Friday, December 18, 2015

Mavs vs. Grizzlies

The story of this game was the individual match-up between Zach Randolph and JaVale McGee. That sentence would have been enough to make Mavs fans break out in hives before the season started but JaVale put together an incredible two-way performance tonight that could be the start of something big.
  • Plus/minus doesn't always tell the tale in an individual game but JaVale was +20 in 18 minutes (the highest on the Mavs) and Z-Bo was -17 in 26 minutes (the lowest on the Grizzlies). It was that kind of night.
  • The big move in Memphis over the last week was their decision to bench Z-Bo and Tony Allen and somewhat go away from the Grit 'N Grind style that had been their trademark over the last 5 seasons, There are a lot of different dimensions to that decision both over the short-term and the long-term but what it means for Z-Bo is that he is playing a lot of backup 5 on the 2nd unit and theoretically getting to go up against weaker post defenders and playing in more space as the featured player on the 2nd unit.
  • The problem for Z-Bo on Friday was that JaVale is the Mavs best post defender and he's their best roll-man (which is the weakest part of Z-Bo's weak defensive game) so he basically walked into a buzz-saw. JaVale has Rudy Gobert type length and he absolutely swallowed up Z-Bo - he blocked him 2 or 3x and he quickly got in Z-Bo's head. He's a human fly-swatter and he covered up Z-Bo and prevented him from ever getting a clean look at the basket. 
  • On the other side of the floor, the Mavs absolutely roasted Z-Bo in the two-man game. They paired JaVale with either Dirk or Charlie V and the floor was spread wide open for JaVale and the ball-handler to play the two-man game. There's almost no way to guard JaVale in space because you can throw the ball anywhere within a 10 foot radius of the rim and he can reach out and finish it. When he's cooking, he's like a super-sized version of Brandan Wright. Long story short, the Mavs need to get him more minutes ASAP.
  • Rick Carlisle often says that JaVale's playing time is situational because so many teams are going small and he wants to play him against big men but the way he played tonight kind of makes you want to force other teams to adjust to him. 
    • It comes down to JaVale vs. Dwight Powell for minutes as a 2nd-unit 5 and roll man who takes advantage of the spacing that Dirk provides and as much as I like Powell his upside isn't nearly as high at this point in his career. Powell can't defend in the post or block shots or rebound or finish around the rim like JaVale. I'm a #teamPowell guy but I'm #teamJaVale for life.
  • One interesting that Carlisle said in the post-game is that JaVale's injuries over the last 2 years were career-threatening, which I had never heard before. I knew they were serious but I didn't realize they were that serious. The exciting part about that is it explains why he needed so much time to recover and why his playing time could be trending upward over the next few weeks. 
  • The other guy who really benefitted from JaVale's presence on the floor was Chandler Parsons as they seemed to have instant chemistry in the two-man game. There's really no way to stop a 6'10 guy throwing a lob to a 7'1 guy 2 feet above the rim, especially when he can throw a skip pass to a 7'0 guy spotting up at the three-point line. That three-man unit could be a real buzzsaw against 2nd units and it's enough to get me legitimately excited about the Mavs.
    • "I really like playing with JaVale McGee and the lob threat is a game changer for us. That's not taking anything away from ZaZa because he's playing unbelievable and he played great tonight too but when JaVale rolls like that and I'm handling the ball it gives our team another look. When pulling out shooters,him diving to the rim just opens up the whole floor for us." - Parsons
  • Going back to Z-Bo, you could see why him getting benched was somewhat inevitable just because of how glacially slow he was moving on defense. There was one sequence where JaVale slipped a screen in the high-post for an alley-oop where Z-Bo's defense was just pitiful. He could barely get up and down the floor and he repeatedly let Charlie 3 beat him down the court for open shots in the 2nd half. He's at the point (if he wasn't already) where he's on David Lee-Enes Kanter status where you want to get him defending in space whenever he's on the floor and particularly when he's playing at the 5.
  • Something else to watch for Memphis going forward is what happens when Brandan Wright returns from injury because it's going to be hard for him and Z-Bo to play together on a 2nd unit. That was a signing that made sense on paper but leaves you scratching your head a bit in terms of the overall fit with the team since Marc and Z-Bo are both better in a post-heavy offense and Wright needs to be the roll man in a spread pick-and-rol to be effective. If Memphis is going to have one of their two big men in the game the entire game, there's no room for Wright to do what he does best. 
Memphis new 4-out offense got off to a great start in the 1Q and it clearly caught the Mavs a bit by surprise in terms of defending it but Dallas figured it out at half-time and was able to extend their lead at the start of the 2nd half.
  • The plus side for the Grizzlies was that playing in space really freed up Mike Conley who had one of his better games of the season as a scorer with 20 points on 14 shots. The Mavs just had no one in their starting line-up who could keep up with him speed-wise and he repeatedly blew by Deron Williams whenever he wanted. That's something to watch with Dallas - how they match up with fast 1's - and it's an area where you really saw them miss Devin Harris, who was out with a hamstring strain.
  • The problem for the Grizzlies was that none of their three wings around Gasol and Conley - Courtney Lee, Matt Barnes, Jeff Green - were really able to take advantage of that space and create shots off the bounce. They are all better off as spot-up shooters and I don't really trust any of them as secondary playmakers. Green is theoretically supposed to be that guy but he had an absolutely horrible night - 2 points on 7 shots in 34 minutes - and he looked pretty disinterested for most of it. He was throwing up garbage shots and he couldn't stay in front of Parsons at all.
    • Here's a line-up that Rick Carlisle would definitely try - Conley, Chalmers, Lee, Barnes, Gasol. Conley and Chalmers are their best two all-around offensive creators and that's probably the best way to juice their offense. Rick absolutely loves his 2 PG line-ups and he's willing to give up some perimeter size on defense in order to have 2 guys who can initiate offense and run pick-and-rolls on opposite sides of the court.
  • What the Mavs started doing in the 2nd half was just isolating Dirk on Barnes and Green once he got into a rhythm and those guys had no prayer of doing anything to him on defense. That might be the real problem with the Grizzlies new 4-out look - are they going to be potent enough on offense to make up for the lack of defense at the 4 position?
A few other observations from this one:
  • Marc Gasol got really outplayed by Zaza Pachulia. Zaza forced Marc into taking some tough shots out of the post and he dominated him on the boards. The one hole in Marc's game is that he's never been a great scorer and he's always been more comfortable being an offensive hub and setting everyone else up instead of hunting for his own shot. That's something that might become more obvious without Z-Bo out there. He's playing in more space and that means more of a spotlight on his game. Zaza was playing with more energy all night and there were times when Marc was really huffing and puffing out there. 
  • Jarell Martin got in the game during garbage time which got me unreasonably excited. I'm a big Jarell Martin fan and I think he's got a chance to be a real player in this league. To compare him to someone else from tonight - he's like Dwight Powell except stronger and thicker and if Dwight could stroke jumpers off the dribble and handle the ball like a guard. Martin has a much higher ceiling than JaMychal Green but he's obviously nowhere near as ready to contribute to an NBA team contending for a playoff spot at this point so it will be interesting to see how Joerger handles that. I'd be really interested to see what Martin can do with B-Wright when he gets back.
  • When one door opens, another one closes. That's the NBA for you. This looks like the end for Vince Carter, which is kind of sad but it does feel like it's time. He was basically a coach on the bench and he went out to halfcourt a few times during stoppages of play to talk to guys like JaMychal Green and give them pointers on what was going on out there. Vince had a great run and it looks like Dallas was really the end of the road for him. I'm sure he appreciates the golden parachute that Memphis gave him on his way out the door and it's hard to see them picking up his partially guaranteed contract next season.


  1. I saw this game too. I would have also mentioned there was maybe 10 minutes when Z-Bo and Gasol were on the floor together where Z-Bo was guarded by Zaza and the Grizz ran every play on Gasol's side as a pick-n-roll or post-up against Charlie V or Powell.

    I also didn't think McGee really warrants more minutes. He still had several typically boneheaded misses and TO's. The lob dunks were exciting but he was mostly sitting on the weak side. And by the way, the only failed lob was Parsons' so your point kinda fails. I know Tjarks loves length but I don't think McGee can consistently execute for Carlisle ball.

    Parsons looked really good. I didn't notice him playing through injury recovery at all. I'd say he's really the guy they need to maintain their playoff chances.

    1. It's not a matter of McGee warranting minutes so much as the team needing what he could provide. There's no one else with his skill-set and they need the element he provides in terms of protecting the rim and being the roll man.

  2. I did not watch this game.
    The guy the Mavs really miss is one the guys they traded last year: Jae Crowder. The Beast brings to the gym at least three of the five Draymond Green Essentials: the strength to guard bigs, the speed to stay with smalls, and shooting ability (the other two are shot creation and passing). A player like that could be rolled out with basically any mavs lineup and cover up a lot of Dirk's deficiencies too. Just a thought- was the DeCision or the Rondo trade worse for the Mavs? In hindsight it's not even close.
    Don't watch a lot of Celtics either but it seems to me that Crowder is one of a precious few who fulfill part of the mold. I suppose any team could use a guy like that right now, small ball lineup or starter.

  3. The Rondo for Wright trade has become the Powell for Crowder trade. I think Dwight could become a consistent 3-point shooter and if that happens he can become a serious player in this league. We'll need a few more years to really judge that one.