Player Power Ranking, Edition Two

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

Fellow MMB writer Alan Smithee and I collaborated to bring you guys the second edition of the MMB Player Power Rankings. Alan's answers are more impressive in length, but I think we both have interesting lists that should generate some debate. Let us know who should be higher or lower after reading it.

Tim Cato

Alan Smithee

1. Shawn Marion

1. O.J. Mayo

Let's be clear: I love me some Shawn Marion. His role on this team has never quite been appreciated like it should be. However, that fact that he's #1 in my rankings is an absolute joke. He's averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds in November, on 50%+ shooting and great defense, which is great output. The fact that it makes him the best player on this team going right now is a total indictment on how terribly the rest of the team is playing. Shawn's doing all he can, but can we please get the man some help.

1st by attrition. The last three games Mayo is 11-34 from the field and 1-10 from behind 3 point line. Amazingly, the 1-10 has lowered his 3 point % to...51%. That his numbers still look pretty good is a credit to how blisteringly hot he was for a stretch. Twisted ankles may be partly to blame for his slowing down, but his shooting numbers were unsustainable to start, and I still feel like we've yet to see the real O.J Mayo. Or maybe Mayo is just going to alternate weeks where he looks unstoppable and then useless. Given all the issues Dallas is having with their point guard, you'd really like to see Mayo try and facilitate better, something we heard about but haven't seen much of yet. Mayo can do damage in isolations or spotting up, but his passing hasn't been crisp, and his pick and roll play has been especially disappointing. On paper a Mayo-Dirk two man game should be the staple of this team's offense.

2. O.J. Mayo

2. Shawn Marion

His scoring has declined from 13 to 11 to 4 over the past three games. His overall stats still look really good, which just emphasizes that Mayo was playing out of his mind early in the season. We all knew that. Maybe carrying the load all by his self each night has finally got to him, so it's good that Dirk's arrival is coming closer. It was nice to see him dish out 7 assists against Philly to help make up for a quiet shooting night. If he can start doing that a little more often, it'd draw some pressure off him and really help the Mavericks out considering their putrid point guard position.

Gets a big boost from a strong performance the last few games, where he finally looks like he's starting to assert himself on offense. He is even hitting the occasional jumpshot, instead of generating all his points off layups and little runners. Marion is also currently the team leader in rebounds, though that's yet another in what will be a series of backhanded compliments for these Mavericks. The patented Matrix defense does not seem to be quite up to speed with the rest of his game yet, although his versatility still makes him an important asset. He did a pretty good job against Carlos Boozer in the post Wednesday, and we know that once he's fully healthy he'll be able to wreak havoc on the perimeter.

3. Vince Carter

3. Vince Carter

I really, really love Vince Carter. You all should know by now I'm just 19, so my knowledge of the NBA from years past is small. It makes me so very sad that I missed out on the Vince Carter era of years past, and YouTube videos just don't quite give him his due. Sure, Carter forgets he's 34 on occasion and isn't particularly efficient, but he's just so gritty and tough and confident that it's impossible not to love the guy.

My memory of Carter, a player I unashamedly admit I was a huge fan of during his heyday and my adolescence, is that he was an extraordinary athlete and playmaker, who had a reputation for being somewhat fragile and earned a pretty serious black mark for essentially quitting on the Raptors prior to his trade from Toronto to New Jersey. That's why it has been such a surprise to see a Vince Carter here in Dallas that looks determined, driven, and full of zeal, even if the flesh is not as fully cooperative in delivering an athletic punch that is equal to his desire. He can't get by guys or get above them quite like he used to, but he definitely has what I believe basketball people would call "want". He's also taken over Mayo's 3 point shooting mantle, hitting 14-26 the last four games.

4. Chris Kaman

4. Chris Kaman

Another case of a guy coming back down to earth offensively...he's still shooting 52% from the floor despite a couple nights where he shot 6-26. It's not the offense that worries me, even - it's the defensive end. Back-to-back games on November 17th and 19th made us think he might be coming around, with Kaman collecting six blocks in the first and seventeen rebounds on the 19th. However, he still isn't good at defending the pick and roll, he still isn't rebounding that well (five or less the past four games), and he's blocked just one shot in his last 101 minutes on the floor.

Like Mayo, Kaman also alternates "can't miss" games with "can't make" ones. It's confounding. The real red alert stat though is that, after his 17-rebound game against Golden state, Kaman has grabbed just 16 rebounds...the last four games combined. The 13.7 rebound rate is also bottom third in the NBA for centers, and a career low. Dallas is allowing 4 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, but the eyeball test doesn't support him as a standout defender. He is having serious issues defending the high pick and roll, where he's been shredded regularly. And the dribble penetration(largely the fault of Mayo and Collison) has often take him out of position and allowed his man to either score, get an offensive rebound, or both. Is it time to try out more zone? It won't help the rebounding, but maybe this team would be better defending an area than a man.

5. Darren Collison

5. Elton Brand

Look, the last thing I expected was to put him this high. On the other hand, who else deserves it? His offense is less consistent but he's had some good games. The problem is his past four games: 5, 3, 4 and 4 turnovers. With the spotty offense and the defense isn't good at all, so it's no wonder that Carlisle opted to bench Collison when he "injured" a finger. He started the season so well that I really, really want to see him figure it out. Who knows, maybe a veteran like Fisher is exactly what he needs. I really hope so.

It's been bad enough that I can't really think of five guys who deserve to be ranked higher than Elton Brand. Brand has been doing his part on the glass, with the 2nd best rebound rate after a rookie who gets 12 minutes a night. Brand has also been passing well, and has a better assist/turnover ratio than O.J Mayo, Vince Carter and Dahntay Jones. That's about the end of the good news, though. Brand has not been as good a team defender thusfar as advertised, and on offense he's been a huge drag. He's having a lot of trouble converting at the rim, but the real culprit in his vanishing act is his sudden inability to convert the midrange jumper. After making 45%, 48%, 42% and 43% the last four years from 10-15 feet, Brand is making a shockingly poor 21% this year. He's also shooting it less, likely a reaction to all those bricks. I have no explanation for this, but if Brand does get the midrange mojo back, I think he can salvage his season and be a key part of the rotation. His smarts and defensive playmaking(he's leading the team in blocks and is second in steal rate) are still there.

6. Elton Brand

6. Jae Crowder

He's shooting 36% on a lot of really easy looks. I love his defensive tenacity, and when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots, he's the second best Maverick. But 36% from the field! I still expect for his jumper to finally arrive at some point this season, but I'm getting a little worried.

Dallas scores more when he's on the floor. They defend better when he's on the floor. He is probably the...least hurtful two-way player they have. I think after Crowder's spectacular summer league and preseason, I expected more positives, but at this point you have to be happy simply with the absence of negatives. Crowder doesn't turn the ball over, doesn't force many shots, and doesn't embarrass himself on defense. Now, it seems clear to me that he plays a lot better coming off the bench than starting, but maybe that will change. Coming out of college, I don't think anyone expected Crowder to spend so much time spotting up for three as he has, but he's made it work to this point. Ideally, he'd mix in a few more garbage baskets, off offensive rebounds or backdoor cuts, a la Shawn Marion. But let's not complain. He's a 2nd round pick playing major minutes on a team with playoff aspirations.

7. Jae Crowder

7. Darren Collison

He's played over ten minutes a night in every game but one this season, and while his offense is up and down, clearly Carlisle likes the little things that Crowder does on the court. It's a good start for a guy who should only keep getting better and better. He wasn't touted as much of a three point shooter in the draft, but that's been his primary role in Dallas and he's held his own from deep, if a bit inconsistent. His offense inside the line is a work in progress, but hey, he plays smart and is good enough defensively that as a whole, he's a plus for the Mavericks out on the court. Keep him with the second unit and see if he can't keep having big moments for Dallas his rookie season despite being a second rounder that nothing was expected from.

In truth I don't think he's been as bad as what's been made out, but it's clear the team's trust in him has dropped substantially, because...Derek Fisher? Collison is young, and talented, and probably not a great fit for Dallas, like way too many of the Mavs' other young, talented guys. Collison runs hot and cold, but when he's allowed to just go, his ability to generate offense is a pretty valuable skill that should make him much better than his reputation would suggest. I do think he's a good fit for Mayo, who also loves to run and benefits from a guard who can drive and kick out for open threes. But the rest of the team is a bunch of plodders and half-court players, and the coach asks for a good number of pick and rolls, which Collison doesn't read or execute well. Half court sets aren't Collison's speciality and it would seem the experiment to try and mold him has failed. Or at least suffered a major setback.

8. Bernard James

8. Brandan Wright

Per 36 minutes, Bernard James is first in rebounds and blocks per game and second in field goal percentage and free throws made. He doesn't have a lot of offensive skill, but he finishes well as well as drawing fouls, while pairing it with fantastic defense. He may hit the rookie wall at some point, but now that Troy Murphy is gone, there's no excuse to not get him minutes while he's playing so effectively.

Just trade the poor guy, already. Wright leads the team in PER by a mile, scores a point every two minutes despite rarely having plays run for him, and is starting to develop a nice midrange game to pair with his elite finishing skill. He doesn't turn the ball over, runs the floor like a gazelle, and blocks some shots for good measure. Despite all that, he's barely seen the court the last week. His defensive instincts are not great, and he's still not bulky enough to bang in the post and muscle guys out of the way for rebounds. Still, few 6'10 guys do this many things well, or as well. Trade him to someone that can really use him and I'd bet he'd be a 15-7 guy easily. For now, though, he's stuck here. Sorry, Brandan.

9. Brandan Wright

9. Bernard James

With Murphy gone, he should finally get consistent minutes again. It's ridiculous that Murphy took them in the first place, because Wright has been one of the best Mavericks this season. We all know his rebounding is not where it needs to be, but it's not every day you come across a big man quite as efficient as him, especially not one that jacks up the occasional jumper. He can get pushed around on defense, but he's still an excellent weak side shot blocker and when you throw in the fact that he's great at running the floor, there's really no business for him sitting on the bench. He'll probably end up as trade bait for a decent point guard, but for now, take advantage of what you have and get the extra benefit of showing him off to people who might be interested in him.

#2 on the list of criminally underused bigs. The hope, and major silver lining in the dark cloud that is the Derek Fisher signing, is that the release of Troy Murphy could, and serious emphasis there on "could", open up more minutes for James. I haven't seen him matched up with legit back-to-basket centers enough to know if he's capable of playing playoff-level post defense, but this guy should be the 2nd unit center yesterday. Not only is he perhaps the team's best (and only good) rebounder, but his activity leaps off the stat sheet and your TV screen. He blocks shots, shots most rookies are quick or smart enough to block, and his energy level could go a long way in solving the team's main problem: if not for Boston, they would be dead last in offensive rebounding. According to synergy, he's the team's best big in guarding the pick and roll, although small sample size caveats apply. Longterm, I don't know if he's more than a 15-18 minute per game guy, but he seems to do a lot of things that no-one else on the roster does well, and that could make him really important.

10. Dominique Jones

10. Dominique Jones

He started back-to-back games, but he just lost his starting job to Derek Fisher. Honestly, that's a pretty good argument for putting him even lower. He does some nice things on offense, but I've never seen a player struggle to shoot the ball of finish at the rim quite like him. Maybe he needs lessons from Jason Kidd, who for all his faults, realized he couldn't finish at the rim late in his career and stopped even trying. But no, with Fisher's signing, the Dojo Show is winding to a close.

Pretty sure I never thought I'd put DoJo this high, but back-to-back starts will do that. Dominique Jones hasn't done a whole lot to put to bed any of the issues previously held about him, but it is nice to at least see him get a chance. With Fisher and Collison here, now, you wonder if the chances are about over. You like his size, as always, which help him as a rebounder, defender, and foul-drawer, and he continues to make small gains as a passer, but it's a problem when a guy really likes to shoot AND can't shoot very well, at all. Also, the defense is OK but not world-beating. What makes matters worse is that over in New Orleans, Greivis Vasquez, another big point guard taken three slots after DoJo, is thriving in his third season. The draft is a crapshoot, as the Dallas front office will tell you, and I sympathize, because much like them, I am terrible at craps.

11. Dahntay Jones

11. Dahntay Jones

Good to see him getting some minutes recently, because while he may not put up huge stat lines, he does play smart and helps out the team.

(editor's note: clearly, I don't feel as passionate about DaJones as Mr. Smithee does next to me)

Might as well group the Joneses together. I think it's been a tale of two halves for Dahntay. As in, halves of the court. On defense, Dahntay has been super, guarding all three perimeter spots and doing an admirable job. According to 82 games, Dallas is over 5 points per 100 possessions better on defense with him on the court, and with the way some of the other perimeter players have struggled on D, you might wonder why he hasn't seen the floor more. Well, it's probably because his offense seems to have not made the trip from Indiana. Granted, this wasn't ever his strongest trait, but of the 59 shooting guards to log minutes this year, Jones is 55th in usage rate, below guys who rarely if ever touch the ball unless they're wide open behind the three point line. Jones also isn't shooting all that well when he does let it fly, and for a guy who doesn't pass that well, either, he's been turning the ball over more than you'd like. In theory there would be more time for Dahntay, as he's a specialist and Dallas tends to like those guys(Antoine Wright, DeShawn Stevenson, etc.), but Carlisle hasn't called his name a whole lot. Trade bait?

12. Rodrigue Beaubois

12. Rodrigue Beaubois

He's lost all confidence, and it's really sad. He still hits an occasional three pointer, but he can't get any offense going inside the three point line to save his life. His passing has suffered, and he still has the same struggles getting around picks on defense. ESPN Dallas reports that Holger is in town and actually worked with Roddy, but at this point, I'm not sure anyone can get his head twisted back on straight. Talent alone can't make you succeed in the NBA, sadly.

Not much left to say. It would be be borderline miraculous if Roddy made something of himself in Dallas at this point. The talent and youth are still there that he has time to get a fresh start somewhere else, though. Hopefully he does. Mike Fisher has opined that Roddy's problem isn't that he's fragile, or that he has a bad attitude, or that he's dumb, but just that he's not someone that will "run through the wall". Sounds about right. The Crowder's and Bernard James' of the world don't have nearly as much talent or natural athletic ability as Beaubois, but they're already on their way to a more productive career with the Mavericks, because they are the types of guys who will run through the wall.

13. Jared Cunningham

13. Jared Cunningham

Same old spiel about J-Flight here. He's young, talented, and extremely raw. He looked pretty good playing blowout minutes against LA, but it's hard to see any sort of consistent role for him this season. If he gets meaningful minutes, it will be as an offensive spark plug if this offense is struggling, but we'll have to see.

Hey, he played! Writing something analytical about Cunningham is pretty worthless, right now. He seems like a cross between DoJo and Roddy, which doesn't exactly set him up for success. I think he's athletic enough to finish at the rim better than Jones, but the shooting is still a work in progress, and the point skills are as of yet non-existent. Hopefully he'll get some more game action as time goes on.

14. Derek Fisher

14. Derek Fisher

Look, I could probably write 1000 words about why I hate this Derek Fisher move if I really put my mind to it, but to what end? He's signed, he's going to play, and I sure hope he proves he's worth it. I don't know if he can help Collison, but the Mavericks know way better than me what Darren needs to succeed. They have a lot of veteran players, but none of them are point guards. Vince Carter is the only vet who even plays guard, and he's not exactly known as a passer throughout his career. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least for the time being.

He's here until further notice. Last we saw him he was the spot up shooter that couldn't shoot, the ace defender who couldn't defend, and the point guard who was never asked to pass the ball. He'll probably make great locker room speeches, though. Maybe he's here in the same capacity as Avery Johnson back in 2003: finish out his playing career and take over as eventual coach. Did you vomit yet?

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