Donuts: Why Teams Won't Copy Small Backcourt

If you believe reports, at this rate, every owner will be wearing blue jeans, every coach will be buzzcut and every sixth man will be Larry-tattooed on his bicep. The idea that the Mavs are about to be mimicked by others desirous of stealing their crown extends now to an ESPN TrueHoop suggestion that more teams might try ‘small' backcourts. Allow Tuesday Morning Mavs Donuts to debunk some myths …

DONUT 1: TrueHoop's thesis, detailed in a column headlined "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'': Although we had seen it many times on NBA courts before, playing two small players in the backcourt just doesn't match up with the idea and historic values of size dominating the NBA. We're always enamored with the big man ruling the paint. Also, teams just typically don't win championships with this style.

That is until a few months ago.

The Dallas Mavericks "got away" with playing three point guard-sized players on the court at the same time. …

The quote marks are meant to hint that Dallas DIDN'T "get away'' with anything, that The 3-PG Attack was as cleverly intentional as it was wildly successful.

I didn't see it that way.


DONUT 2: With our Michael Dugat, we looked at the 39 lineups the Mavs had on the floor for at least 20 minutes over the course of the regular season (all according to This accounts for 1921.44 of the possible 3936 minutes in a season (about 49 percent).

Remember, our focus isn't on just how the "little backcourt'' concept worked in the last few games of the Finals (when the entire world got a glance at it.)

Of those 39 the breakdown for lineups including the following was:

*Jason Kidd/Jason Terry: 1067.44 minutes, 2.15 points per minute, 2.01 points allowed per minute, 2052 possessions for, 2015 possessions by opponents, 1.12 points per possession, 1.06 point per possession by opponent, 156 Total Raw +/-, 0.15 Plus/Minus per Minute.

*JJ Barea/Jason Terry: 763.85 minutes, 2.15 points per minute, 1.9 points allowed per minute, 1428 possessions for, 1432 possessions by opponents, 1.15 points per possession, 1.02 points per possession by opponents, 188, Total Raw +/- 0.25 Plus/Minus per Minute.

*Kidd/Barea/Terry: 90.33 minutes, 2.19 points per minute, 1.89 points allowed per minute, 178 possessions for, 175 possessions by opponents, 1.11 points per possession, 0.97 points per possession by opponents, 27 Total Raw +/-, 0.3 Plus/Minus per Minute.

How to interpret some of this stuff?

*Well, most everything Dallas did in the backcourt was effective enough.

*These numbers are inflated for Barea/Terry because they don't include factors such as who was on the floor for the opponent (obviously, when Barea/Terry are in they are usually opposing the other teams backups, which helps their stats.

*As Dugat smartly points out, The 3-PG Attack was utilized far less than we think ... was only used for quick bursts as opposed to being a "staple'' of what Dallas did ... and was only left on the court when it was working.

"Put simply,'' MDug says, "the Mavs didn't live and die with The 3-PG Attack; they either lived with it or pulled it, which basically protects its stats.''

By contrast, Jason Kidd -- the hub of the backcourt in all situations and on both ends of the floor -- didn't sit late in games because the Mavs were struggling or in a close game.

DONUT 3: Truth: This was the year Barea's role was supposed to be reduced. He was going to be the backup PG – and maybe even the backup-backup if Roddy B developed properly.

It was even, maybe, the year Jet's impact was going to lessen – also because of Roddy B and of course because of Caron Butler, too. Caron and Roddy B were last summer's projected starters at the 3 and the 2, respectively. If they stay healthy, JJB is obviously nothing more than Kidd's backup. And Rick Carlisle's got some interesting decisions to make regarding "Mr. Fourth Quarter.''

Both had wonderful seasons in the end. But their wonderful seasons were not fully "planned.''

DONUT 4: TrueHoop: Their best lineups included a backcourt pairing of JJ Barea and Jason Terry paired together or Jason Kidd paired with Terry.

That's only half-right. The Kidd-Jet pairing works, of course; it was Dallas' go-to backcourt down the stretch of virtually every game all year.

But JJB-Jet? Its numbers are inflated by the people it played against.

DONUT 5: Worth noting: TrueHoop's thoughts, like our partial stats, cannot tell the entire story. For instance, we haven't included any weird mixtures of players that played less than 20 minutes as a five-man unit - which accounts for a bit over 50 percent of the season's minutes. And as TrueHoop accurately notes, what really matters about the success of the Dallas backcourt might just be the on-court teammates in the Dallas frontcourt.


DONUT 6: TrueHoop is correct in its general evaluation of Dallas' three guards: … Those three players are very productive offensively. Kidd is now a deadly outside shooter while also adept at setting up his teammates, Terry has been one of the best pick-and-roll and fourth-quarter scorers the last couple seasons, and Barea is great at getting into the paint and causing havoc for the opposing defense.

Mix in JJB's terrific development as a pick-and-roll decision-maker and TrueHoop gets this one right.

DONUT 7: More from the story: The Mavericks used ball movement and shooting to be a suffocating form of offense for the opposing team. They also switched up their defensive looks quite often and were the best team at playing zone for key stretches.

Again, correct – and maybe this evaluation doesn't go far enough, as the Mavs will tell you they played zone defense over the course of the regular and postseasons more than anybody … and better than anybody … regardless of the situation.

DONUT 8: TrueHoop asserts: Undoubtedly, this strategy is going to be copied at some point, as are most title contending teams. Instead of trying to be ahead of the next curve in basketball strategy, struggling franchises can also just choose to bring in players to copy what's already worked in the NBA. It's unimaginative, but that doesn't mean it can't work.

And this is where TrueHoop falls into a familiar trap. The assumption that everyone is going to copycat everything is … well, it's kinda copycatting itself. It's a sort of lazy thinking, really; does anybody really think teams will now PURPOSELY try to find 5-10 combo guards to pair in the same backcourt with 6-2 combo guards?


DONUT 9: It's not just "unimaginative''; it's stupid. And teams that do it will do it because they must, not because they have crafted a Mavs-mimicking plan to win a title with a collection of dwarfs.

The article mentions the idea of the Bobcats playing 6-1 PGs D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker, their No. 1 pick, together.

TrueHoop writes that it would "expect the Bobcats to toss out a lineup of Walker, Augustin, Corey Maggette, Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo when this happens.''

Well, that sounds … awful.

Charlotte won't play that group together, featuring two little guys, because it wants to. It'll do so because it HAS to. And if at any point the Bobcats are granted an opportunity to get bigger and better in the backcourt, they will do so.

As will Dallas.


DONUT 10: You think Rick Carlisle wouldn't prefer a talented 6-7 guy playing 2-guard over a talented 5-10 guy playing there? Why do you think Caron started at the 2 last year? Why do you think Dallas acquired Rudy Fernandez?

If this is truly a purposeful philosophy, why aren't the Mavs trying to acquire Nate Robinson and Earl Boykins?

DONUT 11: The thesis is wrong. So is the conclusion, which goes like this:

The Mavericks winning with a small backcourt surrounding their star and one of the best defensive systems in the NBA may not just be a single season perfect storm. We may see teams trend this way, rather than trying to go out and compile their own version of the Big Three.

We will NOT see teams "trend this way.'' We will see teams trying to acquire Dwight Howard. When that fails, they will try to acquire Deron Williams. And way down the list, when all else fails – as was the case with the "perfect-storm'' 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks – we will see them settle for J.J. Barea.

DONUT 12: One more nit to pick with TrueHoop: Not only is the thesis wrong and not only is the conclusion wrong … one of the foundation facts is wrong:

There is nothing "small'' about Jason Kidd. He is the same height as Wade, he is five pounds heavier than Manu and Kobe, and he's bigger in height and weight than Rose, Deron, Paul, Westbrook, Curry, Billups. … pretty much every accomplished point guard.


When Kidd plays the point, he's a monster in size compared to the guy across from him. Remember, again, Dallas began the season with the 6-4, 210-pound Kidd at the 1 alongside the 6-7, 225-pound Caron. Nothing small about that. And later, when Butler was out and the plan changed, Kidd essentially played the 2 (on defense). So the backcourt of Kidd at the 2 and Terry at the (defensive 1) was actually fairly standard in NBA size.

If copying the 2010-11 champion's "plan'' to be "small'' in the backcourt is such a good idea for 2011-12 … why aren't the Mavs themselves planning to re-use it?

The 'YES. WE. DID.' shirt is smokin'!

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