Dallas heads into the long All-Star break as one the hottest teams in the NBA. The Mavericks have won 12 of their last 13 games (including 13 of their last 15). The Nuggets snapped the Mavericks’ 10-game winning streak with an Arron Afflalo buzzer beater at Denver on February 10. The 10-game run marked Dallas’ second double-digit win streak this season (won 12 straight from November 20-December 11). San Antonio is the only other team with two double-digit win streaks in 2010-11.
The Mavericks recorded their 40th win before the All-Star break with the victory at Phoenix Thursday night. Dallas now stands with San Antonio, Miami and Boston as the only teams with at least 40 wins going into the All-Star break. The boys in blue currently sit in second place in the Western Conference, two-and-a-half games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and six games behind the San Antonio Spurs.
Dirk Nowitzki heads off to Los Angeles to participate in his 10th consecutive All-Star Game. Many of the other players will take family vacations, while others will get some much needed rest and relaxation. The Mavericks will not have another game until Wednesday when they host the Utah Jazz. With a nice little break, it seems fitting to look at the roster and see who is making the grade and who needs to stay after class for some extra credit.
- Rick Carlisle: A
Gregg Popovich has done an amazing job leading the Spurs to a 46-10 record. Even with Popovich in the mix, Rick Carlisle's performance should be taken under serious consideration in regards to the Coach of the Year Award. He set the tone in training camp by saying that it was all about role acceptance over role definition and he has stuck to that belief. Carlisle has pushed the right buttons and done an incredible job keeping everyone happy and managing minutes. For a coach that has preached a "Be Ready" mindset, he has done a great job of creating a clock-work rotation that rolls no matter who is in the lineup. It appears that incorporating Rodrigue Beaubois will be the last hurdle he will have to clear in regards to settling the overall rotation.
- Tyson Chandler: A+
When your influence is compared to Kevin Garnett's arrival in Boston, you have made an significant impact. He is the eyes and ears of the defense. His influence has created an identity for Dallas on the defensive end of the floor and his performance should place him under consideration as a candidate for making the NBA's All-Defensive Team. Within two months, Chandler also emerged as the heart and soul of the team with his energy and emotional responses on and off of the floor. The Mavericks will do everything in their power to make sure Chandler stays healthy the rest of the way and that he stays a Maverick for the foreseeable future.
- Brendan Haywood: D (with a See-Me After Class)
The two-headed monster of Brenson Chandwood eventually turned into just Tyson Chandler as a one man gang. Unless the Mavs are playing the Sacramento Kings, Haywood has his issues with being engaged while he is on the floor. On top of that, Ian Mahinmi has played his way into some of Haywood's minutes. Mahinmi has done enough to change Rick Carlisle's stance on the back-up center position and making it more based on match-ups. Carlisle has made sure to defend the effort of Haywood but, it is time for Haywood to perform on a consistent basis. The Mavericks will need Haywood to be more engaged if they plan on making a deep run in the playoffs.
- Ian Mahinmi: B
Mahinmi's energy during games and his coach-ability on the practice court has caught the attention of Carlisle and the rest of the coaching staff. He has also developed the ability to play the power forward position. It remains to be seen whether or not he can be a factor on a consistent basis against the elite NBA teams. It is quite the luxury for a team to have supreme confidence in their third-string center.
- Dirk Nowitzki: A+
He is the MVP for the Mavs and he needs to be under serious consideration for the league's MVP award. A sprained knee derailed Nowitzki for multiple weeks and caused some rust to mount up in the process. The shooting touch continues to get stronger over time as Nowitzki is shooting above 50% from the field. The rebounding numbers are down, but the team has other weapons that can make up for the down-slide. The statistic that really matters: The Mavericks are 2-7 without Nowitzki in the lineup, they are 38-9 when he is in the lineup.
- Shawn Marion: A-
Marion's ability to accept his role coming off the bench has been huge. If you believe reports, Marion was unhappy with his role being reduced in Phoenix, not the case in Big D. The Matrix has made the most out of his minutes and continues to be a threat in fast break opportunities. His defensive prowess is still intact and does not look to be fading any time soon.
- Peja Stojakovic: B-
The Mavericks seem to have a keen eye for find players that can fill the small forward position. Stojakovic has only played in six games for the Mavericks, but the sharpshooter has shown the low-risk move could potentially pay off in a big way. The newest Maverick struggled to find his shot as he joined the team but he found his shooting stroke in Houston against the Rockets (8-12 shooting for 22 points). Unless something drastic happens, it appears Stojakovic will remain the starting small forward for the team. They will need to figure out how they want to work Stojakovic on the defensive end of the court as he does have his limitations in that area.
- Brian Cardinal: B
Cardinal has been the poster child for the "Be Ready" mindset. Minutes have been incredibly limited for the former Boilermaker and he has made the most out of them by doing whatever it takes to help the team. His ability to play either forward position gives the team even more flexibility. When you have a player like Brian Cardinal at the back-end of your bench, it is not a bad situation.
- Caron Butler: B+
Butler and Marion had stretches where each player saw significant minutes to close out games at the expense of the other. Many wondered how both players would respond, both responded well and thrived. It is a shame that Butler went down with a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee as it appeared that he was finding his groove with the Mavericks. Living up to his nickname "Tuff Juice," Butler continues to go through the rehabilitation process at a quick pace, just six weeks after having surgery to repair his knee. He continues to state that he feels that the knee will be ready in time for the playoffs.
- Jason Kidd: B+
The veteran point guard has had his ups and downs over the course of the season. The early stretch of the season saw Kidd performing well and being able to rest for significant stretches, thus keeping his overall minutes down. The injury bug struck the Mavericks and that led to Kidd getting more minutes. As the minutes went up, Kidd's shooting numbers began to drop. For now, it appears that the numbers have started to move back in the right direction. Surprisingly, his need to be the primary ball-handler for the team has decreased as JJ Barea and Roddy Beaubois have been given the green-light to push the tempo. Despite the potential adjustments, Kidd is still considered to be the brain of the Mavs flow offense.
- JJ Barea: B
Barea has earned the awkward nickname of Senior Huevos Grandes over the last six weeks with his radical improvement at the point guard position. Rick Carlisle mentioned that Barea's overall thought process has evolved and that his confidence level is through the roof. Barea looks completely comfortable on both sides of the floor and his ability to penetrate on offense is extremely valuable. In addition, his ability to pester opposing guards does not go unnoticed. He started the season as one of the league's worst shooters. In 2011, Barea has been on the league's hottest shooters.
- DeShawn Stevenson: B
With Haywood's inconsistency and Butler's injury, Stevenson emerged as more than just a throw-in piece in the trade with Washington last season. "3-venson" was born as he emerged as one of the league's best shooters from beyond the arc, while maintaining a high level of intensity on the defensive end of the floor. His shooting has dropped off over the past few weeks and it appears that his role will be replaced by Roddy Beaubois. Despite the struggles and possible demotion, Stevenson has been a valuable asset to the team.
- Jason Terry: B
If Jason Terry played quarters one through three like he did in the fourth quarter, Terry would get an A++. Terry has emerged as one of the league's most dangerous players in the fourth quarter with his incredible knack to light up the scoreboard in the final quarter. The Jet had a hard time getting out of the hangar while Nowitzki was sidelined with his knee injury. When the team needed a player to step up, Terry could not respond. That rough stretch hurt Terry's overall grade.
- Dominique Jones: C+
The rookie had a hard time finding significant minutes early in the season, thus he was sent down to Frisco to play with the Texas Legends. His ability to penetrate in the lane is valuable, but Jones needs to continue working on building overall consistency. In addition, the guard will need to develop his jump shot and tenacity on the defensive end of the floor to find a way to crack the rotation. It appears that he will not have an opportunity to improve this season as he suffered a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal on his right foot.
- Roddy Beaubois: Incomplete
Whether you call him Roddy or Rodrigue, the electric guard is back in the mix. It has only been two games, but Beaubois has already shown the glimpses of greatness that have the Mavs and their fans drooling at his upside. The Mavericks seem inclined to give him more point guard responsibilities and they will have to deal with the growing pains along the way. It helps to have Kidd and Barea ready to take over as soon as the next offensive possession. It will take him some time to get his game-condition in order but once he gets into game-shape, watch out.
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