MMB Player Power Rankings, v.4

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The moment you've all been waiting for -- version 4 of the MMB Player power rankings is finally here. Alan writes a lot more than me, but our lists are pretty similar. Chime in with what you agree or disagree with, or even post your own!

Tim Cato

Alan Smithee

1. Dirk Nowitzki

1) Dirk Nowitzki

After being out with injuries, struggling with injuries, and being hindered by injuries, Dirk's just about returned to form. Although he missed the All-Star game this year, I wouldn't count him out of grabbing another one or two in coming years. Anyway, the rest the All-Star break will provide is just what he needs. Although his jumper has returned in full force, his legs haven't quite been there since his return. A good week off should be enough to finally see him taking people off the dribble and finishing on a basket now and again. It's not 2004 or 2005, but Dirk has to have some sort of a game off the dribble to keep the defense honest. Alright his game's still going to be 95% jump shots, I think we'll see an aggressive drive here and there post-All Star Break.

This is a "good faith" placement, after two extremely encouraging games that followed a pair of worrying ones coming off his adductor injury. Dirk's activity was on display, as he had five steals and two blocks the last two contests, but for Dirk, the thing everyone wants to see is the ball go in the basket. I mentioned this in the recap against the Kings, but Dirk seems to be having fun finally: the poses after those elbow jumpers in the second quarter really suggested for me a) that he's finally getting in a groove, and b) that it took long enough to make playing good ball almost cathartic in its relief. One thing that is really interesting to watch is how Dirk's passing game continues to evolve. Dirk is one of four power forwards with an assist/turnover ratio above 2/1, and the other four guys are all bit players who see half the court time (Matt Bonner, Chuck Hayes, and Josh McRoberts). This team probably has more offensive weapons than Dirk has had in a few years, so it has never been more deadly to double-team Dirk.

2. Shawn Marion

2) Shawn Marion

Far and away the Mavericks leading rebounder, Marion also chips in 12 points on 50% shooting. Of all the players who contributed towards the 2011 Championship, there's a reason he's the one who stuck around with Dirk. In a season full of point guards moving in and out of the starting lineup, of a front court rotation that varied almost nightly, and of O.J. Mayo, Marion has thankfully been a consistent factor virtually every night. Despite being the 2nd longest tenured Maverick, he did take some time to adjust to the new players. It seems like he's finally flourishing in the system, so there's no reason to expect anything but 14/8 or so during this final few months.

His last two games before the ASB weren't spectacular, but prior to that Marion had been on a terrific run of strong play. His month by month point averages: 8(October), 9.7(Nov), 10.5(Dec), 12.1(Jan), 15.8(Feb). He's unlikely to make another step in March, but you can see him slowly assert himself more and more in the offense. Marion's down a decent enough job of spacing the floor when absolutely necessary, but as we all know his bread and butter is the little runner from 12 feet and in. Marion is really nice to have on a jump-shooting team, because he gets so many garbage baskets inside. He is averaging over four attempts a game at the rim, and though he can occasionally blow an easy layup, he is converting at 70% there. A big reason he gets those easy looks is because he's one of the best in the game at crashing the offensive glass at small forward (third in offensive rebound rate, behind part-timers DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Adrien). And this may be a theme in these rankings, but Marion has also posted a career best assist rate this season, never an especially dangerous part of his game.

3. Vince Carter

3) Darren Collison

Carter doesn't really belong in the third spot, but considering the other options I'm giving it to him. Don't let that take away from him fantastic season - 13 points a game, four rebounds and a career-low 1.2 turnovers. I remember asking him at Mavs Media Day whether he was taking a lot of responsibility as the Mavs go-to three pointer shooter after the team lost Kidd and Terry (who combined for 11 attempts a game). He wouldn't say it, but clearly he has. For a crucial three pointer, I'd much rather Vince spotting up than O.J. Despite the high quantity, his ability to keep his percentage above 40% has been very impressive. Teams know that when he comes on the floor he's looking to spot up, but Carter keeps making them night after night. Bravo, Vince, bravo.

I'm happy to give Darren his due, as all the trade speculation seems to focus on replacing or demoting him. Since the New Year, Collison has had an A/TO of well over three, which is great, and as of right now Collison (redundancy alert) has the best assist rate of his career. You might look at his rookie year and say "but he averaged more assists per game then, and in fewer minutes, so that doesn't make sense", but we need to remember that his rookie year there was a stretch when Chris Paul was out where the Hornets pretty much put the ball in Collison's hands all the time. With the Mavericks he's had to do more with less, and after a bumpy start, he has been doing just that. Collison has picked his spots well of late, with all-around efficiency that might not leap out from the stat sheet in any one way, but when taken together, adds up to a pretty useful player. Oh, and in the era of Dirk this might not impress too many people, but Collison has made 31 straight free throws. So, if the ball can't go to Dirk when you need to ice the game, make sure it goes to DC.

4. O.J. Mayo

4. O.J. Mayo

And that brings us to O.J., now doesn't it. What an enigma. He both leads the team in scoring and disappointment, and no one really knows why. His late game struggles have been well chronicled, and even though we keep waiting for him to click, it hasn't happened. Without Mayo to step up in place of Dirk, the Mavericks would be miserably low in the standings with an offense that would have been based off a Collison/Kaman two man game. Yet at the same time, it would take two hands to count the number of games where crucial mistakes late have most likely cost the Mavericks the victory. Although late game mistakes make us all want to break things, you have to judge Mayo more on what he has down in the first 43 minutes, not what he hasn't in the final 5. Between Collison and him, he's changed the face of the Mavericks offense with his ability to run. Hopefully, as Dirk recuperates to nearly full health, Mayo's late game role can diminish, letting the German bring home the win after Mayo did the dirty work early on.

OK, so since this is the fourth guy in a row posting a career high assist rate, I think I should bridge this thought into something I've realized: this team can really pass. Remember early on when the spacing was off and it looked like nobody knew where to be? Not anymore. There may not be the Jason Kidd or Steve Nash here to control the game, but as a team this incarnation passes as well as about any other previously. Dallas does not rank in the top 10 in assist rate as a team, which might lead you to believe they aren't good at sharing the ball, but the actual assist rate is better than the one Dallas posted in '10-'11, the year they finished first in the league(and may have won something or other in the playoffs). This assist rate also would have led the league last year. Now, it is still the All Star Break, so it is likely there will be some regression here, but I think it's worth noting when we hear rumblings of discontent from the fan base about Rick Carlisle. Just look at the backcourt, who are performing at career best efficiency under Carlisle, and largely without the help of a healthy Dirk Nowitzki. Now, as for Mayo specifically, while his passing has improved leaps and bounds lately, his shooting continues to drop off from the incredible start, and we've yet to see a stretch where both he and Dirk are fully locked in at the same time. Like Collison, Mayo's defense also sometimes gives me pause, and one big thing to consider when deciding what future that pair has in Dallas will be whether or not Dallas will be able to get away with both starting guard positions being subpar defensively.

5. Darren Collison

5. Vince Carter

What's sad for Mayo is that Collison is really pushing him for the 4th spot. I do think Collison would be best coming off the bench, but he had a helluva January and (so far) February. Assists are up, turnovers down, field goal percentage up, shot attempts down. Maybe the Mavericks will have to upgrade the point guard spot should they want to become a contender again, but they certainly aren't right now so I would hardly call that a huge worry. Remember, Collison is still a few years away from his prime at 25 and Carlisle is the best coach he's ever had in his career.

Vince has been spectacular at times for Dallas, but let's go back to last year, and look at his pre/post ASB splits. Before that weekend, Carter shot 44.2% from the field and 44.0% from deep. After the big game, he shot 38.3% from the field and 29.8% from three. So, while Vince's shooting line looks nice right now, history says he's going to slow down, as his 36 year old legs wear down and Carlisle continues to lean heavily on him(almost entirely on him) for bench scoring. So, if you want to trade him while his value is highest, now is probably the better time than the offseason. However, if Dallas is determined to make a playoff push, no matter the odds, then Carter does play an important role. His shot selection can sometimes be head-shakingly bad(he definitely still plays like he thinks he's 25 with a 40 inch vertical), but as a spot up shooter he's performed admirably, and his defense and hustle continue to be pleasant surprises. We know Dallas pays a lot of attention to on/off court metrics, and they say that Carter has been arguably Dallas' best performer so far, with the team scoring and defending much better with him on the floor. That could be why they were reluctant to part with him for Jose Calderon. All in all, I expect him to slow down in the coming months. I just hope the fall-off isn't as dramatic this time around, if they do end up keeping him.

6. Elton Brand

6. Elton Brand

His last six games or so have been pretty lackluster, but ever since December Elton Brand has been bringing it just about every night. He's not flashy, but he knows how to use his body on both ends and would be a valuable player who all 30 teams in the league.

With Dirk rounding in form, Brand's offensive role has been reduced. He's now just kind of a meat and potatoes player. Rebound, defend, hit the shot when you're open. That last part Brand has struggled with recently, his second dip in the season. The problem before was that, although his other shot chart data was fine, his patented 15 foot midrange jumper wasn't falling. Now, it is falling, but Brand's inside game has completely vanished, even relative to the meager point it was at. Brand is embarrassingly bad at finishing at the rim now, though maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Overall, you have to be happy with what he brings, given the cost, but you can't blame a guy for hoping for more. Brand's defense is still very strong, and his rebounding numbers, which are his best in years, have not fallen yet. Still, while all the trade buzz seems focused on point guard, I wonder if the most likely trade target isn't a big man. Dallas has a four-headed center rotation, but I don't think any of the four represent a longterm answer as a starter.

7. Brandan Wright

7. Chris Kaman

In the last seven games that Wright has gotten 10+ minutes, he's grabbed 5+ rebounds in all but two. We always knew he could finish efficiently, block shots, and didn't turn the ball over - it's nice to see the rebounding coming along after a good month where he barely left the bench. He's even developed a pretty consistent jumper, despite a shooting form only a hair prettier than Marion's. He might be the Maverick easiest to root for, so here's to keeping it up, Brandan. Oh, and his PER is over 20.4 and is easily better than any other Maverick. So there's that.

Absence makes the heart grow...wait, which one is Kaman again? Assuming he's not traded, it will have been over three weeks since he last played the next time the Mavs take the court. Given that Kaman's playing time was being slowly whittled away(27 minutes/game in November, 23 in December, 20 last month) already, one wonders: what exactly is the plan with Kaman? It would be inaccurate and unfair to say his season has been bad. He's scoring 19 points per 36 minutes and shooting over 50% from the field. But, that's about where the good news stops. Kaman has been a total ballstopper who's assist rate reached new lows, yet despite almost never giving it up he still finds ways to turn the ball over. Kaman also has not rebounded the way you'd like a seven foot center to, and his defense has been, to this point, underwhelming. Dallas surrenders nearly five points a game more with him on the court. We shouldn't overreact to these numbers too much, since it's a small sample size that includes time without Dirk and with Derek Fisher(shudder), but it's concerning. Throw in his problems staying healthy, and you have a real question mark. With a hefty expiring contract, Kaman is the perfect guy to salary match in a trade. I am still not sure whether Dallas is going to actually do anything at the deadline, but it is possible Kaman has played his last game as a Mav.

8. Bernard James

8. Bernard James

As the starting center - 15.3 minutes, 3.3 points on 50% shooting, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Not bad, Bernard.

"Sarge" has now made seven starts on the year as the tempo-setter for Dallas, beginning the first and third quarter with energy and grit, then sitting most of the rest of the game. It's a role most often seen given to the starting two-guard in years past, but it seems to agree with James. He does have trouble with size defensively, but not for lack of effort. As a help defender he's been exactly as hoped, using his length and quickness to bother shots and close off passing lanes. He also rebounds exceptionally well on the offensive glass(10th among all centers in O-rebound rate), and serviceably overall. The rebounding numbers are less impressive in a vacuum but, on this team, critically important. As I've said before, that's really the best argument for Bernard's playing time: he does things that most of the other guys don't, making him probably a better fit than outstanding talent. Going forward, I think you have a career backup who can provide hustle off the bench, but if he develops some more offensive game that could change. Dallas has made an effort to get him involved in the pick and roll, but that's about the extent of his contribution as a playmaker. James is reportedly going to be honored Saturday for his military service, which is pretty cool.

9. Chris Kaman

9. Jae Crowder

Eventually, he's going to come back and the Mavericks are going to have to deal with him. In theory, he'd be great playing 10-15 minutes off the bench, because a majority of backup centers have no shot against his array of post moves. However, he expressed disappointment after ONE game of limited minutes, so I can't even imagine what he'd say if that's his full-time role. For a locker room that seems to generally have pretty good chemistry, I'd hate for one guy to ruin it all.

Crowder's outside shooting is back on the upswing, which is nice. But, I'd really like him to try and do a little more. I know I've said it before, but use his strength to drive to the basket, where he can try to draw fouls, or use his great passing instincts to find the open man. I also feel like Crowder could be more of a presence on the offensive glass, where he can get putbacks and garbage points there. Again, these are a lot of the same things I've been saying for a while. Crowder was so dynamic in the preseason, you know that the potential exists somewhere in there. Right now he's being put in a bit of a box, and maybe that's just because he's a rookie. Year two will be big for Jae in terms of showing whether he'll be capable of stepping into Shawn Marion's shoes at some point down the line, or if he's destined to come off the bench, like James.

10. Jae Crowder

10. Brandan Wright

After a DNP-CD against Portland at the end of December (and just two minutes in the game previous), Crowder's looking a little better. He's shooting 39% from three in the six February games, but seems to be attacking the hole a little more frequently too. An aggressive mentality is going to be crucial for him to keep this up.

Carlisle's usage of Wright is among the most perplexing issues for me. Wright has obvious flaws, but it certainly seems like the good plays far outweigh the bad. Maybe not. Either way, it seems for Carlisle the net-gain is less important than the consistency, which is ironic, given how inconsistent the minutes he gives out can be. Based on what he's said about disliking a four-headed rotation at center, when Kaman comes back(or if he's traded for another center), you'd have to assume either Bernard or Brandan will go back to getting DNP's.

11. Rodrigue Beaubois

11. Rodrigue Beaubois

He might look like he's hopelessly lost and frantically out of control, but Roddy B has quietly turned into a decent backup point guard. He can't make a shot to save his life, but when it comes to setting up the offense, he knows what he's doing (he leads the team with a 1.8 assist to turnover ratio). More importantly, he is the best guard on the Mavericks' roster at distributing the ball to Dirk where he wants it. He's played with him for four years, so it's hardly a surprise. I wish he was able to hit more than 35% of his shots, but you take what you can get.

Roddy has apparently re-taken backup point duty from Dominique Jones. For the moment. It is another position Carlisle seems to oscillate with. I can't believe anyone - ANYONE - would have predicted this development for Roddy: his scoring game has almost completely evaporated, but meanwhile, with no-one noticing, he's become pretty competent as a passer. With easily the best pure point rating of his career, Roddy has done what so many wanted, but for whatever maddening reason, he has lost the 40% three point shooting and knack for attacking the rim that we saw and fell in love with as a rookie. I don't know if these gains as a passer reflect some form of timidity caused by mental castration, thus explaining the cliff-dive offensively, but it's totally crazy. If you had told us back in '09 that Roddy would be posting 2.5/1 assist/turnover ratios in his fourth year, many would have jumped for joy. Indeed, with those scoring skills of yore and these passing skills, you probably have a star. Tony Parker with three point range. But instead we have this.

12. Dahntay Jones

12. Dahntay Jones

This is still the best thing he's done in a Mavericks uniform. Sometimes, it feels like the only thing he's done for them. If he could consistently knock down the open three, it might be a different story, but if the Mavericks want a wing defender who can't shoot playing, they simply go to Shawn Marion.

So the three point shot seems to have completely left Dahntay, too. I can only assume that's the main reason he hasn't seen the floor more. The rest of his game has Carlisle written all over it. If Dahntay had another year on his deal, I could have seen him potentially having a great comeback year next season, much the way DeShawn Stevenson did after his first, godawful season in Dallas. If Carter does get traded, you could see more of the Duke alum. Of course, Jones is probably just as likely to go in a deal as Vince. It seems like this marriage just didn't work out as well as it could have, but that happens.

13. Dominique Jones

13. Dominique Jones

What's funny is that if Dojo had Dahntay Jones' jumper, he might be an NBA starter for someone. He's

DoJo doesn't play for over a month, then scores 15 points in 14 minutes against Oklahoma City in blowout time, and has barely seen the court since. That about sums it up. As said, Roddy B has taken his role, though you'd be hard-pressed to argue one is much better at all than the other. The scouting report on Jones remains the same: good at attacking, bad at finishing, worse at finishing from farther out. If a shot-doc ever can make something of DoJo's jumper, you have a player, but until that seems even remotely possible, we are doomed to write the same thing about the guy over, and over, and over...

14. Jared Cunningham

14. Mike James

He has an NBA starter-level Instagram account. It's top-notch. Other than that, just keep working hard.

He plays for the Mavericks.

15. Mike James

15. Jared Cunningham

Sometimes, I convince myself he's not a Maverick and it was all just a bad dream. And then I see him smugly smiling as he checks into the game and immediately throws a horrible pass to the other team. No wonder college kids never get any sleep...

(editor's note: Alan left Jared out of his list, which should tell you all you need to know about him)

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