Mavs All-Access: Rondo And The Whale
It’s an odd situation where the 81st game of an NBA season means nothing for a playoff team. That’s where we sit. Even the flimsy premise of 50 wins meaning something to this franchise has gone by the wayside.
The main question was if the Mavericks could pull out another garbage win that means nothing like they did in Denver on Friday night and in L.A. Sunday night. This time it wouldn’t be so simple seeing as the Jazz have an actual direction and are defining the future of their roster and the kind of basketball they want to play even at this late juncture in the season (the same can’t be said for Denver and L.A.).
The decision was made long ago to sit nearly every Maverick of consequence in this game and use the Wednesday finale as a bit of a playoff ramp up. The 109-92 loss (see the gamer here) means less than just about any I can remember this late in the season. If the Mavericks can pull out a home win against Portland on Wednesday night they’ll end the season with 50 wins (perhaps starting a new 50-win streak for future seasons!) and head into the playoffs winning 4 of their last 5. This type of thing has no real effect on the basketball being played but it sure makes the fandom feel better and is quite the contrary to 1-4 skid the Mavs were on just two weeks ago.
(We'd also feel better if Chandler Parsons' knee felt good to him. Which it does not. DB.com will be inside the AAC all day Wednesday and we'll monitor. But for now, the Mavs' feeling is that CP and Devin, with his toe injury, will not play against the Blazers.)
Let’s discuss the things that are still worth discussing while the playoffs wait for the Mavericks in the parking lot with a wooden bat and a bunch of its loser friends.
If you’re a fan of the great Mavericks ball movement that will make an appearance once every fortnight (see the Thunder game April 1st) then this was not your night. The Mavericks only had one more assist than turnover in Monday night’s contest (18 to 17). It’s understood that it’s very difficult to get assists when nobody is hitting shots and it’s also known that the ball won’t fly around when you’re on the court with guys you’re not familiar with. If you take out rotation mainstays Amar’e Stoudemire and JJ Barea from the Mavericks’ box score, the rest of the team shot 19 of 56 and scored 59 points. Not a ton of assists to be had. In fact, the 12-point third quarter was the worst scoring quarter for the Mavericks this entire season. With the lineup they were rolling out and Utah’s aptitude to defend it’s not necessarily shocking.
The 21-percent shooting in the third quarter sent the flag up the pole early in this contest letting us all know that win No. 50 would not be on the horizon.
There are a stable of things that have me encouraged by the Mavericks are playing basketball heading into the playoffs and I’ll start with the most encouraging one, Rajon Rondo.
Rondo has very subtly gotten out of the way on offense and plugged himself in only when necessary (that whole feel thing we’ve talked about). In his last seven games his vitals sit at 10.7 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2 turnovers while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and, magically, 60 percent from three.
Compared to the Rondo we saw here for three months that’s a breathtaking turnaround. Is it Rondo and Rick finally being on the same page? Is it Rondo realizing "less is more''? I assume it’s somewhere in the middle.
The Mavericks have had so many people coming and going into the lineup that the offense can’t really be anything more than vanilla or at most one of those swirl cone things you get from Jason’s Deli. Rondo has seemed to have mastered the basics and every deviation of the Mavs standard offense. Now, more building blocks.
Let’s get to what I really care about with Rajon Rondo and that’s always his effectiveness passing the ball on the offensive end.
The rest of his game is pretty constant. He’s always going to bring an edge on defense and his shooting will never be anything more than streaky but as long as he’s sharing the ball efficiently he’s a net-positive player while on the floor. Let’s use that same sample size, last seven games. The assist-to-turnover ratio sits at 3.87 over his last seven games which is 11th in the league among starting guards in that time frame and would qualify for third in the league if he did it for an entire season.
What’s crazy is his post-All-Star assist-to-turnover ratio is still dragging down around a very pedestrian 2.18 range, which just tells you how bad he was a sharing the ball the first 17 games of the second half. The raw numbers from the last seven are 54 assists to just 17 turnovers.
He’s also somehow hit 3 of his last 5 threes and 6 of his last 8 free throws. The key part about his shooting is that teams are consciously leaving him open due to his reputation and he’s actually making them pay, hitting 6 of his last 9 when a defender is 6+ feet away.
No matter what team the Mavericks catch in the first round (Houston, San Antonio and not quite as much for the outside shot of the Clippers) they’re going to have to defend the three-point line and that’s a large reason for Rajon Rondo even being here. Overall Rondo is only allowing 30.2 percent on three-pointers that he defends and that’s -4.7 percent behind the league average on such shots. The Spurs guards that he’s defended have only hit one three out of the 13 they’ve taken against Rondo on the season, and granted, the players he defends aren’t illustrious three-point threats (Parker will hit them when they matter but isn’t a sniper by any means). On the other hand, the Rockets have taken 16 threes with Rondo defending and they’ve made six. That’s probably just The Harden Effect but it needs to stopped. Houston would live with every single player shooting 37 percent from three because of the sheer volume that they throw up. Houston overall turns Rondo into an average defender but does he in turn pull their offensive prowess back down to earth in an epic strength-vs.-strength tug of war?
It has to start at the three-point line.
Dirk Werner Nowitzki? We’re talking about a human being that averages 25.6 points, 10.1 boards and 2.5 assists while shooting 46 percent from the field in his 135 playoff games. So, will we get a glimpse of our old friend "Playoff Dirk''?
According to his last five games he’s already arrived. He wasn't in Utah, of course, having joined TY and Monta in scooting home early. But a Premium Mavs study of the return of "Playoff Dirk'' is forthcoming. Stay tuned.
Another very sneaky reason to be pleased with what’s been happening over the last few weeks is that the Mavericks have shown the league that Raymond Felton is alive and well ... so that they can possibly trade him this off-season. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t like this discussion because it’s often times used as a debate tactic by the less-informed fan. What I’m talking about is the idea that the Mavericks have very little interest in the draft and acquiring players through it. If you’re not aware of this, welcome to Dallas. We also have a river that smells like boiling crap and best of luck driving anywhere for the majority of the day.
The conversation typically starts with a quick examination of the Mavericks draft history and the star players that came into the league in the picks following the Mavs selections and then it’s surmised that the Mavericks “don’t develop players.” It’s two different conversations.
The Mavericks have circumvented the draft for more than a decade now and while it’s probably not the way I’d choose to go about general managing (nobody asked me) it has obviously worked. For some reason it’s cute and clever when a team like the Green Bay Packers ignore free agency but when a team thinks they can beat the system by not partaking in the draft it’s some devious endeavor. This team owes you zero apologies for the fact that you don’t have a shiny new young toy every off-season. We’ve gotten a lifetime full of 50-win seasons and a championship via this method. So, maybe don’t try to teach the award-winning dog at the Westminister Dog Show new tricks.
The reason this comes up is from watching Rudy Gobert on Monday night. Yeah it sucks that that guy isn’t a Maverick but it also sucks that we can’t just have a roster of fun young players 1-through-12 unless you’d like to be the Bucks or Jazz and not compete.
The Mavericks held the 13th pick in the 2013 NBA draft and they passed on Giannis Antetokounmpo (God bless you Bucks writers who have to type that name frequently), Gorgui Dieng, Dennis Schroder and Rudy Gobert in hopes of clearing as much cap space as possible for Dwight Howard.
This is something that I have always been firmly against and I guess that’s easy to say now that none of their big game fishing plans have worked out. But I’ve never liked devoting entire off-seasons to a quick-fix type of player. I saw the roster we were left with after Deron Williams took more money. I saw what waiting for LeBron and CP3 and Dwight has gotten us. I would have zigged when I think the Mavericks front office believed they owed it to the fanbase to zag and chase the big names.
While everybody was going after the blue whale I’d gladly take two or three orcas.
But, again that’s not the road they chose. In the short-term it’s easy to say "the Mavericks don’t care about developing players'' and point to the barren drafts that the club has had in an attempt to roll the whole thing together. If you like that championship then you can’t also bitch about the absence of young rising players on the roster.
Back to the original lazy comment, "The Mavericks don’t develop players.'' While it might be true that the Mavericks don’t often draft a player that flourishes into an asset that is a no-brainer to be re-upped for a second contract, they do it in other ways. Don’t look towards the draft. That’s not their game. There are examples in the cases of Devin Harris who was eventually flipped for future Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd, and JJ Barea turning into a player the Mavs just couldn’t afford to keep. The things that I notice the most when we start the Asset Development conversation is that most people don’t want their players to be assets. Well, welcome to the money-making enterprise that is professional sports.
How quickly we forget that the Mavericks turned Brandan Wright into a player worthy of flipping in a deal that the majority of us agreed at the time had to be done. Throw Jae Crowder in there as well. Let’s not forget about Shane Larkin, either. The Knicks couldn’t have been that over-the-moon for simply Jose Calderon. Larkin made the deal work that brought the Mavs their 2015 MVP in my estimation.
The Mavericks aren’t always in the developing -players business but they’re constantly in the asset-development game. ... and as DB.com has called it, the "Asset Management'' game.
The big question that came to light after the new CBA propaganda came along was whether these new rules would make the Mavericks shift their philosophy and start drafting like their roster depended on it. The answer is no. They haven’t changed at all and in the span of three years the league has played itself right back into the Mavericks' hands seeing as the cap will be going up 20+ million dollars next off-season. They waited it out and now they can get back to what they do best.
This has nothing to do with the playoffs that are coming but we’ll get you primed for that later in the week once we learn who the nemesis is. ... and we'll talk much more about this once the offseason arrives.
Here’s the simple version for the No. 7 Mavs' Round 1 foe:
If the Spurs beat the Pelicans Wednesday night they’re the 2 seed.
If the Spurs lose to the Pelicans and the Rockets beat the Jazz the Rockets are the 2 seed.
If the Clippers beat the Suns tonight and the Spurs and Rockets lose the Clippers are the 2 seed.
Here's the Song.
"We had guys out, but I’m not worried at all,'' Rondo said after the stripped-down Mavs registered a Game-81 loss at Utah. "It’s getting closer, but we have one more game to sharpen some things up.''
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