Mavs Donuts: Why Portland Matters

The Deadline Little Lineup ... Why Portland matters ... Let's start the Sixth Man campaign for Devin now, shall we? ... Chandler Parsons' turn-around ... Thursday Mavs Donuts!

DONUT 1: The Deadly Little Lineup

In the Dallas Mavericks preseason, Rick Carlisle experimented with a lineup that very much lacked in size. At the time, it seemed like a cute, gimmicky strategy that might be implemented here and there throughout the season to mix things up.

The lineup featured Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Brandon Wright.

Through four games of the regular season, that five-man unit looks like it will be something the Mavericks will rely on throughout the year. It’s one of the fastest lineups that any team in the NBA will boast this season. Parsons slides over to a version of power forward and Wright serves as the lone big man, constantly setting screens for any of the other four players on offense. It boasts four very capable three-point shooters so the offense can be as simple as one of Harris, Ellis, Nelson or Parsons coming off of a screen from Wright and either taking it to the rim, dropping it off to a rolling Wright or kicking out to one of three shooters behind the arc.

But the real havoc this lineup can cause on opponents is in transition. Each player has quick hands and can make intelligent gambles stealing the ball. They pass well and Wright and Parsons crash the offensive boards in transition.

Speed. It's another arrow in Dallas' seemingly bottomless offensive quiver.

DONUT 2: Randomness as a tool

Defensive liabilities are why it seems like this lineup would fail on paper, but the beauty of it, I think, is the sporadic randomness Carlisle is able to use to implement it.

The opponent never knows when the five-man unit will take the floor, making it much harder to expose its weaknesses. Bigger, stronger post players could theoretically punish Parsons and Wright on the block, but it takes a disciplined team to get make sure those players get the ball during the stretches that lineup is in the game as well as an aware coach to make sure the personnel is in the game to expose it. If a coach has to wait for the next dead ball to insert a Tim Duncan or Zach Randolph into the game then it still gives this lineup time to do its own damage. Before you know it, Tyson Chandler or Dirk Nowitzki are back in the game and it’s a whole new game plan for the opponent.

Those five players all have great instincts and play very unselfishly allowing this lineup to really work at Carlisle’s discretion. Speed kills and this lineup is plenty fast. ... though as David Lord points out here, "SmallBall'' requires balance from the Mavs and more study from us.

DONUT 3: The Importance of Thursday’s Game

Portland, much like Dallas, is flying under the radar this season when people talk about “contenders.” Don’t be mistaken, though, this Blazer team is a juggernaut when everything is clicking. They boast a starting lineup that can score with anybody in the NBA, including the Mavericks.

I say the Blazers, like the Mavericks, will be making noise at the end of the season. Unfortunately, due to the unpredictability of the Western Conference, we don’t know if that will be at the top of the standings or fighting for the eighth seed. Expect the Blazers to have a very similar record as the Mavericks at season’s end, making every head-to-head matchup important even the ones played in November.

There’s a lot to be excited about for the Mavericks through four games, but the reality is that they’ve beaten three teams unlikely to make the playoffs and one team likely to make the playoffs. Tonight will be their first shot at a real test since losing to the Spurs on opening night.

Tipoff is 9:30 p.m. on TNT.

DONUT 4: Devin for Sixth Man

We're careful about sample size around here. We try to temper our enthusiasm for the Mavs (oh, OK, homerism) by knowing that 3-1 is just the beginning of a marathon.

But ...

Devin Harris is now, and we think should absolutely be later, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. And we are happy to be one of the first to champion the campaign. Harris’ role off the bench is as clear and defined as Jason Terry’s was back in his prime.

Carlisle has said that Harris is the most talented player off the Mavericks’ bench and has often subbed him in for Nowitzki as the first player off the bench just to get him in the game as soon as possible. Harris is averaging 13.3 points and five assists per game. His player efficiency rating through four games is 22.65. Tony Parker’s, by comparison, (albeit through only two games, because again, sample size matters) is 19.96.

More importantly, Harris typically finishes games. He is averaging about one more minutes per game than Nelson and has been playing the crunch-time minutes ahead of him. That’s not necessarily an indictment on Nelson who may finish certain games this season ahead of Harris, but shows that the Mavericks consider Harris a starting caliber player.

As much as any player early in the season, Harris is a game-changer off the bench, which is typically the thing that catches the voters’ attention.

There was no way to be certain, as of even a week ago, that Devin was going to follow in the footsteps of Jet and Vince with such definition. But it's happening. We think his candidacy for honors might happen, too.

DONUT 5: The Real Problem With the D

We knew the Mavericks’ offense would be great and the defense would be a work in progress. And of course we keep lamenting about this porous third quarter efforts—they gave up 38 points in the third to the Celtics.

But Tyson Chandler has been every bit the anchor on defense that we hoped he would be thus far. And Parsons, Ellis, Harris and Wright all seem to be showing great defensive instincts, making big plays that lead to transition scoring or momentum shifts. So what’s wrong? Why are the Mavericks giving up 105 points per game?

The problem is that they are allowing far too many three-pointers. They’ve allowed opponents to make 11.5 three pointers per game. Only the Lakers have allowed more made threes and Kobe and company have the potential to be a historically bad defensive team.

The Spurs shot 14-28 from three against the Mavericks. The Jazz shot 14-35 from three. The Mavs have made improvements in the last two games (the Pelicans went 7-19 and the Celtics went 11-31), but even in those games they allowed runs to be made when they were leaving space for shooters.

The problem has been that Ellis, Harris, Dirk Nowitzki and others have allowed their opponents to slip away from them on the wing and in the corner without the ball. Then they try to close out, but leave enough space to get a shot off. That defense would work anywhere else except the NBA.

It’s part laziness/part lack of awareness/part fatigue from the offensive end. It needs to be corrected, however, because it is the one “small” thing that can cancel out so many big things. The Mavericks are scoring a ton of baskets and generally doing a lot of good defensive things, but an opponent will always be able to catch up if they can hit a shot worth three points.

DONUT 6: Fallen Angel Risen

Brandon Wright has shot the ball 18 times this season.

He's made 16 of those shots. That’s 89 percent on the season.

It’s not hard to appreciate that. All the credit goes to Wright, who has always had this sort of offensive potential, but has worked hard the past few years to reduce his limitations (like lack of muscle) allowing him to get more minutes.

He falls into Mark Cuban’s “Fallen Angel” projects who couldn’t fit anywhere else. He’s thriving now.

DONUT 7: The Thunder Will Come

The Oklahoma City Thunder has been decimated by injuries. Any fan of the NBA hates to see great players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant sit on the sideline because of injury.

As bad as it’s been for the Thunder in the luck department early on, it would be unwise to start eulogizing them. If Westbrook and Durant come back at 80 percent of what they previously were then the Thunder is a title contender.

Both may be back by the time the Mavericks play their first game against Oklahoma City on December 28th. Dallas, like every other team in the West, needs to get their wins and get as much separation from the Thunder as possible while they are down because when they come back they will come back gunning for the top of the standings. If last season taught us anything, it’s that every win will mean something in the Western conference standings. An opportunity to finish ahead of the Thunder in April will only be realized with wins though November and December.

DONUT 8: Rondo and the Mavericks?

Rick Carlisle called Rajon Rondo “a walking triple-double” before Monday night’s game against the Celtics. A couple hours later Rondo recorded seven points, nine rebounds and 15 assists in what would be a Dallas win.

Rondo will be a free agent at the end of this season and the market for him is undefined at this point. There will certainly be callers around the trade deadline, but it’s unlikely that any team will trade for him without assurance he will sign an extension. The Celtics may want to attempt to keep Rondo and intrigue him with the promise of similarly tough backcourt mates Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley.

Do the Mavericks have trade assets — at least ones they are willing to part with? They certainly didn't two summers ago, when broke the story of Donnie and Ainge discussing Rondo's availability. But if Rondo does hit free agency, I'd expect him to receive one of those 12:01 a.m. calls from Cuban and company.

There will be money to spend, and ways to find more. Tyson Chandler’s contract will be off the books. If Chandler’s new contract is at a cheaper rate (or if he does not re-sign with Dallas, something Cuban doesn't presently envision) there will be more money to spend.

A lineup of Rondo, Ellis, Parsons, Nowitzki and Chandler/Wright/unknown center would be intriguing, to say the least.

DONUT 9: Marshall on Parsons

We'll let Mike "The Machine'' Marshall handle his review of CP in his own unique way:

Chandler Parsons' work in the win over Boston on Monday?

That's more like it.

"Our Little Piggy'' is becoming a man right before our eyes. (There's a pig bar mitzvah joke in there somewhere but I'll leave that for the next Woody Allen movie.) Chandler Parsons has delivered three straight 20+ point performances and is definitely looking like the dude we got all excited about (shout out D-Mo holla at your boy).

Parsons' three with 2:43 left in the game that put the Dallas Mavericks up eight was the loudest the AAC got on that night. For a dude his size he's absolute nitro in transition. A guy with that 6-9-or-so length shouldn't have that kind of handle and balance on his way to a 29-point night. Yet, on the season as Dallas has started 3-1 ... He's averaging five drives to the basket a game and that's generating 7.8 points on average. Let's take out the season-opener against the Spurs for a look at what Parsons' numbers would look like:

FG% 25/44 for a .568 percentage
3FG% 7/14 for a .500 percentage
4.6 rebounds per game
23.3 points per game

That'll do, Piggy. That'll do nicely.

“You know, it is the fourth game of the season and we’re not perfect,'' said Parsons. "We still have room to improve.''

He was talking about Dallas' bad habit of failing to hold onto big leads. But he might as well have been talking about himself, too. He's not perfect. But these last three games will do.

DONUT 10: “Ah Chihuahua!"

The Texas Legends have a tendency to do what no other D-League team has ever done. They will now go where no other D-League team has ever gone.

In the middle of the team’s training camp, thanks to a partnership undoubtedly escalated by the Chihuahua-born head coach Eddie Najera, they will fly to Mexico to participate in an international scrimmage and host three days of camp that will be open to the public. Be on the lookout here on for more info on this budding relationship as the Legends continue the quest to take the NBADL South of the border!

DONUT 11: Doron on Sugar

"Shout out to the girls that don't need mommy and daddy money .. Or sugar-daddy money. ... You can't say you're 'independent' and live with your mama.'' -- Doron Lamb of the Legends ... yet another reason we want to get to know these fellas.

DONUT 12: The Final Word

There is more behind-the-scenes work than one might realize that goes into giving you the best coverage of your favorite sports teams. This year has been a tough one, in terms of losing DFW sports media members and unfortunately we lost another one when's Willie "Mr. Will'' Martin passed away in his sleep last weekend.

Writers have the luxury of bylines and greater exposure to their name. You may or may not recognize Willie Martin’s name, but he provided hours and hours of video footage for and elsewhere.

He might have been the hardest working man in sports, attending games and practices for the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs, Houston Texans and much more.

He had a unique gift of memory. He could tell you five memorable events that happened on any date of the year. He remembered birthdays, he remembered playoff games from 2002, he remembered the first time he met you.

Willie loved being around sports and he wanted his work to give fans the experience of being there, from pregame moments to the last interview of the night. He loved taking pictures of fans at their first Mavericks game. Last season I covered my first playoff game for Before the game he demanded he take a picture of me on the court by the NBA Playoffs logo. A couple hours later, Vince Carter hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the San Antonio Spurs, perhaps a candidate for the biggest shot in Mavericks history.

Yet, when I see that photo I’ll simply think of the man who took it.

Willie Martin’s work made so many of the articles that I’ve written for better. It makes me happy to think that I can provide fans with Mavericks insight that can hold them off until the next game starts. But Willie wanted you to BE THERE AT THE GAME WITH HIM. That’s why he did what he did.

I’m confident I can speak for Fish and everyone else at when I say it won’t be the same without him.

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