9 Oct
2014

Contender Comparison: Oklahoma City Thunder

Dirk Nowitzki

After a busy and fruitful offseason, the Mavericks are high on both ESPN’s and NBA.com’s preseason power rankings, slotting in at the number 6 and 4 spots respectively. While it’s great for the team to finally get some recognition, are these rankings anywhere near accurate?

To try to determine exactly where the Mavs stand as contenders, in this new preseason mini-series, I will be taking a look at the teams that have genuine championship aspirations (the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Bulls and Cavaliers) and comparing their rosters to the Mavericks’, to see whether this new team deserves its lofty place among the elites. Today, the Thunder:

The Roster

PG:
Russell Westbrook
Reggie Jackson
Sebastian Telfair

SG:
Anthony Morrow
Jeremy Lamb

SF:
Kevin Durant
Perry Jones III
Andre Roberson

PF:
Serge Ibaka
Nick Collison
Mitch McGary
Grant Jerrett

C:
Kendrick Perkins
Steven Adams

How I think they match up to the Mavericks:

Having finished as the 1st or 2nd seed in the murderous West the past three seasons, this Thunder team are the first team I’m covering in this series that I don’t hesitate for a second to call true contenders. Firstly, you have Kevin Durant doing such things:

Credits to Kirk Goldsberry

Credits to Kirk Goldsberry

And then you add Russell Westbrook doing such things:

Just… what?!?! The Thunder basically have two freaks of nature on the same team. With Serge Ibaka being a very competent (read: legitimate second option on any other contending team) third part of the core, this Thunder team should really be completely dominating the West.

Sadly, their coach holds them back. Now, I’m not saying Scott Brooks is a lousy coach. You don’t make the playoffs every full season you’re in charge, winning no less than 50 games each season*  if you’re a bad coach. But in the playoffs, he’s shown a distinct lack of creativity or flexibility in adjusting the team’s offense to counter opponent adjustments. That’s probably why they’ve only made the Finals once despite entering each of the last couple seasons as overwhelming favourites to escape the West.

*Save the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, in which they had a .712 win percentage anyway, good for 58 wins in a normal season

That’s probably the only reason why Dallas managed a 2-1 record against them last season. The Mavs, only just starting to be considered an upper-tier Western Conference team again, really should have had no chance against this still-young, explosively-athletic bunch last season. But the one edge that we have, is our coach. Rick Carlisle is a very, very good coach, something that is hopefully finally being recognized more by the media. But on paper, the Thunder roster is superior.

Besides their Big 3, the Thunder have decent, no-nonsense role players in Steven Adams, Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison coming off the bench, with the first two still young and expected to get even better. The jury’s still out on whether Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III can be actual contributors on a contending team, and I’m personally not very convinced, but at least they’re still young and there’s reason to hope for more.

So if the Mavs were to play the Thunder in the playoffs, who would win? Some might call me crazy, and I don’t know if it’s just my Mavs bias rearing its head here, but I really think that this is a matchup that could go the full seven games, with every game being super close. And I honestly can’t really pick one or the other to win. It’d have to come down to a lucky shot or a phantom foul or something like that to decide this series.

The Mavs have a good, deep roster, an aging superstar who still remains a force in his own right, and a brilliant coach. The Thunder have two of the top ten players in the league and one more likely falling within the top twenty. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka can all legitimately be described as both ‘young’ and ‘experienced’, with the playoff know-how but still young and in full possession of elite skills and athleticism.

Which of the two is a better recipe for success? It’s a complete toss-up to me, but feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

5 Oct
2014

Contender Comparison: Chicago Bulls

Dallas Mavericks v Chicago Bulls

After a busy and fruitful offseason, the Mavericks are high on both ESPN’s and NBA.com’s preseason power rankings, slotting in at the number 6 and 4 spots respectively. While it’s great for the team to finally get some recognition, are these rankings anywhere near accurate?

To try to determine exactly where the Mavs stand as contenders, in this new preseason mini-series, I will be taking a look at the teams that have genuine championship aspirations (the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Bulls and Cavaliers) and comparing their rosters to the Mavericks’, to see whether this new team deserves its lofty place among the elites. The Clippers were covered previously, and this time it’s on to the Bulls:

The Roster

PG:
Derrick Rose
Kirk Hinrich
Aaron Brooks
Ben Hansbrough

SG:
Jimmy Butler
Kim English
E’Twaun Moore

SF:
Mike Dunleavy
Doug McDermott
Tony Snell

PF:
Pau Gasol
Taj Gibson
Nikola Mirotic
Solomon Jones

C:
Joakim Noah
Nazr Mohammed
Cameron Bairstow

How I think they match up to the Mavericks:

This Chicago Bulls squad, under Tim Thibodeau, is about as predictable a team as a contending team can be. You know they’ll play stifling defense, you know their starters aren’t strangers to playing 40+ minutes every night, and you know that their offense is… functional at best.

Of course, they hope to change that last bit with the return of Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol. In theory, Rose’s dynamism and Pau’s passing and scoring will help. But will that be enough?

Pau has had a rough few years, slowed by age and injuries and constantly clashing with Mike D’Antoni. In the last three seasons, he’s only managed to play in 65, 49, and 60 games. That’s rough, and with Thibodeau apparently unwavering in having his best players log the most time, seemingly regardless of injury history, things could get ugly if he breaks down again.

Rose’s return also comes with a giant asterisk. While his explosiveness seemed present and accounted for at the FIBA 2014 World Cup, he shot a horrendous 25% from the field and FIVE PERCENT from the shorter international 3-point line. It seems that while he can still explode to the rim, he can’t finish there, and although he’s never been a lights-out long-range marksman, 5% is an unimaginably low percentage.

But of course, even without those two, the Bulls still managed to grind their way to the 4th seed in the East, an accomplishment even in the weak East. Until proven otherwise, they have to be regarded as contenders.

The Mavericks-Bulls games are likely to very much be ‘unstoppable force-immovable object’ affairs, with the Mavericks’ clear strength being on offense and the Bulls on the other end of the court. At the guard spots, unless Rose returns to MVP-caliber play, I don’t think the Mavs actually have much to worry about. Jimmy Butler is young and a solid defender, but I would say he’s still a role-player. His 3-point shooting fell off a cliff last season, dropping from 38% in 2012-2013 to 28% in 2013-2014. If he’s unable to be a threat from distance, a Rose-Butler backcourt pairing won’t be terribly difficult to defend against, something that the Mavs, with no defensive stopper among their guards, will appreciate very much.

At small forward, Mike Dunleavy provides spacing. That’s important considering the shooting issues the backcourt has. But… as far as I know, that’s about all he provides. He’s another one of those players that quietly plays his role and does nothing else. He’s unlikely to come up with any highlight plays, nor is he likely to appear on any blooper reels. A solid veteran, but not a difference maker. Chandler Parsons wins this round by simply providing more on the offensive end, and it’s unlikely he’ll have much trouble keeping Dunleavy in check on defense.

Power forward becomes more interesting. If Pau performs at the high level he’s capable of, it opens up all kinds of possibilities. The Bulls may try to have the offense run through him, and he should be able to link up with Joakim Noah in many interesting ways. I can’t think of another frontcourt with this much passing ability in the league. But, once again, a lot hinges on Pau’s health.

As a one-to-one matchup, Dirk shouldn’t have too many problems with Pau. Pau’s not a super-athletic bruiser who can run and jump all over Dirk, and on the other end, Dirk should still be able to get his patented fadeaways over him. It will still be an interesting battle to watch however. Two skilled and silky smooth European big men going head to head; I think I’ll enjoy that.

Rounding out the Bulls starting five is Noah, their MVP from last season. There’s nothing I can say that isn’t already known about him. He’s tough and smart, and although his passing ability is well-known, I have to say it’s not something I expected from someone who’s all mean and business elsewhere. His energy and rebounding ability is something the Mavs have to take note of; it’s a weakness of this team, always giving up offensive boards and second chance points as a result. Having Tyson will help, but Noah still wins this matchup.

Now for the bench. The Mavs’ bench should beat almost every other bench in the league, and it’s no different in this case. Only Taj Gibson is a threat with his energy and rebounding. The rest are either just safe, unspectacular backups (Hinrich), NBA unknowns (Mirotic, McDermott), or bit-part players (everyone else). Aaron Brooks could actually be a wild card of sorts; he’s a solid shooter from distance and could become this season’s version of D.J. Augustin for the Bulls. But unless Mirotic and/or McDermott show that they can be legitimate contributors in the NBA, the Bulls bench is quite thin.

All in all, this is a tough matchup. The Mavs can certainly beat the Bulls, but if they do, it won’t have been easy. Unrefined as their offense is, they still can eke out enough points to supplement what they do on defense. And if Rose is back to his 2011 standards, that makes things all the more difficult. I’d love to watch the games these two teams have, because I’m fond of both teams and games between them should be balanced and tight affairs.

30 Sep
2014

Contender Comparison: LA Clippers

Monte+Ellis+Dallas+Mavericks+v+Los+Angeles+1FZfuW5iAxil

After a busy and fruitful offseason, the Mavericks are high on both ESPN’s and NBA.com’s preseason power rankings, slotting in at the number 6 and 4 spots respectively. While it’s great for the team to finally get some recognition, are these rankings anywhere near accurate?

To try to determine exactly where the Mavs stand as contenders, in this new preseason mini-series, I will be taking a look at the teams that have genuine championship aspirations (the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Bulls and Cavaliers) and comparing their rosters to the Mavericks’, to see whether this new team deserves its lofty place among the elites. First up, the Clippers:

The Roster

PG:
Chris Paul
Jordan Farmar

SG:
Jamal Crawford
J.J. Redick
Chris Douglas-Roberts
C.J. Wilcox
Jared Cunningham
Joe Ingles

SF:
Matt Barnes
Jared Dudley
Reggie Bullock
Hedo Turkoglu

PF:
Blake Griffin
Glen Davis
Ekpe Udoh

C:
DeAndre Jordan
Spencer Hawes

How I think they match up to the Mavericks:

Clearly, the Mavs have no like-for-like answer for Chris Paul or Blake Griffin. Not to disparage them, but our point guards are all borderline-starter material at best, and there’s no one on our team who can perform the athletic stunts Griffin can aside from Wright, who’s still a role player at this point.

But you know what? I think we can take them in a seven-game series. Although they have two superstars and a capable defensive center, the rest of the roster is just littered with just-not-good-enoughs.

Starting with the backcourt, CP3 is a legit superstar and although we may not have Marion to sic on him anymore, I trust Devin/Jameer, along with Carlisle’s magic, to be able to perform decent damage limitation. Farmar is a truly unremarkable role-player, someone who won’t muck things up when he comes in but also won’t do anything to make you thank the gods that he’s on your team. Redick and Crawford are, in my opinion, both best at being off-the-bench gunners, and as such are ill-suited to start. Monta will no doubt run both of them ragged too.

At small forward, it’s pretty much the same deal. Barnes and Dudley shouldn’t be starters for any team which considers themselves true contenders. When a team has two whole positions staffed entirely by non-starters, that’s a problem. I used to like Dudley from his Phoenix days, but ever since joining the Clippers his stats have dropped across the board, and he’s become increasingly invisible. Barnes is a tough guy, the enforcer of the team, but his lack of production and the fact that sometimes teammates don’t even back him up for his antics just makes him look silly.

As for the bigs, the Clippers have a pretty damn good starting pairing of Griffin and Jordan. I think I’ve written before about how I haven’t been impressed with Griffin, but he’s improved tremendously since then, even if his post ‘moves’ make him look like a drunk squirrel trying to catch its own tail sometimes.

As for Jordan, great shot-blocker and alley-oop finisher that he is, I think he’s been as big a beneficiary as anyone of the barren nature of the center position in the NBA nowadays. He can’t post up, his free-throw struggles are well-documented but he’s still getting paid. In other words, he’s really one-dimensional and not much of a factor on offense. Because of that, Dirk can be put on him on defense, allowing Tyson to handle Griffin.

You know what that means? That means that of the Clippers’ three best players, we have the capability to pretty much neutralize two of them. And on the other end of the court, neither Griffin nor Jordan have an answer for Dirk’s trademark fadeaway jumpers, so for all the hype Lob City receives, we might actually have a slight edge here. At worst, it’s a push.

Lastly, taking a look at the bench players, there’s really no comparison. The Mavs’ bench is comprised of several players who were starters last season (Jameer, Aminu, Felton, Jefferson) and there’s also the uber efficient Brandan Wright. The Clippers’ best players off the bench are Crawford, Hawes, Farmar and (sometimes) Davis. As a whole, they’re decent, and play their roles well, but beyond them we see a bunch of inexperienced (Bullock, Ingles, Wilcox) or inconsequential (Hedo, CDR) players. Overall, it’s a pretty terrible bench that’s propped up by Crawford, really.

In conclusion, I’d say that the only clear advantage the Clippers have over the Mavs is Chris Paul, one which may even be neutralized by Coach Carlisle’s smarts. They have a younger, more athletic squad and a killer transition game, so the key when playing them is to limit our live turnovers. They aren’t nearly as dangerous in the half-court.

On the other end of the court, they have no answer for Dirk, and while CP3 is a really good defender, I don’t think that will limit the effect of the Dirk-Monta two man game that much. I haven’t even mentioned Parsons at all in this whole article, but do I really need to? There’s no contest in the small forward battle.

This is a team we can beat. The losses we suffered to them last season were the most infuriating and frustrating losses I personally had to endure. Cooler heads would have allowed us to prevail. All the Mavs need to keep in mind against the Clippers is that they are the better team, and let their play do the talking. Nothing more, nothing less.

23 Sep
2014

Hiatus Breaker

dirk-nowitzki-nba-playoffs-san-antonio-spurs-dallas-mavericks

Hi all! I’m terribly sorry for disappearing for close to two months. School has been a killer, and I’m still up to my ears in assignments.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the last couple months have been the absolute dog days of the NBA offseason, with hardly anything of note happening. The US beat Serbia and got the gold at the FIBA World Cup, but I think I speak for most people when I say that once Spain was knocked off by France, the tournament lost any kind of competitive intrigue.

I’ll be back to posting again soon. With the end of the offseason nearly in sight, I’ll be doing some positional previews and question whether our offseason acquisitions, exciting as they are, are actually able to propel us into contender territory again. I’ll also be taking a look around the league and picking out any teams or players whose progress I’ll be interested in following this coming season.

For now, I’ll end off with a couple videos to remind everyone what our favourite German is capable of:

28 Jul
2014

Hold Your Horses

NBA-Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks - Denver Nuggets

It’s been a helluva offseason for the Mavericks. We struck early, bringing in Tyson Chandler before anyone else had done anything. Then we finally scored a solid player in free agency, prying Chandler Parsons away from the Rockets. Then followed the low-cost, low-risk/high-reward moves of bringing in Richard Jefferson, Eric Griffin, Greg Smith, Jameer Nelson (who I made the case for myself over here) and Al-Farouq Aminu to fill out the roster.

The starting five is stronger and more balanced now than it was last season, and the bench, while losing an important piece in Vince Carter, is probably one of the best benches in the league right now. Think of it this way: Aminu, Jefferson and Felton were all starters last season.

But, do we really deserve 4th place in the preseason power rankings, per NBA.com?

My concerns about this new Mavericks team largely centers around the pieces we lost in the Tyson trade and in free agency. After all, to build the team we have now, we had to give up some important pieces. It’s not like we just added and added without losing anyone.

I think we’ll miss Caldy quite a bit. For the sake of a backcourt which could actually function on both ends of the court, moving Jose made lots of sense. But I don’t think it can ever be sufficiently stated how secure I felt every single time he brought the ball down the court. He averaged 1.3 turnovers per game! And that went down to just 1.0 in the playoffs! Granted, some of that may be due to Monta handling the ball more and more as the season went on, but that’s still a good mark.

Additionally, his three-point shooting is right up there with the best, at 45% last season. He may have only averaged 11 points, but having an all-time great shooter spotting up on the perimeter does wonders for your team’s spacing. And with the primary offensive option being Monta-Dirk pick-and-pops, spacing is tantamount.

Jameer will help, being a decent shooter himself, but he’s not an all-timer like Jose. Hopefully it’ll be enough.

Of course, you may say that Parsons is a good shooter himself and will help in that department. But consider who he’s replacing: defensive Swiss Army knife Shawn Marion. Which brings us to the second problem: is our defense really all that much better than last season’s?

Replacing Jose with Jameer maybe improves the defense at that position, if only marginally because Jameer isn’t exactly a stopper and is pretty short at 6 feet flat. But that little bit of gain will probably be negated by the loss of defense at the starting small forward position. For all he will bring to the offense, Parsons is undeniably worse than Marion on defense.

“We’ve still got Tyson!”, some may say. But this isn’t the Tyson of 2011. He’s three years older, and he hasn’t played more than 66 games in a season since leaving the Mavs. That’s… not great, especially when the effectiveness of his whole game, both on offense (getting on the end of alley-oops) and defense is so heavily dependent on athleticism. The hope here is that he was unmotivated the past couple years, and being back in a real winning environment and alongside Dirk again will get him focused and ready to go to war. Well, I hope that happens too, but for now the facts aren’t particularly encouraging.

So it could be argued that our starting lineup’s defense might actually be worse than last season’s much-maligned group, which is saying a lot. That said, having the option of introducing the likes of Devin Harris and Aminu will help, and I trust fully in coach Carlisle’s ability to mix and match players to put the overall most effective team on the floor.

All things considered, this Mavs team should be better than last year’s. It’s gotten significantly younger (I read somewhere the average age of the squad dropped by three whole years) and more athletic. This was the most exciting offseason I’ve been a part of since I started following the Mavs, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the product on the floor. I just don’t want to get carried away in the euphoria of free agency and start counting my chickens before they hatch.

Let’s see how it all plays out.

16 Jul
2014

See You Around, Vince

Vince+Carter+Dallas+Mavericks+v+Orlando+Magic+86aMU4IdXX0l

It’s been an eventful offseason for the Dallas Mavericks. We kicked things off with the Tyson Chandler trade, and, after an intense 72-hour period of hoping and praying, came out winners in the Chandler Parsons sweepstakes. While there are still areas which could do with some shoring up, fans would be hard-pressed to say that the Mavs haven’t tried to improve the team.

In the midst of all the movement, and while waiting for the Parsons decision, the Mavs were forced to give up Vince Carter:

The loss of the hero of Game Three stings a little, but I’m not too torn up, for a few reasons. For one, the contract the Grizzlies gave him is pretty terrible, when you think about it. Three years, for a 37 year old? Even with only $2m guaranteed for the third year, I don’t think it’s a smart deal (on the Grizzlies’ part, of course. Keep gettin’ them checks Vince!).

At this stage of his career, as a general manager, I’d only be comfortable with either a one-year contract, or two years with a team option on the second year. There’s just no telling when the body will just say ‘enough is enough’, after which you’re stuck with a non-productive player clogging up $4m of cap space. True, it’s not a huge amount, but it’s still enough to be an irritant when you’re trying to maximize your team’s capabilities, as a team with playoff aspirations like the Grizzlies would be.

Secondly, given the Mavs’ specific roster-building circumstances coming into the offseason, I would have never agreed to give Vince $4m, and I’m glad the front office apparently agrees with me on that. We just needed as much space as we could possibly get to spend on solid starters, given our targets at the beginning of free agency. Kyle Lowry, Marcin Gortat, Luol Deng… aiming for those guys (and we’re not even talking about the likes of Carmelo or LeBron) meant that we simply didn’t have $4m to give Vince. So, to me it was always a matter of whether Vince liked the environment in Dallas enough to take a little discount and continue his good work.

Don’t get me wrong; $4m isn’t outlandish for Vince, who had solid averages of 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season. But $4m was outlandish for Vince to stay in Dallas.

Lastly, I’ve always had this lingering feeling that Vince has been a journeyman, ‘mercenary’ type of player ever since leaving New Jersey. His stints in Orlando and Phoenix left people underwhelmed, and I have a feeling the perception of him being ‘done’ would have continued had he not found a good situation in Dallas.

I’m sure he put in the work to become effective in a whole new role, and one can’t just say that ‘landing in Dallas’ was all that was needed to get him back on track, but I never felt like he really wanted to retire here. It’s why I always thought Mark Cuban’s comments about Vince retiring as a Mav to be one of those ‘things executives should say even if they don’t mean it’, like how an ownership group would never outright admit to wanting to sack their head coach, even if all signs pointed to that.

So… thanks for a solid three years, Vince. Keep gettin’ them checks, you deserve them. I won’t miss you, but I’ll have fond memories of our time together.

See you around, VC. Thanks for the memories.

11 Jul
2014

Expanding My Horizons

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Hi all! Just a quick post to let y’all know that I’ve recently started contributing at a couple other sites, The Smoking Cuban and The Pick and Roll. If you’ve only been following my stuff here on The Stepback, please do take the time to see my work over at those sites too!

Here are my posts at those sites so far:

Why not Jameer Nelson for the new Mavs starting point guard?

What does it matter if Chris Bosh signs for the Rockets?

Was the Mavs offer sheet to Chandler Parsons about more than just basketball?

Don’t worry, I have no intention of abandoning this site. In fact, I intend to step it up and try to be more consistent with my posts.

Thanks for all the support so far, and see you guys again soon!

9 Jul
2014

Superstars Are Worth The Wait

quote-Michael-Jordan-i-can-accept-failure-everyone-fails-at-89695

There’s been a lot of teeth-gnashing over the Mavs’ pursuit of the likes of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, much of it due to the fact that having to wait for them to make their decision effectively handcuffs the Mavs’ ability to make other moves.

Already this offseason we’ve seen legitimate Mavs targets like Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat signed to new contracts, and with rumours flying around over the likes of Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza, there is a fear that the opportunity cost that arises from having to wait on Melo and/or LeBron is getting higher day by day, and could be too much to bear once all is said and done.

But you know what? I say that if you have a chance, even the smallest, miniscule one, to sign a superstar, you have to give it a shot.

How many superstars are in the league? More importantly, how often does even one of them become a ‘real’ free agent, who actually fields calls and meets with teams besides their own? The likes of Dirk and Kobe don’t count, because their return to their respective teams was hardly ever in doubt.

I might be wrong here, but the last time I can think of a superstar being actually available in free agency (before LeBron’s infamous Decision in 2010 heralded this new age of superstar-hunting) was Shaq, back in 1996 when he left the Magic for the Lakers. That’s a whole FOURTEEN years between instances of a superstar changing teams through free agency!

While the new CBA has led to shorter contracts and therefore more player movement, a superstar taking the leap in free agency just doesn’t happen all that often. For that reason, on top of the obvious fact that there are only so many players who are worthy of ‘superstar’ status at any one point of time in the league, is why teams have to at least TRY when even the minutest of opportunities arises.

The Mavs may end up missing out on a solid rotation piece with all this waiting around. The basketball product on the floor next season may end up taking a step back. I’ll whine and moan with the rest of the Mavericks fans if all that happens, but I know I’d feel worse if there was a possibility of getting a superstar and Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban didn’t even lift a finger to try.

The odds might be low, and waking up to ‘LeBron signs with the Mavericks’ headlines may forever remain a pipe dream, but you’ll never know unless you try.

28 Jun
2014

Hilariously Misguided, Blind and Uninformed: 2014 Draft-Day Version

nba-draft_532x290_v3

Draft Day 2014 has come and gone, and the Mavs were silent throughout. I was hoping we’d be able to buy our way into the 20-30 range, much like we did with – *shudder* – Dominique Jones before, but, thinking about the Mavs’ most likely plans for this offseason, it wouldn’t have made much sense tying up cap space in a rookie.

The Mavs are looking to maximize the remaining Dirk years, and that means either shooting for the stars with LeBron or Melo, or getting solid veterans like Deng or Lowry. We’d need as much cap flexibility as possible to make those moves possible, so not picking up a first rounder makes sense.

I put this post under the HMBU category, because to be frank, I know nothing about college basketball and therefore nothing about the prospects coming in. All the knowledge I have comes from articles that begin to appear once June approaches, and ramp up significantly after the Finals are over. So… top-heavy info really, with the coverage being heavily focused on the Lottery.

That said, I did watch the whole first round live, and this post is just to give my two cents on what little I know, along with some slightly non-basketball observations I made:

– The first funny moment of the Draft came from Joel Embiid looking perplexed/angry/disappointed after the Sixers picked him. It came out soon after that he was watching a slightly delayed telecast, so it doesn’t mean anything, but it was funny to watch at the time. It was almost like he was openly wondering ‘The Sixers are going to be blatantly tanking again?’

– Speaking of which, the Sixers are going to tie themselves to railroad tracks for yet another season, picking the injured Embiid (what are the odds he’s kept out the whole season?) and Dario Saric, who won’t come over for one or two years. I understand the big picture and can see where they’re going with this, but this is going to be two consecutive seasons of agonizingly bad basketball in Philly. Probably the first time an ownership group is so completely okay with being terrible for two straight seasons. I think that if they had the option to forfeit the season and be guaranteed a top-5 pick, they’d do it.

At least with Orlando, you could see improvement from their young players. You could feel a core building towards something. With Philly, MCW might get better but playing this way for his first couple seasons is probably going to ruin him as a player, and Nerlens Noel will finally get started on his professional career, but there’s no one else on the roster who could realistically be anything better than end-of-the-bench material (aside from the NBA player with the most wretched life right now, Thad Young). It’s depressing to watch.

Nevertheless, the 2013-2017 (or whenever they finally put a basketball team on the court) Sixers are going to make for a very interesting case study regarding team building in the future.

– Simmons’ fist pump when the Celtics picked James Young was funny to watch. But it also set off a new stream of ‘WHY IS HE NOT OBJECTIVE THAT’S TOTALLY UNPROFESSIONAL’ tweets and reactions. Seriously? The guy writes as a fan first, always. It’s obvious in all of his articles. Even when writing stuff which doesn’t really have anything to do with his Celtics, he finds a way to slip a nugget or two in there. That’s how he is, that’s how he’s always been. So relax already.

Besides, if you follow the game in any way, shape or form, you’re going to have a favourite team or two. I’d rather someone be open and honest about it, because even if they aren’t, it’s likely that their fandom seeps into their writing anyway, and then as a reader you wouldn’t be able to tell. At least if it’s out in the open, you can decide how much weight to put into what he/she says about things which involve their teams.

– I have to definitely drop in a word here about the classy move the NBA/Adam Silver made ‘drafting’ Isaiah Austin. Getting the news he did so close to the draft must have been devastating, but it looks like he’s handled it really well and the NBA definitely handled it awesome. I, as with just about everyone else, wish him the best.

Good stuff.

– Apparently there’s someone named Bruno Caboclo who’s from Brazil and plays basketball and the Raptors picked him at No. 20. No one seems to know anything else about him, and now ‘two years away from being two years away’ will live in draft memories forever more.

– OF COURSE the Spurs get a young Boris Diaw with the very last pick of the draft. OF COURSE.

– The Knicks picked up Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ brother, with the second rounders we sent them in the Tyson Chandler trade. I’m not too disappointed, but it would have been nice having Early, one of the touted prospects, around. And Thanasis could have provided a lite version of what Giannis is doing for the Bucks. But, eh, not terribly disappointed.

– For all the hype surrounding draft night, it played out in a fairly straightforward manner. I guess that’s what happens when it’s a deep draft and no one could really flip out over a reach because a good player’s a good player regardless. Still, as an objective viewer with no horse in the race, last year’s draft was way more fun to follow, especially on Twitter.

So the fun of draft is over. But with LeBron and Carmelo opting out of their contracts and trade rumours swirling around Kevin Love, not to mention all the possibilities with the next tier of players, this offseason looks to be exciting. By the time the season starts the whole landscape of the league could look mighty different.

The Mavericks aren’t going to sit idly by, and I’m looking forward to July already.

26 Jun
2014

Let’s Talk Trades: Chandler is a Mav Again

Tyson Chandler Mavs

It’s my first day back in Singapore, my exams just finished a couple days back, and I wake up to this MASSIVE NEWS:

Tyson Chandler is a Maverick again!

Let’s look at who got what in the trade:

Dallas Mavericks receive: Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton
New York Knicks receive: Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, the 34th and 51st picks of the 2014 draft

Honestly? When I first laid my tired eyes on this headline, I wasn’t happy. Tyson is older and has missed a ton of games since leaving the Mavs. And for someone whose game is largely dependent on athleticism, what with his alley-oop finishes and all, this is a significant issue.

It also didn’t sit well with me that we were giving Calderon up. After the mess at the PG position during the 2012-2013 season, I was very happy having him around. And there was some underdog-ish aura around Sammy D that made me really like having him around.

Having taken a little time to think about it though, I’m leaning towards ‘cautiously optimistic’ on the trade. Let’s break it down:

First, the big fish of the deal, Mr Chandler. Ideally, he gives us what he did during the magical 2011 season: athletic rim protection, always a threat rolling to the rim, and a decent enough free-throw shooter to not be a liability (although that has been declining ever since he left the Mavs). However, given his injuries in recent times, I don’t know if he can do what he once did. He’s still a good player, but I’m expecting something around 70-80% what he managed the last time he was here.

His contract is big, at $14.6m for the coming season, but it’s just for one year and then he’s a free agent. On the bright side, if he’s good-but-not-great, he could be a decent re-sign, say at $7-8m per for 2 or 3 years? I know it sounds kinda steep but good Cs are hard to find nowadays, right?

Now, Raymond Felton. Oh god, what did we pick up. We picked up a fat, turnover-prone guard who just recently managed to avoid jail-time for carrying guns. I don’t know how he could bring anything positive to the team. Carlisle might be able to work some magic, and maybe Felton turns out to be a decent player off the bench, but I’m hoping and praying he gets moved on before the season starts. Don’t know how the Mavs would manage to perform that miracle though.

As a player, he’s pretty much done, unless he finds some motivation to get fit and play hard again. His contract is manageable, at least. $3.8m for this year and a player option at $3.9m for next year, which I think he exercises. It’s a number small enough to not feel too much grief over but also big enough to be an irritant when griping about things like cap space.

Now, about the players and assets we gave up:

As I said above, what Jose brought to the team last year was amazing. Sure hands, crisp passes, marksman shooting. However, moving him on is justifiable given his contract and the role he slid into over time last year. Monta’s breakout led to Jose being reduced to a spot up shooter a lot of the time, and while he was great at it, at his price and with his contract, it’s not worth it, especially since he can’t defend.

(I’m hoping this means we pursue Lowry hard in free agency now)

As for Sammy D, I’ll miss the big guy. When he played hard he was a joy to watch. He’s got pizza hands, sure, but the way he dunks when fired up was one of the most fun things to see last season. But I’m not feeling as strongly for him leaving as Tyson is clearly the better player, which isn’t something I can say for Felton-for-Jose.

We also give up Sugar Shane Larkin. Hmm, it’s hard. On the one hand, here’s a young guard who showed some promise last season and is just one year into the league (so my pet peeve about the Mavs just pretty much throwing away the players they draft continues). On the other, he’s a really undersized guard who I saw get easily stuffed at the rim numerous times, even after he’d gone all the way into the paint. Short arms = death, it seems.

So I feel kinda bad for him, being traded just one year into his career. But I didn’t really see him making a huge impact on the team anyway, certainly not during the remaining Dirk years.

How about Ellington? I don’t know if he was bad in practice, but his complete lack of playing time was a disappointment after coming in at the beginning of last season with a good reputation as a 3-and-D guy. I’d lean towards trusting Carlisle, but it still feels like a waste. Nevertheless, he wasn’t big (or small) enough for us last year for me to really feel anything either way about him leaving.

As for giving up the 34th and 51st picks? Well there goes my draft night. I’d still be stoked to sit by Twitter and see all the madness go down, but chances are the Mavs won’t be involved at all. Fitting, considering it’s the best draft in a decade and the Mavs have typically dismissed the draft altogether. Sheesh.

Of course, they could still buy or trade their way into something. I hope they do, but I’m not holding my breath.

So… wow. This trade came out of nowhere didn’t it? Just like the best ones do. A lot hinges on whether Chandler can be something like the 2011 version of him again, which is a big question considering his recent injury issues. If he can, I’d be okay with stashing Felton at the end of the bench and have him clean up the arena as part of his 500-hour community service and do nothing else.

Did we give up too much? I think so. At the end of the day, Chandler is older, and Felton is fatter and… useless-er. I understand giving up the players we did, although maybe keeping one of Larkin or Ellington would have been better (if not to use in the rotation then as assets to be used in another trade). But the 34th AND 51st picks?? Nah man, that pushes it into ‘gave up too much’ territory.

(I know it’s weird to put that much value on two second-rounders, especially since one of them is one of the last ten picks of the whole draft, but it’s more of a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ thing than anything else)

I’ll miss Jose and The Haitian Sensation, and wish Ellington and Larkin all the best. They were all good servants of the team, one way or another. No bad eggs here.

On the brighter side, this probably sets us up for a very exciting free agency. If Chandler is good to go, Dirk-Monta-Chandler is a very strong core. We now just need some shooting on the wing and a starting-caliber guard. I’d be ecstatic if we get Lowry plus Hayward or something like that.

Of course, the team has to give LeBron and Melo a shot. When you can get a superstar you just have to try, fit be damned. But after the disappointments of the last few summers, I’ll be happy if we just get a solid group together to push up a few places in the West.

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