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Chris Kaman and Elton Brand can push the Mavericks offense in the right direction

Dallas isn't going to change the way it plays, but the offense should improve with the new big men.

Drew Hallowell - Getty Images

Because I don't feel like writing out an elaborate or striking lead to this story, I'm just going to throw out some numbers to give you all some context about the Mavericks offense and defense from the last two years:

  • In 2010-2011, the Dallas Mavericks defense ranked seventh according to in defensive efficiency, holding teams to 102.3 points per 100 possessions. The team was eighth in offensive efficiency, averaging 107.6 points per 100 possessions.
  • In 2011-2012, the Dallas Mavericks defense ranked eighth at 99.7 points per 100 possessions. The offense ranked 21st at 101 points per 100 possessions.

A couple of things: Yes, the defensive rating technically "got better" in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11, but the lockout had a lot to do with that, hence the Mavericks still ranking seventh despite the defensive numbers improving. Offense was down league-wide thanks to the lockout. So yes, the offensive numbers are also a little skewed for that reason as well.

But still, the point is the Mavericks didn't falter last season because the loss of Tyson Chandler hampered their defense. It was because the offense turned into an absolute mess. And, surprise, a lot of that also is due to Chandler's departure.

    Chandler might not have been the typical low-post threat, but he still averaged double-figure points with the Mavs while shooting 65.4 percent from the field and 73.2 percent from the free throw line. It won't take you long to realize that those are by far the greatest offensive numbers a Maverick center has put up in franchise history, especially in the Dirk Nowitzki-era. What does that say? Two things.

    1. The Mavericks have a real shitty history of centers.
    2. Tyson Chandler's offense was what allowed the Mavericks to have a blisteringly-efficient team offense that would destroy opposing teams in the 2011 playoffs. With Chandler being a threat to score both off the ball and in the pick and roll, the Mavericks had five legitimate options on the floor with their closing unit and had a multitude of ways to deliver the ball in pristine scoring positions.

    When Chandler was on the floor, the Mavericks list of options was almost endless: Dirk and Chandler could run the pick and roll with either Jason Terry or Jason Kidd. Shawn Marion could post up. Dirk could post up on the wing and the free throw line with Chandler a looming threat for a drop off pass and easy finish or get fouled and make over 70 percent of his free throws, etc.

    Point is, the Mavericks offense was scary good. That doesn't happen with a center who is a complete waste on the offensive side of the ball. So enter Brendan Haywood, who featured none of Chandler's explosive finishing ability, his free throw touch or overall general sense of offensive awareness. Haywood was an offensive albatross that even when he somehow found himself in the position for an easy bucket, defenses would hack away to watch him embarrass himself at the free throw line.

    Ian Mahinmi was a much better "Tyson Chandler-lite" replacement, but his overall rawness in both his offensive and defensive principles left much to be desired. Mahinmi worked as a fine finish on pick and roll situations but his effectiveness wore out the longer he played, due to some shoddy team-defense that was simply expected from a young player who had never risen higher than a bit-role player before the 2011-2012 season.

    So now the Mavericks have replaced Haywood and Mahinmi with Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. Which means...

  • The Mavericks outgoing starting and back up centers shot a combined 52.3 percent from the floor and 55.4 percent from the free throw line, averaging 5.5 points per game last season. (I'm excluding Brandan Wright's numbers because he's a third-string center who shouldn't average more than 10 minutes a game this season.)
  • The Mavericks incoming centers (Brand and Kaman) shot a combined 47 percent from the floor and 75.9 percent from the free throw line while averaging 12 points per game last season.
  • While the overall field goal percentage of the two new big men are certainly lower than you'd expect for centers, both Kaman and Brand shot more mid range jumpers last season. You can expect both to be around the rim a bit more and getting better looks playing off of Darren Collison and Dirk Nowitzki than the wobbly offenses the two saw in New Orleans and Philadelphia, respectively. The free throw percentage is really what intrigues me the most.

    Haywood and Mahinmi shot 139 of 243 free throws. If you bump that number up to 185 of 243 (or 76.1 percent, just about what Kaman and Brand shot last year) then the Mavericks would have scored 46 more points last season, which could have made the difference in a lot of one to five point games. It's small number but it still could have affected more than a handful of games, which could have given the Mavericks a higher seed.

    I'm getting a little off-track in the numbers, but it should be easy to see: The Mavericks were an elite offensive team in the 2011 title season because all five players were threats to score. Despite the loss of Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks were still a top-10 defensive team in 11-12. Kaman and Elton Brand should be able to bring more than enough defense to replace Haywood and Mahinmi while increasing the Mavericks offense substantially.

    It was clear in the 2012 playoffs against the Thunder. Haywood and Mahinmi were non-threats in the Thunders eyes and that allowed them to throw more defenders at Dirk and close out quicker on Kidd and Terry. With Kaman and Brand, defenses aren't going to be left with a clear-cut choice on which defender to use on double-teams or rotating to shooters.

    Do teams continue to throw two or more defenders at Dirk, knowing that Brand or Kaman could be a few feet away, ready to spring for a 13-foot jumper or flip in a jump-hook? Will teams be ready to cheat more toward the three-point line to cover Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter if they know that Dirk and Kaman/Brand will have more room to operate in the paint? Finally, the Mavericks once again have options on offense. They don't have to mix and match lineups to go offense or defensive heavy like they did in 2012 with Carlisle subbing Mahinmi or Wright in for Haywood when he needed offense or vice-versa for defense.

    Part of the genius of the 2011 title team was the versatility of the closing unit of Kidd-Terry-Marion-Dirk-Chandler. All five players could be a threat on offense and all five weren't liabilities on defense (even old man Kidd found a useful defensive role in 2011, matching up with bigger guards.)

    It appears with Brand and Kaman, the Mavericks won't have a liability on the court down low. Dirk Nowitzki should have more room to operate or defenses will face the wraith of ball movement and quick passes to the paint. All that's left now is to see if the team can utilize the parts like they did in 2011.

    Talking to Rick Carlisle a few weeks ago, he said the Mavericks aren't suddenly going to become a slow-it-down team that dumps the ball into the paint and watches. That should give fans hope that Kaman and Brand will be used in the same way Chandler was to some extent.

    This should be a most interesting season. Can we start already?