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MMB Roundtable: Jose Calderon and next season's Mavericks offense

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It started with a friendly back-and-forth on Twitter and turned into an article. Here are some thoughts about how the Mavericks offense will operate next season.

Scott Halleran

Twitter is great for breaking news, sharing live experiences and spoiling Game of Thrones for people who were dumb enough to Tivo it instead of watching live. It's not quite as great as debating the basic principles of how the Mavericks' offense will operate on a nightly basis, but inevitably, that's what it gets used for by the Mavs Moneyball staff when we're bored and ready for the offseason to be over already.

A couple of days ago, we had a specific debate about how well the Mavericks will be able to space the floor next season with the loss of Jose Calderon. Shooters who can make 45 percent of their 3-pointers while taking more than six attempts per 36 minutes are almost unheard of, no matter how the Mavericks have been able to add shooters around him.

Instead of going back and forth with 140 character snippets, we decided to put our thoughts into an email chain and eventually an article. Hope you enjoy.

@RamiMichail

I never thought I'd find a player I was more shocked to see miss a open look than Dirk before I saw Calderon in Dallas last season. The guy is automatic from three. Yet, while his shooting won't and can't be replaced, I believe the Mavs offense will be wide open for Monta and others to attack.

The team now has multiple players who can break the defense down, something that we've really only seen J.J. Barea and Monta do over the last number of years. I really believe this roster's ability to get to the basket will create ample looks for Nowitzki and other shooters. Will they knock them down? Not sure, especially with Calderon and Vince Carter gone, but I truly believe the team will be able to get plenty of the same looks they had last season, inside and out due to the versatility this season's roster offers.

@Boweman55

You can't really overstate the value of a guy who hit almost half of his threes. That's what Dallas lost in Calderon, along with a steady ball-handler to initiate offense and to prevent Monta from doing too much.

There's really no replacing that. Richard Jefferson and Parsons will help give Dallas options on the outside when Dirk and Monta run their two-man game, but that steadiness that Calderon provided will never be truly there. However, just because Dallas might not be spaced as well, it doesn't mean the offense still can't be good. I think something we can all agree on is the Dallas offense will be good again this season; they have too many good offensive players not to be. The question will be how they get there, and with Carlisle, Dirk and some good playmakers in Ellis, Parsons and Harris, I wouldn't worry too much.

@BRogers789

Yes, Jose Calderon is a markedly better 3-point shooter than anyone currently on the Mavericks' roster. But I'm with Rami. I don't think that necessarily means the spacing will automatically be worse this year than last year. Calderon is one player. Spacing is about how five players work together. Calderon may shoot at 45 percent where others shoot at 37 percent, but it is also easier for a defense to cover one player than to cover two or three.

In my mind, as long as you have at least two players on the perimeter who can shoot 3s, along with a slasher and a finisher at the rim, you should have good spacing. The Mavs have all of that PLUS DIRK. Dirk, Parsons, Jefferson, and Lewis are all career 37% 3-point shooters or better, ad Monta is a pretty killer 3-point shooter from the left corner, where he should get more looks this year without the defense sagging off Marion in the right corner. Spacing is about getting the right mesh of players on the floor, not about any one player's (admittedly insane) shooting abilities.

@HalBrownNBA

So I think there's a bit of a straw man argument going on here so far. The spacing on this team will be fine. As Bailey points out, you have two excellent three point shooters in Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki, two guys who can hurt you on spot ups and in the corners in Devin and Monta, and you have five guys who are a threat to hurt you on a cut to the basket. That's plenty of spacing, and the offense has a whole lot more variety now thanks to Chandler Parsons replacing Marion. I'm vaguely skeptical on this point, but it is more than possible that Dallas' offense will be even better next year than it was last year, and last year it was tied for second best in the league.

There's a difference, though, between the spacing being "fine," and being worse than last year. Last year, the Mavs had probably one of the best -- if not the best -- court geometries in the league with Jose, Monta hitting corner shots, Vince, and Dirk all together. You can't replace a shooter like Jose's effect on the court. You just absolutely cannot, end of story. He hit a 5 percent better clip on 3's last season than an already elite mark. The value of any skill, in basketball, becomes exponentially more valuable the more elite it gets, and Jose's shooting, then, is irreplaceably elite. When you involve Jose in a pick and roll, with that shooting, it absolutely rips defenses asunder. The contortions it takes to keep on Jose and not give anyone else space to move opened up all the open shots the Mavs got. Jose-Dirk pick and rolls were the stuff of defensive nightmares. One man, when they're Jose- or Dirk-level elite at shooting, can be a team's worth of spacing, and he was.

Will the Mavs' spacing be good next season? Hell yeah it will, but it won't be able to contort and twist defenses in one action like it could last season, and that's important to keep in mind.

@tim_cato

Leave it to Hal to start talking about court geometry -- and he's totally right, of course. Jose forced defenders to take that extra half step towards him. Defenders fear his shot that much more than they will Richard Jefferson, or Rashard Lewis, or whoever else is taking spot up attempts, and in an NBA offense, even if that extra bit of spacing only factors in on two or three possessions during a game, that's the difference between scoring 104 points opposed to 98.

The Mavericks offense will have to work harder to create space than it did last year. Fortunately, with Parsons, Monta and a full season of Devin Harris, the team is also much better equipped to do so.

@Boweman55

I think we're all in agreement that the Mavericks offense will still be good. It'll just look vastly different.

Consider the Mavs starting lineup last year -- Calderon, Ellis, Marion, Dirk, Dalembert. That lineup played a decent amount of minutes and it's kind of crazy to think there were only two real 3-point threats in the lineup. That just shows you the power of having an other-worldly 3-point shooter like Calderon. Now you're replacing Calderon with a worse shooter, but replacing Marion with a better playmaker and Dalembert with a better everything.

Remember how frustrating it would be when a Dirk-Monta pick and roll would lead the ball to an open Shawn Marion in the corner and Marion would either hoist a three (at a 35 percent clip, not great for mostly open corner 3s), just hold the ball, pass it back out or attempt to drive it into a potentially awkward attempt? Now there will be a legitimate offensive threat in those corners, with Parsons hitting 43 percent of his corner 3-pointers last season and being an exceptional passer for his size and position. That alone will boost the Mavericks offense, along with Tyson being a much more capable finisher than Dalembert or DeJuan Blair. To make up for Calderon's absence, expect the ball to move a bit more with three legit ball-handlers (Parsons, Ellis, Harris/Felton) playing a majority of the time.

@RamiMichail

I agree with Hal where Jose can't and won't be replaced. It just won't happen, but it doesn't mean the Mavs can't and won't create the same opportunities. Like Josh said, the Mavs offense as a whole is greatly improved. Being able to have a Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright on the court for a combined 48 minutes will drastically improve the Mavs' offense with their ability to finish, roll and attract the defense from the weak side.

I've been trying to avoid this comparison, because the Mavs players aren't the the shooters or passers the Spurs' players are, but I can see the Mavs offense somewhat resembling San Antonio's. Having multiple players who can put the ball on the floor while also shooting from deep should result in plenty of easy driving opportunities and open looks. The defense can't sleep like it did on Marion and Dalembert now. I expect a more diverse and attacking Mavs offense that will constantly keep the defense moving and scrambling.

@BRogers789

It's funny that Rami brought it up, but I was also thinking that the Spurs are a good ideal for what the Mavs offense could look like this year. Whether or not the offense is actually better this year than last is up in the air -- it's hard to be better than no. 2 (per offensive rating). But yes, we're all agreeing that the offense will be different, but still very, very good.

I think the offense will be more consistent this year than last. Last year, it felt as if the offense was either an inferno of points or a confused mess, with no in between. Replacing Marion with Parsons and Dalembert with Chandler helps that. Josh mentioned that Parsons is a huge improvement over Marion in the corner, but surely everyone remembers how absurdly terrible Dalembert was at catching dump off passes from Monta under the hoop. Chandler will be a lot more reliable presence in the middle, both offensively and defensively. Personally, I think this season's offensive pieces fit together a bit better. Unfortunately, I'm not sold on Devin Harris or Raymond Felton in terms of a floor general who can really run the show. Whether the offense is good or great could really depend on that point guard position.