Delonte West and Brendan Haywood have been upgraded to questionable for tonights game against the Houston Rockets and although it seems that both won't make it, their return is close. We compare numbers from games with both active and both inactive to see which impact the players have on certain parts of the rotation. First let's review the overall differences:
For all numbers presented, the offensive ones might be more or less insignificant, because both Haywood and West have missed the latest stretch where the offense finally started to click, at times. But certainly playing a role here is the fact that Ian Mahinmi, Brandan Wright and Rodrigue Beaubois, which all have seen increased floor time during the absence of the two, are the more versatile offensive weapons. But the offense couldn't offset the defensive drop-off. The Mavericks allowed 5.85 fewer Points Per 100 Possessions in games with the two and limited opponents to 41.57% shooting. They also assisted on more field goals, forced more turnovers, scored more in the paint and off free throws (my "PTSiP"), while allowing fewer from opponents. I personally thought rebounding would be a much bigger issue without Haywood, but especially Marion and Dirk have upped their percentages in games without West and Haywood to come up for it. Onto the starting units:
It's not a real surprise that starting units didn't suffer that much. I already stated that Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd (and Wood) are a well balanced core and it doesn't matter that much who is playing the shooting guard position. Apparently switching Haywood wasn't an issue either. The defensive stats got a bit worse, but offenses in the league have picked up since the All-Star Break (from 103.29 to 106.19), so 95.95 allowed points P100 in still very elite. Overall the Mavs continue to own the best starting units no matter who plays, outscoring the opponents by 14.41 PP100 and playing league-best defense (92.20 DefEff). Although the offense got better lately, the Mavs still score more in the paint and off free throws with Haywood and West, force more turnovers and shoot a higher percentage.
Bench units include every lineup that consists of at least three bench players and here you see why the absence of West and Haywood really has hurt. Although Dallas is a very deep team (when healthy), they only rank 13th in bench units, getting outscored by 2.00 Points P100. Bench units benefit from the presence of the two more than any other team segment, the difference of +13.53 PP100 is insane. It's not that West and Haywood play many minutes within bench units (Haywood to a negligible extent), but they change the whole dynamic of the rotation.
Read more after the jump.
First of all, with Wood providing his usual, constant production for 30 minutes or so, you can choose between Ian and Brandan Wright according to who's hot and who's not. Both players have an upside, but are too inconsistent to carry the team for the whole game. Especially Wright has had trouble in bench units lately. With Ian starting, he got most of the time in these lineups, but the Mavs got outscored by -23.93 PP100 on 117.87 DefEff. With Ian, bench units actually outscored opponents by 20.39 on 95.40 Def. So Mahinmi still seems to be the better natural fit for the second unit, but couldn't take this role with Wood sidelined.
Dirk should also profit. He took a lot of the rebounding responsibility (with Marion) the time Haywood was sidelined. He can do that, but I think we all are more confident when Haywood does the dirty work around the basket and Dirk is able to focus on his offensive repertoire.
Shawn Marion and Vince Carter should benefit as well. Both have played a solid +3 minutes per game since West got injured and it shows on the offensive end for the veterans. Both shot right above 46% with West participating, Marion is 40%, Carter 36% without him. Especially Marion won't have to shoulder all the defensive responsibility. He had to guard everything from 1-4. Roddy is a great defender as well, but he is really most effective against smaller, quicker guys, mainly points. West can guard the slightly stronger shooting guards and small forwards, so Marion can focus exclusively on the forwards and won't have to be on the court (virtually) all the time. There's certainly hope that his offense will be much more of a factor with declining defensive tasks.
With the emergence of Roddy the Mavs also aren't forced to play Carter at the SG any longer. Although Roddy's shot has gone rogue the last four games, he contributed with a team-high 19 assists and 6 steals, so there's a good chance Vince will switch to that "Peja" role at the SF position in bench units. As I've mentioned recently, this also opens up the possibility of moving Marion to backup power forward and decrease Lamar Odom's minutes as long as he is not producing.
So a lot of flexibility suddenly returns with Haywood and West and, given that they stay healthy and get back to rhythm, the Mavs should get their dominant bench play back. And a lot of wins.