Are the Dallas Mavericks Getting Enough Credit for Their Offseason Moves?
Unless your cable, internet and phone services were shut off this week, you probably know by now that the San Antonio Spurs reeled in the biggest fish in the 2015 free agent pool: LaMarcus Aldridge.
The pickup undoubtedly makes the Spurs, along with the defending champ Golden State Warriors, favorites to win the Western Conference in the 2015-16 season. And without a doubt, it makes the Spurs the team to beat in the loaded Southwest Division.
We're supposed to hate on divisions now with all our Twitter might ... but you really deserve more than a banner if you win the Southwest— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 6, 2015
Couldn't have said it better, Mr. Stein.
The Southwest is going to be a highly competitive division, and you never know how injuries (or the combination of injuries and old age for the Spurs) could shape the course of the regular season. So going into the year, the Spurs should be the favorites, but after a month or two that could all change.
If the Spurs stumble, don't mesh, get the injury bug or any combination of the three, there could be any one, two, three or even four teams waiting right behind them. And if I'd expect one team in particular to be right there it'd be the underrated Dallas Mavericks.
In Zach Lowe's latest piece for Grantland.com he talked about free agency winners and losers. He included Dallas as a winner, but more so in the long-term rather than the short-term. He believes that the Mavericks have to "nail another offseason before we put them in the conversation with the best in the West."
I respectfully disagree.
Mark Cuban and his guys have again done what they seem to do every summer since Dirk Nowitzki and company took home the title in 2011: surround Dirk with a great supporting cast.
This year, they've managed to do so in two ways -- adding and subtracting.
Addition by Subtraction
The Mavericks did allow Tyson Chandler, Al-Farouq Aminu and their combined nERD, our efficiency metric indicating how many wins above replacement level a player adds to his team, of 11.8 to walk away from Big D. That's a pretty sizable loss for any NBA team.
But at the same time, the Mavericks happily let some baggage, in the form of Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis, go elsewhere in free agency. Rondo took his clashing personality and -5.1 nERD to the Kings while Ellis took his inefficient scoring and -4.8 nERD to the Pacers. Both players' respective nERD scores ranked in the bottom 20 among all NBA guards.
The duo's departure is definitely a big weight lifted of coach Rick Carlisle's shoulders, but it also created cap space and flexibility for the Mavs to bring in or re-sign some much more efficient replacements in the grand scheme of things in Dallas.
Bringing in Upgrades
Let's take a look at how those replacements and their 2015 numbers compare to the outgoing players and their numbers from a year ago.
|Statistic||Tyson Chandler||DeAndre Jordan|
|Win Shares per 48 Minutes||0.216||0.217|
|Offensive Win Shares||7.2||7.4|
|Defensive Win Shares||3.1||5.4|
DeAndre Jordan comes into Dallas with slightly better numbers a year ago. In addition to these numbers, Jordan's nERD of 14.1 (first among all NBA centers) was 3.5 better than Chandler's 10.6 (second among centers), and Jordan posted better block and rebounding percentages across the board.
He's clearly not a replacement but an upgrade, especially when you consider he's six years the minor to the 32-year old Chandler
|Statistic||Monta Ellis||Wesley Matthews|
|Win Shares per 48 Minutes||0.065||0.147|
|Offensive Win Shares||1.4||4.0|
|Defensive Win Shares||2.2||2.2|
Coming off a year in which he tore his Achilles, Wesley Matthews will slide into the two spot in place of the recently departed Ellis. Overall, Matthews had much better numbers than Ellis last season, but that's not where the upgrade ends.
Matthews brings elite shooting to the table -- something Ellis did not possess. The man with the bow and arrow, Matthews, was on target last year as he shot 38.9% from three, with a 3-Point Attempt Rate of 59.2% which helped Matthews finish with a True Shooting Percentage of 58.6%. Those are all far superior to Ellis' inefficient shooting numbers.
Barea and a 100% healthy Harris will easily replace the negative impact that Rondo brought to the table. The two guards put together a nERD of 1.4 this past year compared to Rondo's -5.1.
Anderson, a rookie out of Virginia, will look to replace Aminu, who was a valuable player off the bench for the Mavs. Anderson seems to be on track to get regular minutes, though they may not be voluminous. In fact, Aminu played just 18.5 minutes per game a year ago, so Anderson could be the perfect fit in that role, despite his youth.
Anderson is a versatile defender and should be more of an offensive threat than Aminu. The former Virginia Cavalier posted a Defensive Rating of 89.4 and an Offensive Rating of 123.5 on 45.2% shooting from deep this season.
In 2011, when the Mavericks went to the NBA Finals and bested LeBron and company in just six games, they didn't have a trio of stars or the like on their team. Dirk was the one and only superstar and he was the only starter to average over 15.8 points per game and finish with a Player Efficiency Rating higher than 18.4.
The Mavs instead had eight players average at least 20 minutes per game and five players average double figures. They had a team full of really good role players and some future Hall-of-Famers, who worked for the benefit of the team. As their roster stands today, the Mavs might have the same type of team in 2015.
First of all, Dirk's still there. He may be five years older and look five years slower, but he's still the original shot-making stretch four we all know and love to this day.
As for the point position, no one can truly measure up to Jason Kidd and his years of experience and intelligence on the court, but Devin Harris and J.J. Barea will do their best to complement one another in the way Barea and Kidd complimented one another in their championship run. It seems as though Barea will be more in the role of Kidd this time around, as the likely starter who, according to his 2015 per-36 numbers (15.3 points and 7.0 assists), could average more points than Kidd did while dishing out helpers off the pick n' roll.
Harris will be the first guard off the bench and will look to contribute in the scoring and assisting departments a la 2011 Jose Juan Barea. While dealing with injuries this year, Harris averaged 8.8 points and 3.1 assists in 22.2 minutes per game.
Wesley Matthews' game mirrors the game of a younger Jason Terry. His numbers on the defensive end aren't the best in the league, but he's a really solid on-ball defender and has proven so in his years in Portland. Where Matthews is most similar to Jet is beyond the three point arc. Matthews' percentage from three this past season was actually better than Terry's 36.2% in 2011.
Chandler Parsons and the youngster Justin Anderson will take over the roles of the 2011 duo of Shawn Marion and Caron Butler. And if you really want to bring it up, Charlie Villanueva will return to the Mavericks on a one-year deal and take the place of Peja Stojakovic as a veteran three-point specialist from the perimeter.
Parsons and Anderson lack the experience of the 32-year old Marion and 30-year old Butler (at the time), but they are much more gifted offensively, and Butler only got to contribute in 29 games after being acquired by the Mavs. As for Villanueva, he may not see consistent playing time but he proved this year that he could come off the bench and average 6.3 points per game on 37.6% shooting from three. Stojakovic, in just 25 games and 20 minutes per game, put up 8.6 points on 40% shooting from three.
And as discussed before Jordan is taking the place of Tyson Chandler at the center position, but he could also fit the role of a 28-year old Chandler from his first stint in Dallas. Chandler averaged 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in 2011 while earning .218 Win Shares per 48 and a Defensive Rating of 102. Jordan has proven that he can produce at that level already in his young career.
I'm not saying the Mavericks are on their way to an NBA title. They don't have the same amount of experience the 2011 team had on the backs of Dirk, Kidd, Marion and Chandler, but they do have very similar players with similar specialties, roles and numbers.
They don't have a number of superstars now but they seem to have built a solid, efficient roster full of team players -- just another reason the Mavericks aren't getting enough credit for the moves they've made this offseason.