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Moneyball Mailbag: Are the Mavs getting a backup big man soon?

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What is really up with Jermaine O'Neal?

Here's another edition of the Moneyball Mailbag, which touches on the backup big man situation, how Dirk is better than Tim Duncan and how Ricky Ledo and Eric Griffin are doing in the D-League.

Definitely not. I'd expect Jermaine O'Neal to sign before the month is up. He keeps tweeting here and there about how progress on his knee rehab is coming along and mainly people, including myself, have reported that the Mavericks are interested when he's ready. I'm a little surprised it has dragged on for so long, but we're finally reaching the point where it should happen very soon.

Phoenix wants a first round pick for Miles Plumlee, but the Mavericks don't have one to give up after the Rondo trade. I'd imagine any conversation initiated by Dallas about Plumlee would be very brief.

What's the opposite of an exponential graph? I shouldn't have skipped that 8 a.m. stats class as many times as I did, although seriously, math that early in the morning is a worse idea than leaving your package of Oreos in the living room with three roommates for more than 30 minutes.

Anyway, an exponential graph starts small and then increases rapidly. That's how I see Rondo's comfort with the team, but the opposite: for the first 10 games or so, he made huge strides in his comfort level and understand of what Dallas expects out of him.

But even though he might have an understanding of what they want, each game and practice he spends with the team gives him a little more information and a little more comfort with his team. So yes, every game between now and the playoffs is an opportunity for Rondo to find his place within the Dallas lineup.

I think Eric Griffin is an NBA player. He's an absurd athlete and is producing highlights in the D-League at a LeBron-James-with-the-Cavs-in-2008-level pace. He averaging the most points (18.8) and blocks (2.6), and the second-most minutes (35.1) for the Legends, but more importantly, he's doing it efficiently. He's shooting 48 percent from the floor and 34 percent on 3-pointers, even while attempting five shots behind the arc a game.

Wait, what? In five games in Vegas for Summer League, Griffin shot 3-13 from deep. We were worried that he might not ever figured this out. Instead, he's hit four 3-pointers in a single game three times already up in Frisco. That's really encouraging.

Now, I should remind everyone that any team could go sign him at any point. The contract he signed with the Mavericks gave him a chance to compete for a roster spot, but he wasn't good enough to make the team and was waived. We'll see if he gets any interest around the league as teams start handing out 10-day contracts.

As for Ledo, he has good moments but doesn't really stand out. He's averaging 15.1 points and 3.6 assists but he's also turning the ball over 2.5 times while shooting 44.6 percent from the field and a dreadful 26.3 percent from deep. For a guy with a good-lookin' jump shot, the shooting is particularly disappointing. That was supposed to be the area he excelled in, but he just can't make enough jump shots to cut it this season.

He's been pretty good his last three games, including a career-high 31 points here. You can see he's slowly looking more comfortable attacking and finishing at the rim (I've pointed out before how the latter was a problem), but even in this game, he shot 1-6 from 3-point land. Oh well.

...is he better?

Wait, sorry, I'm already failing as a lawyer. Please don't be disappointed in me, Rebecca, Bailey and Kirk's wife. The question was how to tell Spurs fans Dirk is better. We can answer this!

You've got to throw team performances out the window because five is always going to be greater than one. Duncan's an incredible Hall of Fame player, of course. We're not out here to discredit him or anything the Spurs have done. No, we're out here to discredit Dirk's teammates.

In their respective careers, 29 times has Tim Duncan has had a teammate with a PER greater than 20. Dirk? Just 12 times, and one of them is Charlie Villanueva this year.

We can all agree Dirk makes his teammates better -- if the person you're arguing can't admit that, then we're done here. He or she is a human version of cold french fries. And as good as Dirk is and as good as he makes his teammates, he hasn't even been able to elevate the play of his teammates past 20 once a season.

A teammate with a VORP (value over replacement player) greater than 2? Dirk has played with 32 such players while Duncan has played with 44. A teammate with more than five win shares in a season? Dirk 42, Duncan 55.

And the most convincing argument, of course, is that Avery Johnson coached Dirk him for three years of his prime, while Duncan has had Gregg Popovich for the entirety of his career.

But hey, I'm not here to slam Duncan, who's just an incredible player. If you're going to argue it, you've just got to point out at the stability of the Spurs around him and how the Mavericks struggled to provide the same levels of consistency to their star. Replace Duncan with Dirk and how many titles does San Antonio have today?

Charlie Villanueva is much better as a matchup-specific player than an every game rotation piece. With Powell playing well and -- more importantly -- O'Neal likely on his way soon, he'll fall back into that role and it'll be better for all parties.