We've spent a fair portion of the Mavs' 8-4 start crushing Big Wood for falling short of high expectations (with the exception of his 17-rebound effort against the Sixers). The bar for Haywood has been lowered to the point he's simply being asked to be a capable caddie to Tyson Chandler.
We've spent a fair portion of this early season on Barea-Bashing, too; he's on a seesaw this year and his butt just bumped the ground again, with a series of awful shooting games.
But there is a guy who can fix all this … a guy who is the All-Star that Haywood might never be, the All-Star that JJB never even dreams of being:
We begin with some relevant stats from how the two whipping posts, Haywood and Barea, perform whenever they are on the floor together:
When JJB and Haywood are on the floor together...
Offense: 96.8 points/100 possessions
Defense: 97.6 points/100 possessions
Difference: -0.8 points/100 possessions
It's not a winning combination. These numbers confirm what The Eye Test tells us: The Mavs starters gain an early lead, and then the second wave – featuring JJB and Big Wood – drag Dallas back down to sea level or below.
Now, Dirk Nowitzki to the rescue:
When JJB, Haywood, and Dirk are on the floor together...
Offense: 99.3 points/100 possessions
Defense: 90.7 points/ 100 possessions
Difference: +8.6 points/100 possessions
See? It's not so bad! JJB and Big Wood aren't so bad … as long as they have a 25-points-per-game scorer to hand the ball to.
Truth: You could trade Dirk Nowitzki to Nellie's old nemesis, the Pismo Beach Panthers, and his teammates might end up at +8.6 points per 100 possessions.
OK. How about when JJB and Haywood are teamed with the man who is supposed to be Dallas' "other'' All-Star?
When JJB, Haywood, and Butler are on the floor together...
Offense: 86.9 points/100 possessions
Defense: 111.3 points/100 possessions
Difference: -24.4 points/100 possessions
Holy smokes. A minus-24.4?
This is like Yoko Ono to The Beatles.
The big difference, obviously, is the overall effectiveness of Caron Butler vs. the overall effectiveness of Dirk Nowitzki. "The UberMan'' makes JJB and Haywood good. "Tuff Juice'' makes them worse than they are.
But wait … doesn't Caron have an OK plus/minus on his own?
Yes. Interestingly, Butler's plus/minus this year is a sound +6.27. But that all comes from riding the coattails of Dirk (+33.30), Jason Terry (+21.91), and Tyson Chandler (+18.51). That is why Butler's adjusted plus/minus is terrible: -8.86.
Our thesis is correct and our conclusions are indisputable:
Caron Butler – despite improved conditioning and the commitment that comes with being in a contract year, and maybe because of the back spasm problem, too -- has been completely incapable of carrying this team and being the "best player on the floor." When Butler is the "main guy" while Dirk sits – which is part of the job requirements of a "second banana'' on a good team -- the Mavs get punished.
JJB needs to be better.
Haywood needs to be better.
But their limitations are reality, and therefore one great way to help the two backups be better is to play with a great player who lifts their effectiveness. Dirk fills that role beautifully. (People often say Jason Kidd makes the game easier for teammates, but Dirk, in his own way, does the
same thing.) Butler? He has failed miserably at it.
Caron Butler was asked/offered/expected to be the second-best player on this team. It's an honor, of sorts … but he's dropped the baton, and so far he is more like the team's, oh, fifth-best player. If the Mavs' second-level players are to succeed, they need help from him. If the Mavs are to go far this year, they need the same. In fact, we'll go so far as to say that Caron Butler must experience a complete turnaround … or the Mavs might as well shift gears in hopes of relying on others -- More from Jet? Hurry back, Roddy B? Is it February Deadline Time yet? – to do to his heavy-lifting.