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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2013-2014 Mavs Contract Commitments: What’s Next?

25 06 2013

 

 

 

# - free agent for summer 2013
! - restricted free agent for summer 2013
() - amount free agent counts against the 2013-2014 cap until 
he is re-signed, renounced, or signs with another team

  Dirk Nowitzki       $22,720,000
  Shawn Marion         $9,320,000
  Brendan Haywood      $9,070,000  [amnestied, doesn't count 
                                    against cap]
  Vince Carter         $3,180,000  (if team picks up option)
  O.J. Mayo            $4,200,000  (if Mayo does not opt-out)
  Jared Cunningham     $1,243,080
  Jae Crowder            $789,000
 !Darren Collison     ($3,342,175  qualifying offer)
 !Rodrigue Beaubois   ($3,256,361  qualifying offer)
 #Chris Kaman       
 #Anthony Morrow     
 #Elton Brand    
 #Brandan Wright
 #Mike James
 #Bernard James
 #Josh Akognon     

 

 

As you can see from the contract commitments above, other than Dirk, Marion, Cunningham and Crowder (and the team is currently looking to trade Marion and get rid of that contract), the Dallas Mavericks could potentially look completely different from last year…something that has become the norm since they won the championship in 2011.

Once July 1 arrives and free agency has officially begun, Mark Cuban is going to first go after Dwight Howard and then go after Dwight Howard and finally go after Dwight Howard. (Chris Paul is going to re-sign with the Clippers…just forget about the possibility.) If things go as I expect them to, Howard will either give Lakertown another chance or, more likely, go to Houston in order to play with a rising James Harden rather than a declining Dirk.

After that happens, Cuban and General Manager Donnie Nelson MUST move forward with “PLAN B” and not “Plan Powder Dry” as they have done the past two summers. It’s time for Dirk to get another chance in the playoffs. No more one-year deals for deteriorating veterans and players that haven’t lived up to their potential. This team needs a spark—an actual NBA player that other teams would like to have on their team.

So, I see Monta Ellis and Andrew Bynum as “PLAN B.” With the market not being too interested in Ellis because of his inability to impact the game in more than one way (scoring), Mavs could snag him for three years at an affordable price. He could become a valuable scoring punch off the bench and serve a specific and necessary role. Dallas could also get Bynum on a one-year deal since every single person in the league is worried about a 7-footer coming off surgery on BOTH of his knees. Well, and his attitude is obviously a part of the gamble. But it’s a risk the Mavs can and need to take. He is potentially an 18pts-10rbs kind of guy—with healthy knees and healthy brains cells. At the right price, he’s the right move…even if J.J. Barea wouldn’t agree with me. Signing these two stars (not superstars) would allow Dallas to have the money, with the promised pay-cut from Dirk, in the summer of 2014 to sign one of the many elite players that will be available.

Andre Iguodala is also an intriguing player since he just exercised his early termination option with the Nuggets and will be an unrestricted free agent. Instead of Ellis, the Mavs could pair Iggy with Bynum for next year’s squad. Iguodala can be clumped with Shawn Marion in the group of wing players that don’t get enough credit for the impact they have on all aspects of the game. However, I see him taking less money to go play for a contender, which is something Dallas isn’t. Weird, right?

And then moving down the ladder, “PLAN C” consists of some almost-stars. The Mavs could go after Jose Calderon, Tony Allen, Brandon Jennings (restricted free agent), Nikola Pekovic, Greg Oden (stop laughing), Al Jefferson, Tyreke Evans (RFA) or Jarrett Jack. It just depends on the price and if the team picks up someone from a plan higher in the alphabet.

In the end, though, I have no idea what Cuban is going to do. During his time in the Big D, he has been known to have ideas up his sleeves no one—including the team’s beat writers and the NBA “breaking news” journalists—saw coming. He finds ways to convince players to come to town and owners to make moves that other teams’ managements wouldn’t dream of attempting.

So, let’s sit back uneasily yet again and watch this 2013 summer of free agency unfold. And hopefully, Cuban can fold up his sleeves with something big to show.

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The Actors: Dwight, Crabtree, Dez, Matrix

18 06 2013

 

I sure know I would be tempted to hire them…

Also, Michael Crabtree was born and raised in Dallas while Dez Bryant and Shawn Marion play for Dallas professional sports teams. And then there’s free agent superstar Dwight Howard. You think Mark Cuban didn’t have a hand in setting this up? Someone wants D12 in the Big D…

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Carlisle Sits Marion as the Mavs Lose in Extra Time… Again

17 04 2012


On a night in which Devin Harris unexpectedly figured out how to shoot, Delonte West gave Gordon Hayward a “Wet Willie” and Al Jefferson looked more like Karl (or Moses) Malone (28 points and 26 rebounds), the oddest thing to take place during the Dallas Mavericks’ 123-121 triple-overtime loss to the Utah Jazz was a benching.

These two teams striving to make the playoffs provided viewers with an entertaining basketball game, no matter where fans’ loyalties lied. Who wouldn’t want 15 extra minutes of quality basketball? Each team had players making countless clutch shots, and in the Jazz’s case, a clutch tip-in was bigger than any of the jumpers.

Dirk Nowitzki did all he could before the third overtime, putting up 40 points, which included a calm three-pointer with the game clock right on his back. Although, he is used to that type of pressure at this point in his career. Even though the Mavs came up short in an overtime game for the second night in a row, Dirk exhibited (once again) his knack for draining shots when his team needs him to score. It is easy to look at the box score and see how Dirk impacted the game, yet it’s not enough to have a full understanding. What he does for this organization can’t be explained on a statistics sheet. Once he retires and his jersey goes up into the rafters of the American Airlines Center, a gaping hole will be left at the power forward position that will be difficult to overcome.

However, this night is about another forward from the Big D… the absence of this forward.

Second-guessing Rick Carlisle has rarely worked since he came to Dallas. He has made the right decision countless times and effectively put the right players in the right situation. How else can you explain Corey Brewer and Peja Stojakovic actually playing significant roles in specific games during their championship run last year?

Monday night couldn’t help but bring about some questions about the head coach’s decision to bench Shawn Marion – the team’s best defender – for all three overtimes. Even though he was having an ineffective night on the offensive end of the floor, the versatile 33-year-old always deserves minutes since he has that unique mindset where he is dedicated to giving it his all defensively every time his opponent has the ball and actually closes out on shooters unlike the two Jasons.

Was Terry fouled on this second-to-last three-point attempt to tie the game?

During the first overtime, both team’s were shooting lights out. Each team put up 16 points in only five minutes of play. Devin Harris strung together five straight points midway through this first overtime. Repeat, Devin Harris was prolific in a basketball game. If Marion had been in the game during this offensive onslaught, Harris’s five points would not have been so easy for the seven-year point guard, and the Jazz might have been slowed down.

Vince Carter played in Marion’s usual spot during these extra minutes in order to provide the team with a deep threat. This makes sense since he hit back-to-back three-pointers at the end of regulation. However, Vinsanity ended up providing the Mavericks with no three-pointers and no points in the extra time. Even if he had made some shots, the question still would remain why Marion was not in for one minute of this crucial time. Even though a team must put the basketball through the hoop in order to win a close game, stopping the other team from doing so is just as important. (Crazy idea, right?)

When he is on the court, Marion gives his team a better chance at preventing the other team from scoring – no question. When he sits on the bench, he can only do as much as Lamar Odom. Even with the flow of the game, finding a way to sub Marion in for some defensive situations might have been enough for a few more stops against this hungry Jazz starting lineup.

The Mavs now hold the No. 7 seed and would face the No. 2 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round if the playoffs started today. However, don’t take this scenario to the bank. Other than the Memphis Grizzlies pretty much locking up the No. 5 seed, every other slot could change by the end of the season.

During these tough two overtime losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Jazz, the Mavs seemed tired during certain plays late in the game. If the Mavs had taken care of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors before they played these legitimate Western Conference opponents, they might have had fresher legs down the stretch. Dirk went 0-3 in the third overtime Monday and looked spent as he finished up his 95:50 minutes of play over two consecutive nights.

Playing the “what-if” game gets nothing accomplished for the Mavs at this point. Ignoring bad calls from the referees during the past two nights and certain benchings, whether it was a Jason Terry botched lay-up or a failed box-out of Paul Millsap, this team had the opportunities to win the past two games and they passed up those chances.

Going forward into the playoffs, hopefully West won’t have to give any “Wet Willies” to get into the opponent’s ear head.

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Where Are They Now?

23 09 2011

Even with the current NBA lockout, there has been a lot going on with the 2011 NBA Champions since they won the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Following suit with most other NBA players worried about the upcoming season, new Maverick Rudy Fernandez has signed with Real Madrid’s basketball team. Fernandez will play in Spain during the labor talks, and the deal includes an option for him to play with Madrid once his time with the Mavs comes to an end.

Fernandez has been with the Blazers the past three seasons, consistently playing a sixth-man role. He played in all three of their playoff runs but struggled this past year against the Mavs, shooting just 4-18 from the field. Even with this recent struggle and decline in ppg three seasons in a row, I see Dallas as a more fitting place for Rudy. If Stevenson isn’t re-signed, the Spaniard could have a strong possibility of landing a starting spot. Whether he’s on the bench or in the starting line-up, I can see Fernandez getting back into double digit scoring when he finally puts on his Mavericks uniform.

Someone who has been in a Mavericks jersey just a bit longer than Fernandez – Dirk Nowitzki – has also discussed playing overseas but came to quite a different conclusion. Dirk feels that “the ongoing NBA lockout would have to bleed into November before he considers signing with a team in a foreign league.” It’s interesting that the most well-known foreign player in the league is the one that that appears to be the least inclined to leave America.

Dirk is considering taking some well-deserved time off from basketball, and I’m perfectly fine with that. He put hours and hours of work into this sport, striving for the one thing that so many critics loved to point out he didn’t have… and now he has it. It will be good for him to just relax and focus on some other things – such as some good vocal lessons – giving him a break from endlessly practicing that awkward but magnificent one-legged fadeaway jump-shot.

As for Erick Dampier – oh wait a minute…

On July 23rd, Mavericks player-representative, Jason Terry, remained optimistic regarding the upcoming season. He discussed how he wasn’t even going to look for another team; defending the Mavs NBA Championship was all he wanted to do.

Today, as we approach the scheduled beginning of training camp (which has been delayed), Terry’s optimism has faded. He doesn’t expect to be in contact with coaches or teammates any time soon. The Jet now believes “it’s not looking good for us to get things started on time. Right now, at this point where we’re at, both sides are still far apart.” This pessimism towards the upcoming season does not bode well for the league because when upbeat Terry says something isn’t looking good, you know things aren’t going well.

Defensive leader, Tyson Chandler, is sitting in limbo, unable to go check out other NBA squads during his free agency. Even though J.J. Barea is a fan favorite and a viable back-up point guard, Chandler has to be the Mavs first priority once the NBA gets back into the swing of things.

Many have speculated that the organization is not resigning Tyson so that they can be free to pick up Deron Williams should he become available. I disagree with this “waiting game” approach because it’s risky, and it’s better to focus on what you have in front of you right now. I mean, look at what happened to all the teams that didn’t pick up LeBron! We’ll have to wait and see… well, that’s the case for almost everything right now in the NBA.

During this past summer, the Mavs two French fries – Rodrigue Beaubois and Ian Mahinmi – have been working out together at SMU. Neither has shown any desire to play overseas.

This is pretty cool. It’s great to see athletes get together outside of their official team play. It shows how close these guys get with one another (just look at how Brian Cardinal and Dirk Nowitzki meshed throughout this past season). Hopefully, the extra work will help out with Mahinmi’s play and Beaubois’s health.

The Maverick that is hurting the most from the lockout has to be Dominique Jones. Not only does Jones need access to team trainers to rehabilitate from his season-ending injury, but he also needs more playing time on the court to improve his game. With the cancellation of the Las Vegas Summer League, a chance for him to see some minutes was taken away; however, there is some good news for the 22-year-old. Jones is one of 70 NBA players that will get to play in the Impact Basketball League which takes place in Las Vegas and lasts for two weeks, training NBA players that are itching to get on the court. Joe Abunassar, who is considered one of the top trainer’s in the world, runs this program.

With the abundance of shooting guards – Terry, Fernandez, Beaubois, and Stevenson – this training camp will be crucial for Jones if he wants any playing time in the upcoming season.

Also coming off a season-ending injury, Caron Butler has stated that he is fully recovered from his ruptured patellar tendon. He also hasn’t been ambiguous about where he wants to be and what he wants for the next season. 31-year-old Butler has expressed his interest in a multiyear deal with the Mavericks and has pointed out that he has no interest in taking his talents elsewhere. Dallas is his team.

Even though it’s great that the 15.0 ppg swingman wants to be in Dallas for as long as he can, the Mavs need to be careful with the length of Caron’s contract. Knee injuries can be very detrimental to a player’s health (just look at Greg Oden the past few years), and as a result, his play on the court could diminish. Giving Butler a one or two year contract seems like the smart move to make, and then if he does indeed come back strong and ready to go, an extension can be implemented into his contract later.

J.J. Barea and Corey Brewer have both mentioned interest in playing in Spain, but neither has a solid deal in place yet. If the lockout does indeed persist, it will be interesting to see if all these players eyeing opportunities outside of the U.S. actually make a firm commitment and move to foreign countries. My gut feeling is that very few of these players will actually follow through and make the transition into euro-ball.

Before he got eliminated, Ron Artest could have had a fellow NBA player competing with him on Dancing With the Stars. According to TMZ.com, Shawn Marion was officially offered a spot on the popular show but decided not to follow in the footsteps of Mavs owner, Mark Cuban. Marion reportedly didn’t want to be tied up in the television show in case the season were to start on time. I am a little disappointed because with Marion’s stellar taste in apparel, I would have been interested to see what outfits he would have chosen to show off.

The players aren’t the only Mavericks enjoying their offseason. Rick Carlisle recently visited W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy and Middle School, and you might be surprised at what he chose to discuss with the kids.

His main point was how music can help you get through life and how it is a relaxing skill “you can take with you for a lifetime.” To no one’s surprise, “We Are the Champions” was a common song during the three hours he spent there. He even poked fun at how a piano sounds better than “certain people.” (Maybe Carlisle would agree with my suggestion for Dirk to take vocal lessons.)

Many reported that the kids really took to Carlisle’s presentation. Even though some people point out how “indifferent” Carlisle seems to be on and off the court, I think this shows that he does have a personable side. To keep a group of preteens engaged for three hours is impressive and shows how entertaining he can be. The Mavericks themselves scoff at the notion that Carlisle is dull and will point out how much they enjoy playing for Rick. I’m glad to see Carlisle staying involved in the community, and it’s cool to see that he enjoyed doing it, too; however, in a few months (hopefully) he will have to spend the majority of his time focused on coaching.

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