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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Current Tiers of the NBA

26 07 2013

Championship contenders: Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors (Fringe: Knicks, Rockets)

Playoff contenders: Hawks, Bucks, Pistons, Wizards, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Lakers, Mavericks, Blazers, Timberwolves (Fringe: Celtics, Bobcats, Raptors, Pelicans)

Lottery contenders: Sixers, Magic, Jazz, Suns, Kings

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SLAM Dwight Howard Post

7 07 2013

HowardRockets

 

Check out my SLAM article covering Howard’s move to Houston…

Click here

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Which Howard Is Real?

30 06 2013

Howard possible teams

And so it begins. Howard Sweepstakes.

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Howard Doesn’t Want L.A.; He Wants Texas

27 06 2013

 

Jalen Says Dwight Howard Will Be a Houston Rocket | Jalen Rose Report

One of these images will be a reality by next year’s NBA season.

Dwight Howard does not plan to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer and will meet with the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks once teams are allowed to meet with free agents on July 1, according to sources close to the situation.

The Lakers, being his previous team, are allowed to sign him for one extra year and for more money. By signing with a different team than the Lakers, Howard is leaving an extra year of $30 million on the table. However, it should be noted that Howard is only 27 and will most likely sign another huge deal when his four-year, $88 million contract would come to an end. I think he’ll be okay financially.

Unlike the team that shares their arena, the Lakers would not make changes to the makeup of their team just to appease their young superstar. The Los Angeles Clippers fired Vinny Del Negro and hired supercoach Doc Rivers in an attempt to keep their team’s future on the roster. Chris Paul urged them to make this change and will now most likely go back to the Clips.

The Lakers are sticking with Mike D’Antoni. They won’t be a placemat for their superstars. Well, Howard’s biggest reason he doesn’t want to go back to Lakertown is D’Antoni’s coaching system. His “let’s have some fun!” attitude toward the game compared to Kobe Bryant‘s “no horseplay” attitude is also sure to be a problem for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Either way, L.A.’s about to lose a huge part of their future and could already be looking toward the 2014 NBA Draft.

(Can we also all agree it is kind of ironic and amusing that the day after L.A. saw this billboard that Howard expresses his interest in anywhere but L.A.? #PoorHollywood….)

Among these three teams, Atlanta is at the biggest disadvantage due to the fact that it’s D12’s hometown. Being a kid that never wants pressure or scrutiny, Dwight might experience some of that by going back to where he was born. Most say he doesn’t have much desire to go to Atlanta.

So, that puts us in a battle between teams of the Lone Star State.

Dallas v. Houston. Dirk v. Harden. No. 1 option v. No. 2 option.

The biggest reason he goes to Houston is because he gets to win now. Coming off an impressive playoff season, the Rockets look to be moving up the Western Conference ladder for the next few years. They have a young star in James Harden that is the future. The Mavs missed the 2013 playoffs and would need more pieces alongside Dirk and Howard to seriously compete, so there’s not as much certainty with that roster. As I said earlier, I think Houston is Howard’s best fit.

However, just as Howard didn’t like D’Antoni’s system, he worries about coach Kevin McHale‘s system, sources say. That team likes to shoot three-pointers all game long and more…that doesn’t really play into Howard’s post-game. Will he get touches? That’s what Howard wants to know.

In terms of why he would go to the other Texas team, well, that’s the news of the day. Howard now has shown clear interest in Dallas and what the future holds for him in the Big D. It’s always been assumed he’d be the No. 1 option and future franchise face if he went to the Mavs, letting Dirk Nowitzki gracefully become the No. 2 option that he has been ready and willing to become. And with the pay cut Dirk will be taking in 2014, Mark Cuban will have cap space to land a big player during a 2014 free agency filled with “big fish.”

Check out how ESPN’s Chris Broussard put it Thursday morning.

 

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 11.49.29 AM

 

Before anybody reading this gets their hopes up, remember who we are talking about. Mr. Howard is one of, if not the most immature and indecisive players in the entire NBA. Very few have been able to figure out what exactly goes on in his head. Even though these reports could be 100 percent accurate, who knows what their accuracy will be once July 1 comes.

The Dwight Howard roller coaster is upon us yet again. Take a seat and endure the ride.

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Clippers-Celtics Blockbuster Trade (Step 1)

23 06 2013

Before the NBA Finals even had a chance to make its way onto NBATV, the first blockbuster trade of the 2013 NBA summer is upon us. Lob City just became Destination City.

It seemed to be an impossible dream of swapping pieces. Then it suddenly became something actually happening that was only a few pieces from successfully occurring. Then it all died away due to a mutual interest for a certain backup point guard. Then we seemed to be on the doorsteps. Then the Clippers backed off because they felt like they were giving up too much. Then Los Angeles’ star point guard stepped in, said to continue the trades talks and scared his organization half to death. Then the league had questions about the proposed deals and the connections between the two since there can’t be trades with contingencies or side deals. But now, we have a deal. Partially.

The Boston Celtics have begun the destruction of their “Big 3+Coach” core and traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 unprotected first-round pick, according ESPNBoston’s Jackie MacMullan.

Coach Rivers isn’t technically a part of a trade since teams can’t trade coaches involving players. These two organizations came to an agreement that will give L.A. the coaching rights to Doc after Boston has released their coach and then give Boston draft pick compensation. MacMullan says the length of the deal is still being worked out.

The original deal was for the Celtics to trade Rivers and power forward Kevin Garnett to the Clippers for center DeAnde Jordan and two first-round draft picks. The league intervened, though, because certain contingencies and side deals (which is what Rivers, a coach, would have been) can’t be accounted for under the league’s cap rules, making the trade illegitimate. For the deals to take place, the NBA would have to be convinced that the Rivers deal is completely separate from any player discussions. Well, they were sold.

So that’s where we stand. We’re halfway there…or so we’re not supposed to think. But since the Rivers deal has been completed, we must play dumb and play the waiting game for Garnett to be traded to L.A. If a third team has to join in on the trade, it will happen. The Clippers will do what they must to snatch KG. Trust me—it’s inevitable.

Doc-Garnett L.A.

(With Doc leaving Boston, other than Gregg Popovich, the NBA now has no coach that has been with his team for more than five years. Erik Spoelstra and Rick Carlisle were each hired in 2008. The NFL has nine coaches and the MLB has ten managers that have been with their team more than five years. In terms of security of a job, I would not want to be a coach in the NBA at the moment.)

The Clippers first didn’t want to give up rising guard Eric Bledsoe, and then once he was taken out of the picture, they didn’t want to give up two first-round draft picks. So talks were supposedly “dead.” But once unrestricted free agent (emphasis on unrestricted) Chris Paul twisted his team’s arm to make this idea a reality, the organization started talking to the Celtics again and made the trade discussions start to move forward. And they’ll probably still get to keep Bledsoe.

My initial reaction to all of this is “how long before Garnett is traded and Paul Pierce is bought out by the Celtics and joins his buddies?” (Answer: very soon.) My second is realizing the impact this will have on two All-Star point guards.

Lucky Paul. Poor Rajon Rondo.

This most assuredly guarantees that CP3 will re-sign with the Clippers as he now got his way and his superstar coach of choice. Once the next step of this trade goes through (Garnett), Paul will have a supporting cast ready to seriously compete for a championship right away. (Just look at how quickly the C’s core meshed in 2008 in order to win a championship during their first season together.) Sorry Dallas and Atlanta, looks like CP3 is staying home.

It will also be interesting to see the impact Garnett can have on Blake Griffin once the nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player heads on over. Will the highlight of all highlight reel dunkers find a way to finally become a defensive force due to the guidance of one of the best team defenders in the league? Or will he shut out Garnett’s serious influence due to his desire to have fun and make KIA commercials?

And on the other end of this trade, you have to feel somewhat bad for Rondo. Not only has he been given the raw end of this deal since he will soon be the sole leader of a team in full rebuilding mode (LaMarcus Aldridge feels his pain), he will likely have one of his worst NBA seasons since his play—and assists per game—is bettered with a strong cast around him. No. 9 isn’t the type of player that can take over a game, team and season without quality help from his teammates.

It is mind-blowing what one free agent signing—CP3—has done for this Clippers’ franchise. Once a place that every budding star wanted out of has transformed into the landing spot for players/coaches who want one last shot at a title. (Well, the city hasn’t changed. The franchise has.)

Doc, Garnett and Pierce will soon get that shot in L.A.

And the Lakers will just have to watch.

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Fun Fact Friday (Delayed)

28 04 2013

With the San Antonio Spurs series-sweeping 103-82 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Tracy McGrady has now advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career.

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