In a sense, the Mavs have asked Peja to replace Caron. As Mavs fan Dr. Phil likes to ask, ‘How's that workin' for ya'?' It's the 10-game barometer mark for Peja, a good time to spend a dozen Donuts on some thoughts …
DONUT 1: First of all, DB.com staffer Kevin Brolan, who did lots of numbers-crunching here, acknowledges that "Peja-vs.-Caron'' puts too fine a point on it. … as much as an attention-grabbing headline it might be.
But 10 games in … and Peja playing Caron Butler's old spot … this is fair, right? Acknowledging that by tonight (Pacers at Mavs at the AAC) we might know more about Peja's future role as it relates to the acquisition of Brewer ...
How is Peja (and the team) doing so far with Peja as the new starting small forward?
DONUT 2: It's hard to believe it's been such a short time, but yeah, it's been 10 games since Peja Stojakovic made his first appearance in a Mavs uniform. Maybe we won't worry about "fair'' regarding the different strengths and weaknesses. But we feel it appropriate to address how the team functions with each player on the floor.
Caron played in 29 games for the Mavs before going down, so Peja's sample size is roughly a third of what we saw from Butler. It's obviously not an ideal sample size, but it's all of the observation time we have to this point.
DONUT 3: Individual Stats:
(10 Gms) Peja- 23.1 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 43% FGP, 34% 3PF, 7/8 FT, 88% FTP
(29 Gms) Butler- 29.9 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 45% FGP, 43% 3PF, 68/88 FT, 77% FTP
DONUT 4: How do we translate those?
From an individual standpoint, it should come as no surprise that Caron was the superior piece statistically. Though he did play nearly seven more minutes than Peja's current pace, he had a higher field-goal percentage, got to the line with higher frequency, and surprisingly had a better 3-point shooting percentage. The minute differential may have some relevance to the conversation, but it cannot be ignored that Caron is superior in nearly every meaningful category.
DONUT 5: Now, we say this while also pushing the idea of The Presence of Peja.
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DONUT 6: Where are Peja's strong points in terms of raw stats?
Peja is a better free-throw shooter (an advantage he has over nearly everyone in the league) when he gets there, and he averages only 0.6 turnovers per game compared to Caron's 1.7. Flat out, Peja is a player with high BBIQ who won't give up silly turnovers. Also, despite him having a lower 3-point percentage this year, you would have to give us some pretty favorable odds to pick Caron over Peja in a shooting contest.
Stats do lie. We watch Peja shoot 3's every day in practice. Do not bet against him.
DONUT 7: Team Offensive Stats
Peja- 109.3 Team PPG, 8.1 Point Diff, 9-1 Record, .900 Win %
Caron- 97.9 Team PPG, 4.2 Point Diff, 21.8 Record, .724 Win %
DONUT 8: OK, let's translate this one.
With Peja active over the last 10 games, the Mavs have been absolutely torrid on offense. Based on their point differential, it's clear the defense has taken a step back during this run, but the offense has been so outrageous that the Mavs' point differential has increased by nearly four points. Somewhere John Hollinger is break dancing!
DONUT 9: More tests are coming … The Pacers are here on Friday. The Grizzlies are here on Sunday. Dallas is at lowly Minny next week and then on Wednesday, in a marquee matchup, Peja gets to go to New Orleans to face his old team, the Hornets.
By the way: We're hosting a DB.com Mavs Get-Together on Wednesday, March 9. We'll do it at our favorite Dallas hangout, ThreeSheets! Half-price pizza for the first half, a few free UberMan t-shirts to be tossed about, and yeah, I'll probably buy you a shot at the end of the first quarter of Mavs-Hornets! See you at the Get-Together!
DONUT 10: So the sample size will grow. We'll learn more … But how do you argue with the fact Dallas has won nine of 10 games with an active Peja? We're not saying this hot streak is just because of The Peja Presence, obviously. But his integration into the program has been smooth … and from our study to your Eye Test, we think it's clear that the floor opens up and everyone else shoots with confidence while he plays.
DONUT 11: This much is true about Caron's Mavs vs. Peja's Mavs: While Caron was shooting well from the perimeter, teams still didn't respect his ability enough to always stay with him on the weak side. With Peja, teams HAVE to stay with him, which was the hope when the Mavs brought him in. This makes it more difficult for teams to rotate defensively and makes it much more difficult to double-team Dirk, as passing out of the double-team has become a strength of his.
If opposing teams decide that they will play man to man without double teams in order to keep Peja from getting open, then that means Dirk will see more single coverage.
And isn't that – setting up Dirk to succeed – the whole point of both the acquisition of Caron and the acquisition of Peja?
DONUT 12: One more thing. Team Defensive Stats
Peja- 101.2 Opp PPG, 14.6 Opp SF PPG Caron- 93.7 Opp PPG, 13.5 Opp SF PPG
What does this means? The long and short of Peja Stojakovic has always been great offensive player with problems defensively. To an extent, that is what the Mavs are getting from him. Opposing teams are scoring almost eight more points per game with him active instead of Caron. It was no coincidence that Peja played his fewest minutes as a Maverick (nine minutes) in a loss to the Nuggets while he would've been assigned to guard Carmelo Anthony, The Mavericks' zone defense can hide some of his deficiencies, but his one on one defense against prolific small forwards will be a problem going forward for the Mavericks.
All of that being said, the scoring output by the opposing team's starting small forward isn't as different as you would think when comparing Peja to Caron. The scoring average of SF's he is matched up with is just a tad over one point more than Caron's and that includes the 42-point bomb dropped by Anthony on February 10th.
DONUT 13: Add it all up, and what the Mavs are now is an offense with tons of options, and one that can average 109 points over a 10-game span. This is what The Triangle of Trust was hoping to get from Caron's involvement with the team, an involvement made possible in a blockbuster trade last season … and it's a compliment to all involved that in a relatively quiet "minor'' pickup of Peja, the Dallas Mavericks have reaped the same sort of rewards.
How's that workin' for ya'? In the end, as different as they are, Peja is workin' for the Mavs sort of like Caron was workin' for the Mavs.
And now a decision must be made: Can Corey's Mavs do the same?
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