Friday, May 15, 2009

Mavs Achilles Heel Remains

dirk124 hours after the end of the Mavericks season, and I cannot quite move on just yet. I understand why the season ended, but one thing that I don't understand is why the Mavericks have been committed to the same strategy year after year on offense.

They built a team around Dirk. That makes sense on a number of levels, because for all of his flaws, he may just be one of the most unique talents in NBA history. A 7-foot perimeter sniper who can also perform some McHale-like post moves when he is interested.

The problem, to me, comes back to the way they build the rest of the team. If you are going to build around a perimeter shooter, you must vary the rest of your 5. You should have a penetrating guard and you would prefer to find a post presence. If you did, then a Dirk-team would be more dangerous. But building a team is a little more difficult than simply realizing what you need. You have to figure out a way to get it.

The trouble is, the Mavs have not had a penetrating guard who could also defend and run the team. Nash could penetrate, but he would get abused by Mike Bibby or Tony Parker in the playoffs on defense. Devin Harris did not demonstrate a very promising ability to distribute the ball and run the offense, so the Mavs gave up on him and traded him for Jason Kidd.

Kidd does run the offense well, but he never gets to the rim (it is quite maddening that he appears to have no desire to take and convert a layup) and doesn't seem to defend Point Guards much at all. Jason Terry almost never gets to the rim as he loves to launch and appears to be a liability on defense. Erick Dampier has no post presence on either end and if you ever count on him, his foul trouble or lack of interest will disappoint you. And Josh Howard is Josh Howard. So, you get the Mavericks. A real good team with real big flaws.

The Mavericks are a successful NBA team, and they are such because they have figured out how to play a style that works for them most of the time. The problem, as I have been harping about for years now, is that there is a certain game of percentages when relying on a 23-foot shot. Whereas, when you take 2-foot shots, the percentages greatly improve. And there are the Mavs in a nutshell: They take 23-footers and give up dunks. If you make enough of the 23-footers, you win any game you play. If you miss those shots, your run comes to an end.

Don't believe me? Let's examine the best example of this on record, the 3rd Quarter of Game 5 in Denver. What you are about to see is every shot the Mavericks took in the entire quarter:

11:26 - Dirk Nowitzki makes 20-foot jumper (Jason Terry assists)
10:41 - Josh Howard misses 25-foot three point jumper
10:14 - Dirk Nowitzki makes 25-foot three point jumper (Jason Kidd assist)
9:41 - Jason Kidd makes 25-foot three point jumper (Josh Howard assists)
9:15 - Josh Howard misses three point jumper
8:45 - Jason Kidd makes 25-foot three point jumper (Dirk Nowitzki assists)
7:47 - Chauncey Billups blocks Dirk Nowitzki's 26-foot three pointer
7:09 - Jason Kidd makes 23-foot three point jumper (Dirk Nowitzki assists)
6:30 - Jason Terry makes 25-foot three point jumper (Dirk Nowitzki assists)
6:03 - Jason Terry misses 25-foot three point jumper
5:20 - Jason Terry makes 20-foot jumper (Jason Kidd assists)
4:31 - Jason Terry misses 19-foot jumper
4:16 - Jason Kidd makes jumper
3:00 - Jason Terry misses 25-foot three point jumper
2:20 - Jose Juan Barea misses 27-foot three point jumper
1:12 - Jason Kidd misses 24-foot three point jumper

And there it is. Look at that. That is every single shot of the 3rd Quarter, and we wonder why people see the Mavs as a jump shooting team. You are what you are.


Here is the ESPN shot chart for the 3rd quarter (Dallas is on the left). It is enough to make John Wooden cry.

So, what do they do about it? We shall see. But, I believe the definition of insanity is repeating the same process and expecting a different result. It starts and ends in the off-season. The 2008-09 Mavericks were the best they could be. But they weren't built to be the best. If you want them to be the best, then Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban must begin to change the fatal flaws in this team.

Defense and lay-ups win championships. Beautiful jump shots are the frosting of a good team, not the cake.

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