It's that time again. The playoffs seem here so soon, and I guess with the lockout they are, but my basketball senses still make it feel like its the all-star break. Oh well, I guess some good playoff basketball should snap me out of that. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, the staff here at Mavs Moneyball takes a minute to look back at this season.
1. What was the biggest surprise this year?
Lisa: For me, Delonte West. He has such an interesting story, what with the sleeping in the locker room and getting pulled over on his motorcycle for having guns and whatnot. But he works so hard, and seemed to really thrive in the Mavericks' environment. And what a tough dude- destroying his finger and then coming back and having a perfect game. No one is denying he's an odd character, but he seems to fit right in this team of misfits. I hope we keep him on board.
Josh: That the defense has held on. The departure of Tyson Chandler was supposed to doom the Mavericks defensively, leaving them without their defensive anchor. Dallas also lost its defensive guru, Dwayne Casey, perhaps an underrated loss among the Mavericks free agent departures last summer. Somehow, the Mavericks defensive efficiency is actually better then last year, according to both Hoopdata and Basketball Reference. Credit Brendan Haywood for not being a total stiff, Delonte West and Shawn Marion providing fantastic perimeter defense and the emergence of Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright. But mostly, credit Rick Carlisle and his coaching staff, maintaining his "system over individuals" philosophy.
J0shi: Brandan Wright. The Mavs needed surprises with the departure of Tyson, JJB and D-Steve and Wright certainly comes to mind. Beaubois, Carter and West were too inconsistent while Wright averages team-highs in the advanced metrics. Who would have thought?
Tim: I have to say Brandan Wright. Before signing with the Mavericks, I can't honestly say I'd ever even heard his name before. He comes to Dallas, though, and becomes one of those energy jumping jack guys who you always dream about. Remember Ryan Hollin, back a few years ago? The reason he was so exciting is because a lot of fans thought he had a chance to be one of those guys. Turned out he was just an unskilled punk, but hey, he makes a good Cavalier. Anyway, getting back on topic: Mahinmi has a tendency to challenge drives too aggressively, picking up stupid fouls and giving undeserving and-ones, and sometimes Haywood will attempt to do something on offense. Wright knows his limitations, though, and as a result has done nothing but impress.
2. What was the biggest disappointment this year?
Lisa: Uh, Lamar Odom. There's nothing else.
Josh: Lamar Odom is the blatantly obvious answer, so I’ll go in a different path: the frustrating and inconsistent offense. In May and June, the Mavericks title was based off a selfless, free-flowing offense that featured pristine ball movement and then deadly Dirk Nowitzki isolation sets in crunch time situations. While the Mavericks lost productive offensive players in J.J. Barea and Caron Butler, the Mavericks found suitable (if not better) replacements in Delonte West and Vince Carter. So the three big reasons? 1. The brutal inconsistencies of Dirk, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry’s individual games. 2. Basically no practice time to work in new players. 3. Tyson Chandler. Yes, Chandler’s biggest impact from leaving the Mavericks might not be his defense, but his offense and ability to help the Mavericks spread the floor and use Chandler to attack the in the pick and roll. Haywood is no where near the productive pick and roll finisher as Chandler was, with an inability to hit free throws, an underrated Chandler skill. The Mavericks were at their best when four shooters spaced the perimeter and Chandler ran a high pick and roll with Kidd or Terry, allowing Dirk to catch and shoot with ease or Chandler to break lose for a dunk or get fouled. Luckily, the Mavericks might have found their pick and roll man in Wright and if the Mavericks get some good matchups, their offense should be able to get back on track in the postseason with Wright playing the five.
J0shi: The NBA product in gerenal. A 66-game condensed schedule produces too many shabby games... That even tops Odom, which tells you a lot.
Tim: I can't tell you how excited I was when I heard the Mavericks had acquired Lamar Odom. I had just watched Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, JJ Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson head out the door, and with this move, the Mavericks were poised to have a team that might even be better than their championship run. How could you not get excited about a 14 and 8 forward, who tossed three assists a game AND shot over 50%. And then, he started playing. Or rather, participating. I don't hate him as an individual or anything, but I have never been more glad to see someone out of a Mavs uniform. Yes, even over Josh Howard.
3. What was the biggest misconception this year?
Lisa: That our defense would die without Tyson Chandler. Clearly that's not the issue. They're still a top-10 defense without the big man in the middle. It's the offense that's slipped, and that could be due to an inability to penetrate the lane without Chandler and Barea. Either way, for a team who supposedly let their championship roster fall apart, the Mavericks haven't done so badly. They're in the playoffs again, right?
Josh: That the Mavericks season was doomed before it started. Barea, Butler and Stevenson were nice players, but Carter and West are way more efficient and cost-productive to replace those vets. Too many outlets immediately saw two players who are known for off-court issues and on-court effort and assumed the worst. Many thought Dallas gave up this season, when that was simply not the case. Despite the inconsistent regular season, flashes of a championship team have been shown this year. With a more consistent and workable schedule in the playoffs and plenty of rest beforehand, there’s no reason to believe Dallas can do some damage again.
J0shi: I'd put Odom here instead of "disappointment." It never ment to be. I like Jason Terry going the 50:50 route: 50% is on him, 50% on the team. Was a bold move by the front office, but in the end it wasn't a fit.
4. How did this season match up to your pre-season expectations? Was this a good or a bad season?
Lisa: I didn't expect much of anything in this post-lockout, condensed season. There should be an asterisk next to everything.
Josh: Winning an NBA title and then grabbing the six or seven seed the next season might seem relatively awful, but considering the circumstances this season, it’ll due. The Lamar Odom saga weighed down the team to some degree, no matter what the veterans have said. Among the Odom situation and the injuries, the fact that the Mavericks have made it to the finish line basically as healthy as possible and a playoff spot is good enough.
J0shi: Have to say I expected a tad more, mainly home court in the first round. But that was based on a committed and decent Odom. Without him making the playoffs feels about right.
Tim: My pre-season expectations were to make the playoffs, one way or another. As crazy as the lockout made everything, all I wanted was another shot for Dirk to turn it on, with some timely help from teammates, and make history. Well, here we are. Care for another run, for old time's sake?