Player Review: Mike James

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The MMB player preview series continues with "The Legend", Mike James.

Mike James was not on the team at the start of preseason, so Mavs Moneyball did not have a preview story on him. The veteran guard became something of a lightning rod for fan criticism during the year, a sort of poster boy for the collapse of the post-championship era that promised Deron Williams and instead delivered a 37 year old journeyman signed midseason as a plan Z.

A quick recap:

There a few better current examples of a self made basketball player than Mike James. Undrafted out of Duquense, Mike James spent the first part of his professional career overseas, working on his game and waiting for an opportunity to break into the NBA. It finally came in 2001, at age 26, with an inauspicious 15 game debut with the Miami Heat. He would become a starter with the Boston Celtics two years later, in a season that saw him traded to the Detroit Pistons, who went on to win the championship. From there he continued to bounce around, but seemed to get better with each stop, finally peaking with the Toronto Raptors in 2005 when he averaged over 20 points per game.

Already 30, his numbers quickly declined from that point, and his NBA journey seemed to slowly wind to a close. James spent all of 2010 and most of 2011 overseas, and over a three year stretch appeared in just 15 games for the Wizards and Bulls.

Enter the Texas Legends.

His numbers:

Season Age Tm Lg Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2001-02 26 MIA NBA PG 15 0 7.9 1.0 2.9 .349 0.5 1.4 .381 0.3 0.5 .571 0.1 0.8 0.9 1.3 0.4 0.1 0.9 1.1 2.8
2002-03 27 MIA NBA PG 78 8 22.1 2.8 7.5 .373 0.9 2.9 .294 1.3 1.8 .732 0.3 1.6 1.9 3.2 0.8 0.1 1.4 2.3 7.8
2003-04 28 TOT NBA PG 81 55 27.1 3.4 8.1 .414 1.3 3.5 .377 1.3 1.6 .811 0.3 2.5 2.9 4.2 1.2 0.0 1.5 1.9 9.3
2003-04 28 BOS NBA PG 55 55 30.6 3.9 9.3 .418 1.6 4.1 .381 1.4 1.7 .800 0.4 2.8 3.2 4.4 1.3 0.0 1.5 2.1 10.7
2003-04 28 DET NBA PG 26 0 19.7 2.3 5.7 .401 0.8 2.1 .364 1.0 1.2 .844 0.3 1.9 2.2 3.7 1.0 0.0 1.6 1.7 6.3
2004-05 29 TOT NBA PG 74 5 25.1 4.5 10.1 .441 1.4 3.5 .386 1.5 2.0 .752 0.5 2.3 2.8 3.6 0.9 0.1 1.4 2.4 11.8
2004-05 29 MIL NBA PG 47 0 24.8 4.4 9.8 .446 1.2 3.2 .382 1.4 1.9 .744 0.5 2.1 2.6 3.9 0.9 0.1 1.7 2.4 11.4
2004-05 29 HOU NBA PG 27 5 25.6 4.7 10.8 .433 1.6 4.0 .393 1.6 2.0 .764 0.4 2.7 3.2 2.9 0.9 0.1 1.0 2.2 12.4
2005-06 30 TOR NBA PG 79 79 37.0 7.3 15.5 .469 2.1 4.8 .442 3.6 4.3 .837 0.6 2.7 3.3 5.8 0.9 0.0 2.6 2.7 20.3
2006-07 31 MIN NBA PG 82 65 25.2 3.6 8.6 .422 1.0 2.6 .372 1.9 2.2 .837 0.3 1.7 2.0 3.6 0.7 0.1 1.6 2.1 10.1
2007-08 32 TOT NBA PG 54 1 13.3 1.9 5.4 .348 0.6 1.8 .320 0.7 0.9 .813 0.3 1.0 1.3 1.1 0.4 0.0 0.7 1.0 5.0
2007-08 32 HOU NBA PG 33 1 16.3 2.4 6.8 .350 0.7 2.2 .324 1.0 1.3 .786 0.3 1.2 1.6 1.6 0.5 0.1 0.9 1.3 6.5
2007-08 32 NOH NBA PG 21 0 8.7 1.0 3.0 .344 0.3 1.1 .304 0.3 0.3 1.000 0.1 0.7 0.8 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.6 2.7
2008-09 33 TOT NBA PG 61 50 27.0 3.2 8.4 .383 1.1 3.0 .375 1.1 1.3 .829 0.4 1.8 2.2 3.3 0.7 0.1 1.5 1.8 8.7
2008-09 33 NOH NBA PG 8 0 9.3 1.0 3.1 .320 0.4 0.5 .750 0.1 0.3 .500 0.1 0.8 0.9 1.0 0.3 0.0 0.4 0.9 2.5
2008-09 33 WAS NBA PG 53 50 29.7 3.6 9.2 .387 1.2 3.4 .367 1.3 1.5 .838 0.5 1.9 2.4 3.6 0.8 0.1 1.7 1.9 9.6
2009-10 34 WAS NBA PG 4 0 11.5 1.5 5.0 .300 0.5 1.5 .333 1.0 2.0 .500 0.3 0.5 0.8 1.3 0.8 0.0 1.3 0.8 4.5
2011-12 36 CHI NBA PG 11 0 10.9 1.8 4.5 .408 0.5 0.9 .600 0.6 0.7 .875 0.2 0.7 0.9 2.6 0.4 0.2 1.3 1.8 4.8
2012-13 37 DAL NBA PG 45 23 19.2 2.2 6.0 .373 1.1 2.8 .384 0.5 0.6 .793 0.2 1.4 1.6 3.1 0.6 0.1 1.2 2.1 6.1
Career NBA 584 286 24.5 3.7 8.8 .418 1.2 3.1 .379 1.5 1.9 .803 0.4 1.9 2.3 3.5 0.8 0.1 1.5 2.0 10.0

37 Mike James seems to have produced quite similarly to 27 year old Mike James who first entered the league, which is a polite way of saying I'm amazed James' career kept going after his first two years in Miami.

James is apparently viewed as a good defender, and though my watching the games makes me skeptical, we'll go ahead and leave that as a notch in his belt. Per 82games.com, the Mavs did allow slightly fewer points with him on the floor, and he was the only regular starter who finished the season on the positive end of plus/minus. James certainly doesn't lack for effort on defense, which is probably why coaches seem to usually like him despite...him.

At the other end, Mike James is a lousy offensive player and arguably the worst starting point guard in basketball, yet Dallas was consistently better with him running the show(over 4 points per 100 possessions better, a huge swing). Now, part of this might be his timing: James was elevated to starter in mid January, when Dirk was finally rounding in to form, and when Dallas easily played their best team basketball.

As one might expect from a 37 year old point guard, James is no longer able to get his own shot on a regular basis. Over half his attempts came on threes, most being the wide open, spot-up variety, which he did make often enough. Though he has a decent handle, getting to basket was a rarity, as was drawing fouls, so it's no wonder he once again failed to post a true shooting percentage over league average(something he hasn't done since '06-'07). The actual field goal percentages the last half-decade are even uglier.

For anyone who was driven crazy by the turnover-prone days of Darren Collison as starter, Mike James did represent an improvement, though not a huge one. When you look at Derek Fisher, the man Mike James essentially replaced as starter, you get the idea Carlisle has(or had) a preferred type at "quarterback": a player who moves the ball, waits for open looks, and doesn't force the issue. Someone reliably mediocre, rather than occasionally brilliant, like Collison.

What to expect going forward:

James is as stopgap as stopgap gets. Listening to Carlisle talk, or former coaches like Jeff Van Gundy commentating, all the talk about James centered around how amazing it was that he worked his way back to the NBA at his age. Be that as it may, James was the fifth point guard Dallas auditioned as starter, and most casual(and non-casual) observers will tell you he was dreadful. It's hard to imagine any reasonable scenario where Dallas doesn't thank him for his time and send him on his way.

What James really represents(or represented) was the abject failure of an organization to develop talent at the point guard position or develop a strong contingency plan as Jason Kidd's career wound down and Deronquest proved fruitless. After failing to sign their hometown hero, Dallas entered the season having spent their last three first round picks at that spot. Dominique Jones was gone by April, Rodrigue Beaubois may soon be following him out the door, and Jared Cunningham had a lost year spent half in the D-League and half on injured reserve.

Now, in fairness, they did try. In addition to the three draft picks, Dallas had supposedly come to an agreement with Jason Kidd on a three year deal, and they signed Delonte West to an entirely reasonable contract as the backup point guard. When Kidd reneged and Delonte Delonte'd, Dallas had to scramble to find another body to pair with Collison. That body belonged to Derek Fisher, who played for three weeks before retiring to "spend time with his family". After that, Dallas had a deadline deal reportedly in place to acquire Beno Udrih, when Udrih was included in the J.J. Redick deal and sent to Orlando.

A year later, Mark Cuban has learned his lesson is still pursuing the big fish, but barring a miracle, Dallas is going to need someone other than Chris Paul feeding Dirk Nowitzki entry passes. The recent rhetoric from Donnie Nelson, as well as coach Carlisle, indicates the organization is prioritizing point guard. Let's just hope they have something up their sleeve.

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