mike James may offer value in a mentoring role, but I don’t see the downside of playing Roddy Beaubois (seven points, two assists). Carlisle tried James, then Dominique Jones (fifteen points) and finally gave Roddy a shot in the fourth.
  • The wealth of riches that is the Thunder bench borders on absurd. Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor are excellent back up point options. Former number two over all pick Hasheem Thabeet is effective in limited minutes. Perry Jones was initially projected as a number one over all pick. Jeremy Lamb, who isn’t even with the team at the moment, has lottery level talent, should he ever develop. Daniel Orton, a former University of Kentucky player with John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, isn’t even able to get on the floor.
  • Dallas has an 8-19 record on the road. With 34 games yet to play this season, Dallas still has two extended road trips. Starting with the last game in February, the Mavericks play seven of eight on the road. They also have a four game during their last ten regular season games.
  • Watching how Westbrook attacks the rim is at once exhilarating and terrifying. His shot chart shows that he made it a point to get to the rim against Dallas, taking 10 of his 16 shots at the rim.
  • Outside of Bernard James, the main bright spot for Dallas was Shawn Marion’s 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting. He had everything working from the opening tip and even managed to hit a wing three, his third of the season. Strangely,  he’s hit all three of these shots in 2013 after not making any during the 2012 portion of the season.
  • The shot selection of Jae Crowder continues to confuse. Against the Thunder he shot 3 for 11, which is a little below his usual road field goal percentage of 31%. Eight of his 11 shots were well outside the paint, mostly in the 15 to 18 foot range. Beyond 10 feet, Crowder is shooting 33% for the year. I didn’t follow Crowder in college, but the stats-based community was excited to see him land in Dallas. I cannot imagine the role of jump shooting wing was the vision for him.
  • Strange that Dahntay Jones only saw eight minutes of action, all of it in garbage time. I assume Carlisle thought Crowder’s strength might have made a difference on Durant, but I would have liked to seen Jones get a crack at defending Durant. Jones comes with the added bonus that he doesn’t take as many maddening shots as Crowder does.
  • Part of why Brandan Wright (four points, seven rebounds) is a marginal player on the Dallas bench is his inability to set screens consistently in the pick and roll. Its not that he doesn’t want to, but his frame is so slight he does not provide any sort of obstacle when the Dallas opponent has athletic defenders. This was illistrated in the second quarter when O.J. Mayo and Wright tried to run a pick and roll three or four times. The Thunder hedge man was able to deter Mayo and the man guarding Mayo was able to step over Wright’s screen in no time. Finally, Mayo picked up his dribble and made an errant pass which Kevin Martin picked off.
  • There was technical assessed to Kendrick Perkins (seven points, seven rebounds) in the second quarter. Play had stopped due to a Dirk foul on Russell Westbrook. Perkins made a point to seek out and body up to Jae Crowder, who had apparently talked a little trash to Perkins after hitting a shot on the ensuing possession. Crowder talking trash was stupid itself, but for Perkins to decide it warranted him playing the tough guy and getting a technical foul is silly. Oklahoma City was up 25 at that point. I do understand not taking guff, but that was poor judgement.
  • Oddly enough, Dallas still has a 19.3% chance of making the playoffs this year according to the Hollinger Playoff Odds predictor.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog

 

Pocket Pair

Posted by Ian Levy on January 31, 2013 under Commentary | 10 Comments to Read

051:365 Magic Pair!

This has been an incredibly turbulent season for the Mavericks from a player personnel standpoint. They faced their first 27 games without Dirk Nowtizki, and with just five other returning players on the roster. An NBA roster has 15 slots, but the Mavericks have already used 19 different players this season, not including Delonte West — with whom the Mavericks parted ways before the season began. Each week it seems there is a new addition to be welcomed to the fold, bringing with them the warm tidings of hope.

Since he took over in Dallas, Rick Carlisle has proved repeatedly that managing personnel is one of his greatest coaching strengths. He has been innovative and progressive in managing his lineups and always seems to pull the most from each of his players. This season however, putting the pieces together has been a constant challenge. No matter how he arranges them, they don’t seem to fit together quite as uniformly as they have in the past, and the image never becomes totally clear. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s because these pieces don’t all come from the same puzzle, and that no matter what five-man unit Carlisle runs out onto the floor, some part of it will be a hasty Spackle job trying to hold back the rising tide of flood waters. However, I thought it might be interesting to look at the different lineup foundations he’s tried by examining his success (and lack thereof) with various two-man combinations.

The visualization below lets you look at all the different two-man combinations the Mavericks have used for at least 100 minutes this season. Unfortunately, to create all the combinations I had to place several players on both axes, which can make for a slightly confusing view. The size of each square represents the number of minutes that pairing played. The color represents that pairing’s Net Rating, or point differential per 100 possessions. If you hover over any of the squares you can also see that combination’s Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. The filters below let you include or eliminate pairings based on any of those variables.

MavsShots

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The three least efficient areas to shoot from are inside the paint (but not in the restricted area), from mid-range and straight ahead three-pointers. Altogether, 63.7% of this lineup’s shot attempts come from those three areas. Going back to my shot-selection metric from two weeks ago, the shot selection of this lineup gives them an XPPS of 0.988, where the league average is 1.047. They feature above-average mid-range shooters, but are using that weapon to a fault. Above-average ability isn’t manifesting in above-average success, and their Actual Points Per Shot is an even lower 0.936. From an outsider’s perspective, this group seems like they may be fundamentally incompatible offensively, even with Nowitzki’s eventual improvement taken into account.

Although you never like to see anyone injured, Kaman’s concussion offers the possibility for an interesting experiment. Kaman has had a solid individual season putting up 18.8 points per 36 minutes, the second highest of his career, on a TS% of 53.3, his highest since 2008-2009. However, his rebound percentage is the lowest since his rookie season and the Mavericks have generally struggled when he’s on the floor. Dallas’ defense is 3.6 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman in the mix, a margin that’s ultimately not all that surprising. However, the Mavs’ offense is also 2.9 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman involved. Turning back to the visualization above, we see that Kaman is featured in 12 different pairings, only two of which have outscored the opposition. Those two — with Brandan Wright and with Jae Crowder — have played a combined 343 minutes, 44 of which are overlapped.

Much of Carlisle’s rotation work this season has felt like tinkering around the edges. As long as they’ve been healthy, the foundational pieces of Kaman, Nowitzki, Mayo and Marion have been largely cemented in place. With Kaman out, Carlisle will be forced to manipulate his foundation, and there is an opportunity for Brandan Wright and Bernard James to find their way back into the regular rotation in a significant way. Both Wright and James have been featured in several successful (albeit scarcely used) pairings, and I can’t help but feel that they are under-utilized assets. Neither player is comfortable away from the basket on offense and each would give the Mavericks a very different look than with Brand or Kaman alongside Nowitzki. When we talk about spacing issues we are usually referring to a team with a lack of outside shooters, allowing the defense to clog the paint. In this case I think the Mavericks can actually improve their spacing by removing overly-willing outside shooters; the insertion of James or Wright will force the defense to expand their focus and defend more of the floor, more vigorously.

The visualization also makes it seem that there could be potential benefits in increased roles for Vince Carter and Jae Crowder. Carter has done tremendous work in keeping the second-unit offense afloat, but maybe it’s time to let him work long more court time with Nowitzki. His ability to work inside and out, particularly as a post-up threat, seems like it could also alleviate some of the one-dimensional reliance on the mid-range jumpshot. It would be a difficult pill to swallow, but perhaps Mayo would be better off swapping places with Carter. Moving to the bench might feel like a step backwards for Mayo and could have significant impacts on team chemistry, but at this point the Mavs’ current rotation isn’t doing much for the team’s present or future.

In addition to his work for The Two Man Game, Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, and a contributor to Indy CornrowsHardwood Paroxysm, HoopChalk and ProBasketballDraft. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.