Mavs Moneyball: Like the Mavericks, the Rockets had to adjust mid-season to incorporate Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved. Have they completely adjusted to the new team? Is it weird seeing so many players out there that Houston didn't start the season with?
Ian Jacoby (@IanJacoby): It's hard to say what a complete adjustment would look like. One would like to think that over time we'll see less Josh Smith threes (shooting 22 percent) and a better application of Shved than the garbage time that he's been seeing. Of the three, Corey Brewer has been by-far the most seamless fit. Adding Ariza in the off-season shored up the starting wing on defense but there was still a gap that needed filling on the bench. Brewer has been a guy who comes in, plays energetic D, creates fast break points and knocks down threes and as Dallas fans know, when he gets going he can completely take over a game. He's been Houston's best acquisition.
On a more profound note, Smith, Brewer and another off-season acquisition familiar with Mavs fans- Jason Terry- have become what we in Houston have taken to calling "The Headband of Brothers". So that's fun.
MMB: Likewise, Terrence Jones is about to return. I really like him as a player. Who gets the short end of the stick in the rotation when he returns?
Jacoby: Right now it looks like Terrence Jones will be playing on Wednesday against Dallas. With Dwight being a game-time decision the only people getting the short end of the stick could be Mavs fans. Once Dwight comes back we can assume that Josh Smith will see a drop in minutes, seeing as how D-Mo (Donatas Motiejunas) has cemented himself as a quality big-man that can disrupt in the post create shots with his exceptionally refined footwork. I believe I speak for all Rockets fans when I say that hopefully more Terrence Jones also equates to ABSOLUTELY F---ING ZERO Joey Dorsey. He's bad. Like, real bad.
MMB: What do you make of Trevor Ariza's offensive struggles?
Jacoby: Trevor Ariza started the season shooting really well, and since then it's been a little bit of a nightmare. But it kind of makes sense when you look at the numbers. For his career he attempted about three three-pointers a game and shot 34 percent. This year he's up to 7 attempts per game and shooting 32 percent. He's shooting much more and his percentage is only down a couple points so coming from a Morey-esque understanding of "production"; it's basically fine. That said, some of the shots he takes seem ill-advised based on my eye-test. The guy definitely doesn't pass up a shot.
MMB: James Harden is probably the consensus No. 2 in the MVP race right now. Convince me why he should win it over Stephen Curry if the season were to end right now.
Jacoby: Ahem, according to the mothership, James Harden is leading the MVP race (ed. note: indeed he is! I'd argue Curry still leads in public opinion, however). They make a good case for choosing him over Curry, what with his putting up career highs in points, assists and rebounds. However, I believe the best argument for choosing him over Curry is based in semantics. James Harden is inherently more "valuable" to the Rockets than Curry is to the Warriors. The Dubs would still be a playoff team with Steph Curry. They have a guy who can score 37 points in one quarter and Andre Iguodala comes off of their bench. The Rockets though? If Harden was knocked out for the season, they would be a lottery team. The West is too good and he provides too much of the offense for Houston to survive without his presence. That's why James Harden is the MVP.
MMB: What should the Mavericks' gameplan be if they want to get a win in Houston on the tail end of a back-to-back?
Jacoby: Attack the hoop, slow down the game and hope James Harden gets into foul trouble. When the teams played in November the Rockets were in a similar injury situation but were able to ride a big Harden game to a win behind a late three-point play from The Beard. If Harden has a huge night it's hard to slow the Rockets down. He creates threes, gets to the line and collapses the defense. Rick Carlisle knows these things so don't be surprised if Dallas attempts to deny the ball to him to whatever extent they can. It should be noted, however, that Dallas now has a point guard and Houston now has a bench so these teams will look significantly different than the ones we saw earlier in the season.