Returning or No: J.J. Barea

With only three players locked in for next season, the Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this new series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. We begin with J.J. Barea:


 

Re-joining the Mavericks after a disjointed three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves which ended with him getting bought out,  Barea seemed to fit right back in and settled into his old role as a spark plug off the bench pretty much immediately, with his regular season numbers pretty much in line with what he’d achieved in his first stint with the Mavs. After another solid postseason display in which he replaced Rondo in the starting lineup for the last couple of games, Barea is in line for a pay raise once again after playing for the veteran’s minimum this year. However, my guess is that this shouldn’t prevent his return this time.

For one, he’s gotten his money after his little sojourn in Minnesota, so there’s probably less impetus to look for the biggest payday again, or at least not at the expense of playing in a system and for a coach who he can flourish under. This leads to the second point, which is that he recognizes the unique way that he can be a key contributor in this organization. While it may be a small sample to draw from, his time with the T-Wolves showed that he might not be able to get the opportunities that he does with the Mavericks elsewhere. Add the fact that he’s already 30, and he doesn’t exactly have a ton of time left in his career to languish on teams where he doesn’t have a significant role to play.

Chances are, he’ll be looking for one last long-term contract, maybe something in the three or four-year range. His numbers are somewhat similar to Devin Harris’, and he may be hoping to get about as much as Harris earns, but the Mavericks should be able to negotiate him down from there considering his size and the defensive issues that presents.

The Mavs have some real issues in the backcourt to tackle. J.J. won’t be solving those problems, but it’s a fairly safe bet that he can still be a solid contributor off the bench for another two to three years. Dallas may attempt to free up cap and/or roster space by trading or letting go some of their guards, but Barea fills a very specific hole for what is likely to be a very reasonable price, so he probably won’t be one of those departing.

Prediction: Returning

Image: Source

Mavericks: Goodbye 2014-15, Hello Offseason

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way, etc etc. Such was the Mavericks in the 2014-2015 season.

Do you remember when we had the league’s best offense by a country mile? How much fun we had, just having a team that could entertain us, even if they couldn’t defend a lick. As a fan, you can only ask for so many things, and we were winning (for the most part) while being lights-out entertaining. It was a good time.

But of course, the Mavs have greater ambitions than that, especially in the winter of Dirk’s career. Jameer Nelson just wasn’t cutting it at the point; he wasn’t very effective in Rick Carlisle’s flow offense, and he couldn’t do a job on defense either. For these reasons, whether or not you loved the trade at the time, no level-headed fan could possibly hate the Rondo trade. The intentions were good, the Mavs didn’t give up a whole bunch (objectively speaking), and I don’t think there’s any fan who would prefer Jameer to Rajon in a vacuum.

Such a shame it went, well, ‘direct the other way’. Soon our offense became sticky and slow, and the fun atmosphere of the first half of the season dissipated.  No more Helicopter dunks from the stratosphere, no more Jae Crowder helping the team win without making a dent on the stat sheet. Nope, all of that was replaced by a stop-start offense and lots of bad vibes.

Apparently things got toxic enough in the locker room that Rondo managed to follow in the immortal footsteps of Lamar Odom in being frozen out of the playoff bonus payouts. That definitely takes a little something special. Good job Rajon! Also, whoever came up with this statement is having a laugh. If it came from Rondo or his camp, that’s just extra delusional/hilarious. Who is Cuban gonna pick, the coach who won the franchise’s only title, or the surly point guard who just submitted the worst audition for a max contract imaginable? Toughest fuckin’ decision ever man, holy shit.

There is, however, a bright side to all this. Perhaps the worst situation possible would have been a decent-but-not-spectacular Playoff performance from Rondo, which might have forced the Mavs to overpay to keep him. The way things panned out, at least the decision is crystal clear.

The exact opposite is going to happen with Monta though. This season has been a mixed bag, and he’s surly too. But Explosive Monta appeared after RR was taken out, submitting some strong performances, especially in Games 3 and 4. So do we place more weight on his sub-par overall showing this season, which saw a drop in his already-average 3-point percentage from 33% to 28.5%, as well as a lower True Shooting Percentage? Or do we bet on him getting back on track with Rondo gone?

At any rate, Monta at $8 million per year is a great deal. Monta on $15 million per year, in trying to keep up with the Parsons? Not such an appealing prospect. So you can see what a dilemma this presents to the Mavs FO, as well as to us fans. We really like the dude, but how much ($$$) do we really like him?

Monta’s the biggest question in an offseason that will be full of them. What do we do with Barea and Aminu after their big play against the Rockets? I have a feeling Barea will be easier to keep at a reasonable price. His only experience not being on the Mavs was a mediocre stint with Minnesota, and I think only Carlisle knows how to use him properly. He might have those things in mind and be willing to come back without too much hassle.

The Aminu situation is more complicated though. He’s certainly earned a hefty pay raise after his efforts since the All-Star break. The question, once again, comes down to how much he wants. Would he accept a deal similar to Devin Harris’? Roughly $16 million over four years? If he’s amenable to anything close to that, I’d snap him up in an instant. Hopefully he credits some of the revival of his career to Carlisle and decides to stick around.

And then we come to Tyson Chandler. As is the case with veterans, I think this comes down to how much money he wants. As long as he doesn’t expect to keep earning as much as he currently does, I think we’re good. He’s already 32, and probably isn’t gonna be able to keep this level of play up much longer. Would a two-year contract at about $10 million per be too much? I think it would be a decent offer, both for him and for the FO, but who knows where this goes. I think he re-signs, but I have no idea about what the dollar amount would be.

This is gonna be an interesting offseason, to say the least. We should have money to spend, but who’s going to take it? Talk of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan is intriguing, but colour me skeptical after all our big swings missing over the last few years. Besides, I’d rather talk about building a solid long-term backcourt. And we haven’t even talked about Parsons possibly needing microfracture surgery.

Once more into the unknown.

Let’s Talk Trades: Rondo Is A Maverick!

rajon-rondo

 

Rondo is a Mav.

I didn’t see this one coming, given all the trade rumours over the past few years surrounding the dude. Heck, I didn’t expect him to move at all, let alone to the Mavs with their limited assets, before the end of the season. But here we are, short Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, and a couple of draft picks we were probably going to squander anyway, welcoming perhaps the best PG we’ve had since Kidd.

We didn’t give up a whole bunch either. Losing Wright hurts, it really does. He’s been the source of many a joyful welp with his alley-oop finishes and long-armed blocks. The Mavs broadcast team call him The Helicopter, and it’s the perfect nickname. I hope we can somehow re-sign him in the offseason when he’s a free agent. But other than him? We didn’t lose much.

I was an advocate for signing Jameer before the season started, and I had a good reason to. Solid, level-headed vet who could shoot and, while not an all-world passer, could move the ball along well enough. For some reason though, instead of sticking to spot-up jumpers and moving the ball around, he’s tried to create off the dribble a little too much for my liking. Maybe it was a coaching decision; I don’t think he would be playing much if he was directly going against Carlisle’s orders that much. But he’s not that great at it and several possessions were wasted with his forays into the paint. He’s a good dude and I hope he catches onto a good situation somewhere, but I’m not torn up over sending him away.

Ditto for Jae. A hard worker, a decent defender and another all-round good guy, he’s probably our biggest draft success of recent years (which says more about our drafting than him, but still). Anytime a decent dude goes, I feel it, but he’s more likely to get time to shine on a rebuilding team like the Celtics than on the Mavs. He may never amount to anything more than being the 9th or 10th man on a contending team, but he certainly looks like someone who can carve out a 10-year career in the NBA.

And of course, I’ll miss him helping us win while doing nothing tangible on the court. Godspeed, Jae.

Back to Rondo. Despite him having an indifferent year by his standards, and the slow decline of his play in general since losing his Hall Of Fame teammates, I don’t think I’m being over-optimistic in attributing that to disinterest rather than a real decline. He seems the temperamental sort, and I don’t blame him too much for tuning out. Heck, I would if I were him.

Keep in mind a tuned-out Rondo can still lead the league in assists and he’s averaging 10.8/game this season with the likes of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk surrounding him. Imagine what he could accomplish with Dirk and Monta and Parsons, not to mention all the lobs to Tyson. His defense will be key too. Ever since losing Kidd, we haven’t had a point who could defend a lick. Having a former All-Defensive Team guy on the perimeter should shore things up a bunch and give Tyson some help on that end.

The concerns are about his shooting, and that was a bit of a sticking point for me when these rumours first surfaced. But then I thought about how Jameer hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire with his 3-pointers, and that worry sort of resolved itself. There’s an argument to be made about spacing, and how opponents are likely to feel more comfortable leaving Rondo alone on the perimeter than they would Jameer, but the tradeoff (defense plus otherwordly passing) seems well worth it to me.

This trade is big. The Mavs had to do it, because PG is such a stacked position in the league and definitely in the harsh West. Losing an ultra-efficient big man in Wright hurts, but if the Mavs are going to contend in any way in the last few years of Dirk’s career, they need moves like these. I can’t wait for the new starting five to show us what they’ve got.

UPDATE: The trade looks even better with these protections:

Contender Comparison: Cleveland Cavaliers

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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. Finally (and after another hiatus), the new-and-improved Cleveland Cavaliers:

The Roster

PG:
Kyrie Irving
A.J. Price
Matthew Dellavedova

SG:
Dion Waiters
Mike Miller
Joe Harris

SF:
LeBron James
Shawn Marion
James Jones

PF:
Kevin Love
Tristan Thompson
Lou Amundson

C:
Anderson Varejao
Brendan Haywood
Alex Kirk

How I think they match up to the Mavericks:

Well before the season started I was about to gush, grudgingly, over the makeup of this team. In theory, a LeBron-Love should be enough to wreak havoc on everything in the universe, and then you add Kyrie to the mix and the 2015 Cavs look like the basketball equivalent of a nuclear explosion. Instead, they’ve been exploding in a whole different way.

Mind you, they haven’t been terrible. They’re not the 76ers or the Pistons. But by their own standards, they’ve been mystifyingly bad. There’s been lots of stuff written about their troubles this season, everything from their lack of interior defense to LeBron’s new method of leadership. Their coach, no rookie to the coaching scene even if it is his first season in the NBA, hasn’t seemed able to put his imprint on the team.

It’s just a bit of a mess at the moment, but one that still looks like it’ll work itself out before long. I suppose we should take this, along with the 2011 Heat and the Nash-Kobe-Howard Lakers, as definitive evidence that simply throwing a group of superstars together doesn’t necessarily lead to success, and almost certainly not immediate success.

Anyway, this feeling out process for them means that, simply by virtue of better familiarity and cohesion (funny to say that about a team with three new starters), the Mavs should fare pretty well against them, provided the Cavs don’t figure things out by the time the teams meet. On paper, the Mavs completely dominate the center position, and I’d pick Monta over Waiters, for now at least. Other than that though, there’s no doubt that the other Heat starters are better than the Mavs’. Painful to admit, especially at the power forward spot, but Kyrie-LeBron-Love is objectively better than Nelson-Parsons-Nowitzki at this point.

Lucky then, that basketball is a team game, and the Mavs, for all their defensive woes, are more in sync with each other than the Cavs are at this point. The offense is out of this world, and I’d think that that might be enough all on its own to beat the Cavs as they are right now (even if that ends in a 131-128 scoreline). I’d also argue that the Mavs are deeper than the Cavs. They don’t have anyone other than Marion and Miller who can make a real impact off the bench, and neither of them are pick-your-poison kind of threats like Devin Harris or J.J. Barea, both of whom can shoot and drive. We all know what Marion can do on offense (not a bunch), and Miller is a deadly shooter, but not much else.

This matchup completely depends on how much the Cavs improve by the time the teams meet, and even if they haven’t reached their full potential by then (or even taking them as they are right now), they’re still a dangerous team. The Mavs can beat them, but it’ll never be a given. Definitely not when the other team has the greatest player on earth starting for them.

So ends the Contender Comparison series (rather belatedly). As an addendum, I didn’t include Golden State or Memphis because I honestly didn’t think they’d be this good, especially Memphis. Consider my foot currently being inserted into my mouth. I still don’t think the Warriors would be much more than a solid, conference semis team, at least this season, but if the Grizzlies can keep up their play at both ends they are LEGIT. Oh man, the Southwest Division. Oh man.

2014-2015 Game One: Encouraging Start

dirk_duncan

 

And… we lose the first game against the old enemy.

I’m really not too mad, losing 101-100 to the reigning champs isn’t the most terrible result, even if they were without Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills. For a team with three new starters and an almost-completely remade bench, I think we played pretty damn well! I’m certainly encouraged. If this is how we do against the Spurs, the rest of the season should be littered with Ws, provided we don’t play down to our competition.

Monta Ellis picked up where he left off last season, scoring 26 and getting really hot at one point. I think he scored 12 straight points or so during that time. Jameer Nelson shot well from deep, but could stand to do better on defense. Dirk was mostly quiet, but showed that his shot is still right where we need it to be.

The biggest plus has got to be Tyson’s return. Right from the start he was grabbing boards and back-tapping so many missed shots. We should get way more second-chance points this season just due to his presence. I hope the minor back injury he suffered in the first quarter isn’t anything to worry about in the long-term.

The biggest minus was definitely Chandler Parsons. He had a very quiet game and only shot 2-of-10, but he really just had some extremely bad rim luck on at least two of those misses. He’ll definitely improve, I’m not worried about him.

Still though, we really should have won this game. A couple of phantom fouls went against us and we lost by one point. Also, they shot the lights out from downtown. This is one of those losses that feels bad only because of what could have been. In reality though, in a big picture sense, this was still a very encouraging performance and I think we have much to look forward to this season.

Next up, the Jazz. If we lose that one I’ll really have something to worry about.

Contender Comparison: San Antonio Spurs

tim-duncan-nba-san-antonio-spurs-dallas-mavericks-590x900

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 old enemy, the Spurs:

The Roster

PG:
Tony Parker
Patty Mills
Cory Joseph

SG:
Manu Ginobili
Danny Green
Marco Belinelli

SF:
Kawhi Leonard
Austin Daye
Kyle Anderson

PF:
Tim Duncan
Boris Diaw
Jeff Ayres
Aron Baynes

C:
Tiago Splitter
Matt Bonner

How I think they match up to the Mavericks:

Let’s sum up my thoughts with this video:

Add this gif and the answer is ‘not very good, BUT’. And you know what the reason for the BUT is? It’s for Rick Freakin’ Carlisle, that’s what it’s for. We were the only team to do any kind of real damage to the Spurs in the playoffs last season and 80% of that was due to coach Carlisle’s inventive defensive schemes.

But you know what, they still beat us eventually. They’re the reigning champs. They dismantled the Heat in the Finals. Hearing Zach Lowe talk about how the general sentiment in the Heat locker room after Game 5 was not the usual anger and frustration but one of relief that the series was over really speaks volumes about how well the Spurs played. This is a well-oiled basketball machine geared towards getting the absolute best shot on each and every possession. They’re like the Megazord, five different components working in perfect concert with each other on the court.

(I’d like to think that Manu and Parker are the Yellow and Pink Rangers, but that’s just my Mavs bias showing)

I’d like to also point out that while I had to look up the rosters of the other teams I’ve covered in this series, I could rattle off the Spurs roster, even down to the Cory Josephs and Aron Baynes, no problem. That just speaks to the consistency and continuity of the team, even in the front office.

The only consolations are that they’ve never successfully defended their title, and that it would be mighty tough to muster up the motivation to do it all again after writing such an amazing comeback/revenge story. It’s like, where do you go from here? You’ve pretty much already hit the top. But of course, you never doubt the Spurs, with their Big Three and Pop there to make sure there isn’t any slippage.

So this has all been a very roundabout way of saying I don’t think the Mavs will do too well against them. An opening day victory is a possibility, simply because there’s a chance that the Spurs haven’t warmed up fully to playing at their best and maybe their main guys won’t play as much (since it’s a regular season game), but in a seven-game series they’re still beating us. We’re just likely to put up the biggest fight because of how smart our team and coach is.

(OKC can do it too, but they pretty much do it by just being younger and more athletic)

I look forward to us being the only ones causing them real problems again, but I can’t deny that they’re the better team. Ouch, that hurt.

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!

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.

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.

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: