Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mavs vs. Pelicans

When people say that the NBA season is too long and that teams play too many games, this is the type of game they are thinking about. The Pellies were playing in the second night of a back-to-back with six rotation players out while the Mavs are still trying to find their sea legs with 3/5 of their starting line-up dealing with lingering injuries, minutes restrictions and off-season surgeries. To top it off, the two teams are playing again on Monday in New Orleans. There was just no need to stuff an extra game in that three-day span and the result was some really ugly and uncompelling basketball played in front of a disinterested home crowd that didn't have many chances to get into the game. It was the farthest thing from fantastic.

  • The story with New Orleans is always Anthony Davis and when he rolled his ankle in the first-half it put them behind the 8-ball in a way they never really recovered from. They needed peak AD in all 39 minutes he was on the floor and he didn't really seem to get his timing and explosiveness back until after the half. I have much more about him coming in a feature for RealGM.
  • Alexis Ajinca had 8 points on 4-5 shooting and he was +7 in his time on the floor but you still saw the holes in his game and why Alvin Gentry only gave him 16 minutes. He has a decent mid-range jumper and he can protect the rim but he has hands of stone and he's not the most nimble or quick-reacting player either.
  • Ajinca is an NBA player but I'm not sure you need to sign a backup 5 to a long-term deal when the market for back-up 5's is more flooded than it has ever been. What I mean by that is AD is going to have play at least some time at the 5 this season behind Asik and that's going to be the case for a lot of teams in the league - 4's are becoming backup 5's and 3's are becoming backup 4's so your roster needs fewer 5's and more 4's and 3's than a generation ago. What that also means is that a guy like Ajinca is going to go up against significantly better competition on a nightly basis at his spot in the rotation. Nene, Tiago Splitter, Joakim Noah, (possibly Andrew Bogut), Kosta Koufos - these guys are all backup 5's now.
  • Luke Babbitt was getting blown by on the perimeter by a clearly hobbled Chandler Parsons and I'm not sure who that says more about. New Orleans played him as a 3 and Dallas played a lot of different line-ups so he ended up guarding a lot of different types of players and whoever he was guarding - whether it was a guard, a wing or a big man - had a huge advantage and the Mavs repeatedly attacked him whenever he was on the floor. He had 5 fouls in 19 minutes, which pretty much summed up his night. His three-point shooting is helpful but I'm not sure you can really play him as a 3 and there's no point in playing him as a 4 on a team with Davis and Ryan Anderson. You don't need a pale imitation of Anderson playing next to Anderson.
  • Rick Carlisle praised Ish Smith before the game but I kind of wonder if he was playing possum because the Mavs had the scouting report down on him cold and they exposed a lot of his weaknesses tonight. Mainly that he can't shoot and he can't finish at the rim. He's really fast and he's a great passer but it's hard for a 5'10 guy to succeed at the NBA level if the other team doesn't have to guard him - Ish missed several wide open shots at the front of the rim and I'm still not quite sure how he managed to pull that off. The smaller you are, the fewer holes you can have in your game and Ish has a lot of them. There's a reason this guy has played on 10 teams in 6 seasons. 
  • Eric Gordon had a good all-around game and he knocked down a few huge 3's to key a 4Q comeback but his shot selection still left a lot to be desired. Just because you can rush up the shot doesn't necessarily mean you have too - not when you are playing next to Anthony Davis. If you get him the ball on most possessions good things are probably going to happen. As a Mavs fan, I watch Gordon and I really worry a lot about Chandler Parsons knee surgery. These things don't always get better and Eric Gordon is the perfect example of a guy who was never quite the same after he went under the knife. 
  • Dante Cunningham had a tough game I think because he was playing mostly as a 3. I hate playing 4's as 3's in the modern NBA. Cunningham is a good shooter but he's not a 3-point shooter and he's a good defender but he doesn't need to be getting down in a stance and chasing smaller guys 25+ feet from the rim. He should be in a smaller role as a 4 playing next to Davis as a 5 but the Pels don't exactly have a lot of options in their rotation right now and he's one of a number of guys being stretched beyond their comfort zone.
  • I'm not really sure Alonzo Gee is an NBA player but he's definitely a great athlete at 6'6 225. When the Pels put him on Parsons, it was over. There was just no way for Parsons to get around him - Gee was pressing him full court and there was nothing he could do. I guess he has a role as a defensive stopper but he only played in 54 games last season and he couldn't stick in either Denver or Portland because you have to play on both ends of the floor to last in the league and he doesn't seem to have any particular strength on offense.
  • I'm pretty positive Toney Douglas is not an NBA player. He only played in 12 games for the Pels last season and that was his 6th team in 4 years. His calling card as an NBA player was his speed and defensive ability and he's not very fast anymore. He stole the ball late in the game and was on a breakaway and it was a glacially slow breakaway. I get that New Orleans has some familiarity with him but I have a hard time believing he was the best guard not currently in the league when the Pels signed him.
  • This is probably how I'd have the New Orleans rotation with everyone healthy:
    • 1-3: Holiday, Cole, Pondexter, Evans, Gordon (they are all fairly interchangeable - slide them in and out depending on whose playing well)
    • 4: AD (20%), Anderson (50%), Cunningham (30%)
    • 5: Asik (35%), AD (65%)
What all these injuries have really exposed is the very back of the Pels roster. They have a lot of guys - Ish Smith, Toney Douglas, Kendrick Perkins, Alonzo Gee - who probably shouldn't be in the league anymore. 99% of the time not maximizing spots 13-15 on your roster isn't a big deal but this is one of the times that it is. The same thing happened in OKC last season when they tried to get cute by giving roster spots to guys like Sebastian Telfair. When that caliber of player has to play 20-25 minutes a night in the NBA, he gets exposed pretty quickly. A team that's playing two guards like Ish and Douglas in crunch time is just going to have a hard time beating anyone. A good front office wins those type of decisions on the margins and that's one area where the Pels have really come up short in recent years.

The sad part about it is there's a lot of 5th and 6th guards on NBA rosters who are dying for a chance to play and who I'd love to see get the type of chances that the guys in New Orleans have gotten. Some names that intrigue me scrolling through the depth charts - Russ Smith, Seth Curry, Shelvin Mack, Ian Clark, Spencer Dinwiddie, KJ McDaniels (!!), Glenn Robinson III, CJ Wilcox, Tyler Ennis, Ray McCallum, Garrett Temple. This is going to be beating a dead horse but I'd sure love to see Perry Jones 3 on this roster.
  • Dirk was awful in the first half and pretty good in the 2nd half - the only difference was that his shot wasn't falling early and started going in late. When his shot isn't falling, something that happens a lot more often these days, it is bad news bears for the Mavs because he sure isn't doing much else.
  • I am really worried about Parsons. It's not so much that he's playing with zero lift and can't get off the ground or get around more athletic defenders right now. It's more the timeline of the whole situation.
    • He sits out for two weeks at the end of the last season because of lingering knee issues. They bring him back for the playoffs and he plays 35 minutes in Game 1 and doesn't look very good so he gets shut down for the rest of the series. After that, they announce he needs a minor knee surgery which ends up being a "hybrid microfracture" which they keep super hush-hush the whole time.
    • There's only two possible explanations - they rushed him back too quickly and he ended up making the injury worse or he never should have been playing on that knee in the first place. If it was a minor surgery maybe it's not that big a deal except that it has been six months and he can barely move and he's on a 15-minute a night restriction - that doesn't really sound like the recovery period from a minor surgery!
    • You put it all together and you can't help but wonder if they are rushing him back again because I can't say I can recall many guys coming back from a knee surgery and playing that few minutes on it for such a significant period of time. It's not a stress injury in the foot or the back - either a knee is right or it isn't. If this all goes away by Christmas and he's at 100%, all's well that end's well. If this is lingering all season, questions have to be asked.
  • I also can't over-emphasize how much this team needs Chandler Parsons. He's the only guy between 6'5 and 7'0 on the roster who can play defense and create his own shot. If they play with any type of size on the perimeter, they are super limited on offense and if they play their best offensive players they have to go with super-small all guard line-ups that get roasted on defense and there isn't exactly a lot of help behind them on that side of the ball.
  • It's the same deal with Wesley Matthews, who has made a miraculous recovery from an Achilles injury but is nowhere near back to 100%. Why a team with relatively low expectations is rushing to get a guy who just signed a $70 million contract back on the floor as soon as humanly possible I leave up to the reader. He's not shooting the ball too well and he's not moving too fast but they still have to have him out there because there's pretty much nothing behind him. The 2P% is going to tell the tale with Matthews this season and he's sitting at a solid 33.3% at the moment. 
  • Deron Williams has been playing a little passively dealing with all the lingering injury issues he has and that's not going to get it done. He has to be out there creating offense because no one else in the starting line-up is doing it. He doesn't really move that well anymore but he's still big as hell for a PG with a great handle and a good shot so he can always create something. I'd like to see him more in the post where he can take advantage of his size. When he's playing well, this version of the Mavs has a chance. 
  • So far this season, Dallas reminds me a lot of those Brooklyn teams that Williams was on. They got a lot of big names with a lot of history but they are S-L-O-W. The two most explosive players in their starting unit are both coming off serious injuries and playing on minutes restrictions. This has to be the slowest starting 5 in the league and their transition defense is non-existent. The lowlight had to be everyone watching Toney Douglas amble his way to the rim after he stole the ball in the 4Q. If a fast team can get the Mavs playing in space on defense, it's over. Until Matthews and Parsons get healthy, I fully expect them to lose every single game they play against a good team.
  • The story of the night for the Mavs was Dwight Powell - he had 15 points and 7 rebounds on 9 shots and he was +20 in 26 minutes. He pretty much single-handedly kept them in the game in the first half and he probably should have won his 2nd consecutive Plains Capital Bank Player of the Game Award. He's going to struggle with consistency and there are going to be nights when his shot isn't falling and he's not playing much defense but the Mavs absolutely have to have him out there. He gives them badly needed energy and athleticism in their frontcourt and he gives them a guy who can finish at the rim, step out to 20 feet and put the ball on the floor and do interesting things with it. The nice thing about the extended run he has gotten at the beginning of the season is that he's starting to play with more confidence because he knows he can have 1-2 bad plays and Carlisle isn't going to yank him immediately.
  • That's pretty much the opposite of the situation with Justin Anderson who I don't expect to play much at all this season. The game is way too fast for him right now and Rick has zero confidence in him even though on paper his skill-set is exactly what this team needs. His problem is that his entire offensive game depends on his 3-point shot and it's hard for a rookie who A) has never shot from that far before B) has never played so few minutes before and C) has never had a smaller role in the offense before in his life to walk into the league and be a consistent 3-point shooter. Pretty much all the value he can provide will come on defense and in transition and that's a pretty tough task for a rookie whose never seen any of these players before, doesn't know their scouting reports and has never faced these types of athletes before.
    • Long story short, Rick Carlisle doesn't play rookies and I don't expect Anderson to break that trend.
  • Jeremy Evans hasn't played much early in the season but the Mavs are going to need to see what they have in him because they need as much length, athleticism and energy as they can find. I'm intrigued by line-ups with Evans and Powell upfront, which would be by far the bounciest duo that Carlisle could put on the floor. That's a combination that could work really well with a healthy Parsons. 
  • In lieu of a long-winded and repetitive rant about JJ Barea, I'll just leave it like this:
I don't watch many Mavs road games because I see so much of them at home so the 3 games this week - TOR, CHA, NOP - were my first extended look at this team this season. It was hard to watch. There was a lot of really bad basketball in that stretch and I found myself asking a lot of existential questions about what I am doing with my life as I biked home from these games. Lets just put it this way - I'm counting the days until Javale McGee gets healthy. 

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