Mavs Add Blair and Frontcourt Depth

30 07 2013

BlairMavs

He may have no knees, but he has better knees than another big man the Mavs were pursuing.

The Dallas Mavericks have come to terms on a one-year deal worth $1.4 million (the veteran’s minimum) with DeJuan Blair, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

The 6-7, 270 lb. power forward/center was drafted No. 37 out of Pittsburgh by the San Antonio Spurs in 2009 and fell that low due to the fact that he has no ACLs in both of his knees. Even though this seems like it would be a cause of concern, he has had a fairly healthy career during his four years with the Spurs, missing only three games during his first three seasons.

Blair has career averages of 7.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg on 52.8 percent shooting from the field. He also has averaged only 18.9 mpg during his four seasons, showing his ability to make an impact with minimal minutes. The 24-year-old bruiser’s per 36-minute stats last season were 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds on 52.4 percent shooting, according to Basketball Reference. He is known for his scrappy play, rebounding and ability to just find a way to get the ball in the basket. Last season, 81.1 percent of Blair’s shots came in the restricted area or painted non-RA for the Spurs and shot 57.3 percent in these areas. What this means is that Blair does most of his damage in the paint off put-backs or broken plays.

The major downside to Blair’s play is his defense. He may work his tail off on every play, but that’s often not enough when it comes to playing against seven footers in the NBA. Being about as tall as most small forwards, Blair struggles to hold his own against much taller opponents who can shoot over the top of him. Since Brandan Wright (6-9) is also undersized for his position, head coach Rick Carlisle will need to make sure his rotations have enough size on the floor or things could get ugly on defense.

As Mavs fans have grown to love about their own Wright, Blair has always been ready to play, not worrying about his role or how many minutes he gets. (With a coach like Carlisle, who doesn’t care about those things as well, that’s a good quality for a Mav.)

Just take last year’s NBA Playoffs. Due to Tiago Splitter‘s emergence as the starting center, Blair eventually fell almost completely out of Gregg Popovich‘s rotation. That’s why his minutes dropped from 21.3 two seasons ago to 14.0 last season. After only playing trash time in the first two games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, Blair got 14 and 19 minutes in Game 3 and 4, scoring 13 points  in both games on 12-of-15 shooting. He also added 12 total boards.

Even though he didn’t receive consistent minutes during a run to the Finals after being the team’s main center early in his career, Blair didn’t show any sort of frustration or discontent. This team-first attitude is something any organization going in any direction wold be happy to have in the locker room. As Popovich mentioned when asked about Blair falling out of his rotation last season, “To his credit, DeJuan has been a true pro.”

With this signing, it seems that the Mavs have taken themselves out of the Greg Oden race or Oden told them that they were out of the race, so they moved on to Blair. Even if there are those out there that say the Mavs are still in the race, I don’t see Dallas as Oden’s likely destination. It will probably be the New Orleans Pelicans or Miami Heat—teams that can offer him money with no pressure or the chance to win now.

Unlike Oden, who hasn’t played an NBA game since 2009, Blair hasn’t missed a substantial amount of games yet. Oden’s ceiling may be higher than Blair’s, but Blair has a higher floor.

With a higher floor, Blair gives the Mavs a proven rebounder and competitor. For a team whose leading rebounder was their small forward (Shawn Marion) last season, rebounding was clearly an issue. Dallas had a rebounds per game differential of -3.7, which was third worst in the NBA. By bringing in Samuel Dalembert and Blair, the team should be more respectable on the boards.

Dallas management clearly missed out on all their “big fish” targets these past two seasons; however, they do deserve credit for their ability to fill out the roster while maneuvering around the cap line and put together pieces that make the Mavericks a potential playoff team. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson should be criticized for the “plan powder dry” approach but praised for finding economically-savvy answers to their roster problems. (The only exception this offseason is Jose Calderon, who was given too long of a contract.) On paper, they have their answers: pass-first point guard (Calderon), No. 2 scorer (Monta Ellis) and low-post defensive presence (Dalembert). And they didn’t go over the cap to fill these needs.

Now it’s just time to see these pieces fit together and give Dirk another shot at a postseason run.

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Mavericks Current Depth Chart

21 07 2013

bernard blocking ellis

With the recent re-signing of second-year center Bernard James after he cleared waivers, the Dallas Mavericks now have 13 of their 15 roster spots filled. Here’s where things currently stand:

 

PG — Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel, Shane Larkin

SG — Monta Ellis, Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo

SF — Shawn Marion, Jae Crowder

PF — Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright (pending)

C — Samuel Dalembert, Bernard James

 

Possibilities for the last two roster spots: Devin Harris (very likely), Leandro Barbosa, Greg Oden, D.J. Stephens, Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas, Jackie Carmichael, Ivan Johnson, Josh Akognon

 

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Mavs Pack Their Bags While Big Man’s Value Shines Through

23 02 2012

Even though the All-Star weekend provides a chance for most players to catch their breath, every Maverick better be getting mentally and physically prepared for their sprint after the All-Star break.

The most painful part of this 66-game season for the Dallas Mavericks begins this coming Tuesday when Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets come to Dallas.

Back-to-back. (Day off.) Back-to-back. (Day off.) Back-to-back. (Day off.) Back-to-back-to-back.

The oldest team in the NBA will be playing nine games in twelve nights. To add to this craziness, the Mavericks will neither play two games in a row in the same arena nor two games in a row at home.

This stretch doesn’t necessarily have a high level of competition (only two teams with a record above .500); however, the frequency of competition makes the next few weeks just as difficult as their most recent 9-game stretch against such elite teams.

This year in particular, every team has an extremely brutal stretch at some point in time – usually revolving around their back-to-back-to-back.

Most teams, though, transition into the tough part of their schedule during the flow of the regular season. The Mavericks must come out of an extended break – when a lot of rest takes place – ready to hit the court hard.

Based on what Vince Carter said in a Jeff Caplan article for ESPNDallas.com, I feel confident this team realizes what they have coming soon to their plate.

“It all really boils down to how we play coming back after the break,” Carter said. “This first part is over, we’re where we are, but this is where it all counts, in my opinion, now after the All-Star break. Hopefully we come back out ready to go. Nine games in 12 days is brutal, but it happens.”

When the Mavs play the Nets on Tuesday at home, they need a big win to give this stretch a kickstart. Their opponent is one of the worst defensive teams in the league, which gives every Maverick the perfect opportunity to get his game going.

The peak of this stretch comes on March 5 when the Mavs take a trip to Oklahoma City to continue their budding rivalry with the Thunder. If they can win this game and even the regular season series at two a piece, it will be difficult to deem this stretch as unsuccessful.

 

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As I have watched Brandan Wright play this season, I keep getting the feeling he brings nothing but good things to the court. Well, this hunch became a reality after checking John Hollinger’s most recent Player Efficiency Rating (PER) list.

To put it simply, this rating attaches a single number to each player in the NBA based on every one of his statistics. What is different about this than most ranking systems is it takes into account minutes played and the pace of the player’s team. If you want to learn more about Hollinger’s PER, ESPN provides a great explanation behind the calculations.

The league average for players begins at 15.00, and LeBron James holds the highest rating ever (27.34).

So, what player currently has a better rating than Danilo Gallinari, Monta Ellis, Marc Gasol, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony? That’s right – the Mavericks third-string center.

Brandan Wright currently holds a 20.09 rating – only one point less than Dirk’s rating – and has the 36th highest PER in the entire league. Wright easily has the lowest minutes per game average (13.1) than any other player in the top 50 in regards to PER.

Not only does Wright excel in Hollinger’s PER, #34 also doesn’t put up many ill-advised shots. To qualify to be a field goal percentage league leader, a player must be on pace to make 300 field goals. Since Wright doesn’t get heavy minutes, he isn’t on pace to put in this many shots. However, if you take away this pace, Wright is tied for the second best field goal percentage in the league (58.3%).

Aside from all these statistics, Wright clearly brings a great spark to this Mavs team. He might not be the main contributor off the bench, but he certainly plays his role perfectly. Next time any of you readers watch a Mavs game, pay close attention to Wright when he gets in the game. What you’ll realize you’re watching is an efficient, up-and-coming big man that the Mavericks must hold on to during this next off-season when they will (once again) inevitably change many pieces. Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard have a possibility of coming to the Mavs, and if stardom does end up joining Dirk Nowitzki, there needs to be other quality teammates left around one or both of them.

Brandan Wright needs to be one of these teammates.

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