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Some select observations after the Mavericks preseason jaunt through Europe. What's been good and what's been bad for Dallas so far.
The Mavericks have played two preseason games in Europe with a new roster. Sounds like perfect time for JUDGEMENT. Here are my observations, both good and bad, from the games so far. Most of these are dumb, because you can't get a much smaller and insignificant sample size than two preseason games.
GOOD: When this Dallas offense hums, it purrs.
Confused? So am I. The Mavericks overall haven't looked great on offense, which is expected with roster turnover and a new starting point guard. But at times, Dallas has looked delightful offensively. Surprisingly, the best the Mavericks looked on offense were the brief moments in the first half of the game without Dirk Nowitzki.
Elton Brand started instead of Dirk and the offense showed its potential of having five players on the court that are all versatile threats. O.J. Mayo ran a smooth pick and roll with Brand for a jumper. Darren Collison found Chris Kaman on the pick and roll. Brand took his man off the dribble for a dunk. Kaman dive cut to the rim and finished a layup. Collison splashed home an 18-foot jumper after getting freed from a Kaman pick. The Mavericks have an absurd amount of options on offense, even without their star, and coaches are going to have a hard time keying in on Dirk when everyone else is playing to their normal level (in layman's terms: "Not shitting the bed.")
BAD: O.J. Mayo and some of the new guys aren't really sure what's going on
It's an expected bad sign but still bad: most of the time during these preseason games, the new faces in Dallas seemed to have no idea what role they should do on the court, save for Kaman and perhaps Brand. Mayo has fluctuated from "ball-stopping-chucker" to "off-guard-playermaker" multiple times, while also dabbling in "perimeter statue." Darren Collison still seems at his best when creating off-the-cuff and for himself but has been shaky when going through a set play or trying to enter the ball into the post. And while Brand has been taking the right shots and moving to the right spots on offense, he's grabbed three rebounds in two games and along with Kaman, looks lost on pick and roll plays, defensively. A majority of these issues will be improved over time with more practice and playing time, but right now, the new guys aren't there yet. Luckily, it's only been two games.
BAD: Less three point shots
The Mavericks have attempted 146 shots. Of those, only 28 have been three pointers. That's a little under 20 percent of the shots being threes (MATH IS FUN.) It's an extremely small sample size, but for comparison's sake, 27.3 percent of the 2011 title team's shots were threes. Dallas had an improved offense that season and postseason because of spacing the floor better with more threes, less long-twos (unless it was from Dirk.) In the second preseason game against FC Barcelona, the Mavericks weren't even getting run off from the three point line -- they were just not looking to shoot the three. Some of that may be due to new guys not wanting to seem like chuckers and young guys wanting to endear themselves to Rick Carlisle by driving to the basket or swinging the ball. This shouldn't be a long-term concern with the amount of shooters Dallas has, but it's led to a disjointed, cluttered offense in two preseason games
GOOD: He kind of sucks on pick and roll defense, but hot damn, Chris Kaman can score
Perhaps the brightest spot of them all after two games is Kaman's offense. He's flashed a very nice and balanced low post game -- firing off 13-foot jumpers, flipping in jump hooks with either hand and looking like a much better finisher around the rim then last season in New Orleans. I can't emphasis enough how much Kaman boosts the Mavericks offense compared to the black hole of suck on offense that Brendan Haywood had become. He doesn't have quick feet and is slow on rotations on defense, but his offense has been fantastic in two preseason games.
BAD: O.J. Mayo deserves his own bad column, because "COME ON!"
That second preseason game for Mayo? Shit-tacular. Mayo passed up open looks, pump-faked himself into worse ones and held onto the ball far too long. He went 0 for 7 from the floor against Barcelona and didn't do much else. But it's only the second preseason game and there were a few defensive possessions were Mayo looked really, really good. It should be a matter of time before Mayo settles into his role in the starting lineup, but right now, it isn't so great.
GOOD: WOW! A POINT GUARD WHO CREATES HIS OWN FAST BREAKS! OH, MOMMY, CAN WE KEEP HIM?! PUH-LEEEASE?!
Dear god, Darren Collison looks fantastic in transition. It's amazing what going from a 39-year-old point guard to a 25-year-old one does for your team's fast break and transition game.
GOOD: Shawn Marion, nothing to see here
Shawn Marion looks like the Shawn Marion from the last two seasons. Which is A-OK.
BAD: Vince Carter thinking mid-range shots are good for him
Kirk Henderson mentioned it earlier, but more shots at the rim and behind the arc, please. Carter's at his best as bench pick and roll creator and spot up shooter with the first-teamers. And while he is pretty good in the post, he should keep the Dirk impressions to a minimum.
GOOD: Jared Cunningham looks like something
I'm not sure what kind of something, but I'm leaning toward a good kind of something. While Jae Crowder could end up being the Mavericks starting small-forward in two years, I still wanted the Mavericks to pursue any of Baylor's athletic forwards or take one of the most sure-things in the draft, Tyler Zeller. Cunningham made sense on the roster in July, one without Collison, Delonte West, Dahntay Jones or O.J. Mayo. Now? He's just a dude. But a dude with a more decent-looking jumper then I expected and really nice hops. The Mavericks probably won't keep Rodrigue Beaubois past this season and Cunningham should be able to fill those shoes. Wouldn't surprise me to see Cunningham be a spark plug for a few games in the January-February-March dog-day part of the schedule.
BAD: Dominique Jones still frustratingly looks like Dominique Jones
Going off my part on Jones in the recap of the Barcelona loss, I can't ever imagine typing anything else after a Jones' performance other than: "Looked nice as a creator, got to the rim, missed a few chippies, jump shot wants to make my eyes bleed."
GOOD: No real surprises should equal a decent playoff seed
While some of the play has been inconsistent and some of the new guys haven't looked great, nothing has surprised me so far. Collison looks great in isolation and transition, which I've talked about before. Vince Carter looks like the nice change-of-style small forward that I've always thought him to be with Shawn Marion. Chris Kaman and Elton Brand look like the enormous upgrades on offense we think they are. As most of us at Mavs Moneyball have previewed this summer, if everyone plays to their normal, career levels, we thought the Mavericks would be a decent playoff team in the West. Work out the kinks that are expected with roster turnover and Dallas should be well on its way to another shot at a ring, which is all we can really hope for, year-to-year.