Mavs At 10 Games? Rick's 'It Sucks' Too Harsh

We are 10 games into a 2010-11 season that's left the Dallas Mavericks with a respectable 7-3 record. (No matter that Rick Carlisle thinks "it sucks.'') It's time to make some early observations, and to acknowledge the questions that remain or have arisen. Let's take a look at Five Issues - a fragile conclusion and four itching questions - based on what we see in this first-eighth of a season:

1. Tyson Chandler

Advanced Stats: 18.1 PER, 77.1 eFG%, 144 offensive rating, 97 defensive rating

Per Game: 8.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 77.1 FG%, 84.8 FT%, 1.5 blocks, 26.1 minutes

Per 36 Minutes: 11.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks

First and foremost has been the ascension of importance and impact of Tyson Chandler. When we watched and critiqued the FIBA World Championships some questioned whether or not we should be excited about what we were seeing from Chandler.

At the time, we said "yes and no." While not overly enthusiastic about his diminishing role on that team, we were very pleased with his physical prowess which seemed to reinforce the notion that he was healthy; leading us to wax optimistically over what that could mean to the Mavs.

From Day One, it has meant this team has found a player capable of spear-heading the defense and acting as enough of a threat on offense to keep opposing defenses honest … as well as occasionally lifting home crowds to their feet. It's meant that the Dallas Mavericks have a young (remember, he's only 28), athletic center that could dissolve the long held fear of being shredded by exactly those type of players at the five position.

To be as concise as possible, it's been a positive difference-maker.

Given his recent past, health remains a concern with Chandler. Should he be able to avoid injury, he could leave the Mavs with a tough decision to make. Has his play been enough to remove his inclusion in any trade discussions as the deadline approaches? And, will it be enough to warrant thoughts on the offer of a lucrative extension … especially in the wake of the Brendan Haywood signing and the impending labor agreement changes?

2. Brendan Haywood

Advanced Stats: 7.6 PER, 53.6 eFG%, 90 offensive rating, 101 defensive rating

Per Game: 3.4 points,5.4 rebounds, 53.6 FG%, 21.1 FT%, 1.1 blocks, 20.4 minutes

Per 36 Minutes: 6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks

Perpetually tied to the rise of Chandler has been the standing of Haywood. When Chandler was named the Game 1 starter, we were all left to wonder how Haywood would accept the news. After 10 games, the reviews may be somewhat mixed … but that mixture carries many more fears and questions that one would have hoped.

We've seen one great performance against the Philadelphia 76ers: 17 rebounds to go with six points and imposing defense in only 23 minutes. However, if you remove this game and rely on the nine others, you're left with a player vastly underplaying his talent … and his new contract.

In three different games Haywood has gone scoreless, and in six out of 10 games he has scored three or less points.

Perhaps Mavs fans and media have been spoiled by the graciousness of players like Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, who have shown they're capable and worthy starters only to move fluidly to the bench without hiccup. Perhaps we have … yet the first subtle whispers of alarm must be present surrounding Haywood's early-season play.

A 7-foot center known for his inside presence grabbing only three total rebounds in 45 minutes of action, as Haywood managed in the two games against the Hornets, may be something more than subtle … and hard to justify. At what point do you begin to question his desire? At what point do you not start to wonder if Ian Mahinmi shouldn't be seeing the court over Brian Cardinal, but over Haywood?

We're not there yet.

It's very early in the season, and things can change in a moment, but for the moment Haywood has rendered himself more of a question than a solution. He clearly has the talent, now we must begin to see the results with consistency ... regardless of how he may internally feel about not starting.

3. Caron Butler

Advanced Stats: 10.4 PER, 40.4 eFG%, 87 offensive rating, 102 defensive rating

Per Game: 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 36.4 FG%, 65.4 FT%, 1.4 steals, 2.1 turnovers, 30.6 minutes

Per 36 Minutes: 15.6 points, 5 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 2.4 turnovers

Coming into the preseason, the hope was that a full camp would allow Butler to get comfortable and continue to grow in his still new surroundings. After seeing his dedication this summer in slimming down and training hard, the hope was that the "Tuff Juice" we saw in the final two games of the Spurs series would arrive ready to contribute at an All-Star level.

Whether injuries are to blame or not (Butler has missed three of the ten games with back spasms), to this moment that has not happened.

Butler has looked strong at times … not coincidentally, those times have come when he has made a concerted effort to attack the paint and either finish at the rim or get to the free-throw line. Unfortunately, something that has been a long-time strength for him has not been there to rely upon: a jump shot.

Caron is shooting only 36.4 percent from the floor and has the lowest offensive rating (87) on the team of players who've contributed over 100 minutes.

Prior to the season, we at DB.com had a healthy debate as to who should start at small forward, Shawn Marion or Caron Butler. While it's too early to change one's stance with certainty, the early results do seem to lean in Marion's favor.

Butler has started seven games, which the Mavs won four of. Marion has started three. The Mavs were 3-0.

Yet, the simplicity of that statement may be misleading. Butler was also the starter prior to DeShawn Stevenson moving into the starting lineup at shooting guard, and just as importantly, prior to Jason Terry moving back to the bench to provide a much needed scoring lift to the second unit.

Another aspect that hinders both Butler and the team's production when he is on the court may fall beyond Butler's control. On multiple occasions, Butler has received the ball on the wing and all motion has ceased. Players that are generally curling around picks, cutting to the basket or working to create space find themselves rooted where they stand.

Perhaps this is conditioning from their expectation of Butler to shoot, yet it hinders both his ability to be successful and the teams.

Whether learning how to coexist on the court with Butler is still in process, or the onus is worn by Butler to find a way to mirror some of the cutting and movement Marion made in his absence, when the Matrix found ways to score effectively in two out of three games without having plays called for him; a solution must be found for this team to reach its optimal levels of triumph.

Butler is too talented to be rendered a spot-up shooter waiting idly in the wings of the Mavs offensive attack.

4. Backup Point Guard (JJ Barea)

Advanced Stats: 12.1 PER, 43.2 eFG%, 98 offensive rating, 106 defensive rating

Per Game: 8.7 points, 3 assists, 40.7 FG%, 85 FT%, 14.8 3-PT%, 1.5 turnovers, 19.7 minutes

Per 36 Minutes: 15.9 points,5.5 assists, 2.7 turnovers

Whether it's fair or not, the weight of this role falls squarely on JJ Barea's shoulders. After a horrendous start, Barea began to play very well as the Mavericks won four games in a row, before a poor shooting performance (2-13 from the floor) in the rematch with the Hornets.

Barea's fearlessness in attacking the rim is a trait no other player getting consistent minutes thus far has perpetually shown. Dirk Nowitzki has displayed a higher proclivity for getting around his man this season, but needn't rely on this method of scoring thanks to a deadly jumper. Butler has shown a willingness to mirror this level of attack at times, but fails to do so consistently.

Because of this ability to get by his man, Barea often finds himself in position to create for others when his shot is challenged. And, at times, he has done this very well. However, he has lacked the consistency to be labeled as steadily reliable in this function.

He remains at his best when attacking and scoring. In other words, he remains a shooting guard being asked to perform the duties of a point guard.

Barea has managed to silence his reasonable critics for a moment, but can he consistently do so?

5. Rodrigue Beaubois

No Statistical information available for 2010-11 season

At best, the feeling here must be labeled as "incomplete." At worst, it can be defined as a "disappointment."

In truth, it's both.

The Thanksgiving holiday is quickly approaching and we've yet to see Roddy B in action, and remain unlikely to do so in the immediate future. For the second time since his injury, he is out of the walking boot … and just as it has since his first flood of graceful scoring; our anticipation continues to grow.

When you consider how strong this team has looked at times, including wins over early season contenders like the Hornets and Celtics, it's tantalizing to consider what they "could" be should Roddy B return healthy and ready to fulfill the lofty expectations fans have thrust upon him.

For now, we must remain fervent in our hopes, yet bound by our patience. Amongst all of the thoughts for a possible upgrade at the trade deadline, Roddy B may offer the most direct path to the steps that lead to the next plateau of success.

Still, for now, all we have are those hopes.

Beyond these five points, there are many more worth paying notice. DeShawn Stevenson has stepped into the role of starting at shooting guard with a level of skill and effectiveness few thought possible before the season.

Brian Cardinal has give solid, if unspectacular, minutes and along with Stevenson, has brought a hint of what was lost when Eduardo Najera left the team: toughness and a willingness to get under the opponent's skin.

When caught in the disappointment of Wednesday's loss to the Hornets, we must remind ourselves of what may be a defining strength if it can be maintained. The Mavs have shown the ability to play with true physicality and compete with their defense.

After 10 games the Mavs remain the league leader in opponent's field-goal shooting percentage, holding them to 42.9 percent from the floor. They rank fourth in points allowed per game with 92.6, a number below last season's league leader. In defensive efficiency, or points allowed per 100 possessions, Dallas stands in at fourth best in the NBA with 99.1.

Thanks in large part to the defensive pressure they are putting on opponents, the Mavs also come in as the number one team in the differential between the eFG percent they are shooting (53.26) and that they are holding their opponents to (46.84). Meaning, they are shooting 6.42 eFG percentage points higher than their opponents.

The numbers are there. So far, this is a team capable of standing defensively with anyone in the league.

While questions remain, as they do for all teams, there is reason for hope in Dallas. The Mavericks have shown enough to nourish that optimism in the first 10 games. But, things can change quickly in the NBA. Can it continue? We'll just have to watch and see what happens over the next 72 games. … and look for these five issues to all turn to the positive.


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