Deadline Tip 1: Mavs 82, Hawks 97, And What It Means
These losses are all starting to sound very similar.
Dirk gets some minutes, Barnes gets 20 points, Williams and Matthews struggle from the field.
Want more familiarity? The Hawks had multiple guards score 20 points fairly efficiently.
When Williams and Matthews don't shoot well, the Mavs struggle to compete. Vs. the Hawks the two of them combined for 6 of 24 shooting and 16 points.They had more fouls (7) than assists (5).
In Fish's review of the loss that sends Dallas to 11-26, we quote Rick Carlisle as saying, "I'm pretty whimsical with lineups. You never know with me what's going to happen next. ... We've got different ways to go."
Does this sound positive to you, in terms of doing what the Mavs so often examine over the years at the deadline ... meaning, they usually try to ADD a "final piece''?
"Whimsical'' doesn't sound like it's about forceful talent movement. It sounds more like shrugged shoulders and dice-rolling.
Deadline Tip 2: Feb. 23 - Or Now!
Mark your calendar for February 23rd. That's the NBA's trade deadline.
Yes, we have a few more weeks to speculate about trades--but a lot of teams (including the Cavs and Hawks) will make trades early (before the All-Star Break) to give their teams as much time to gel as possible.
That means we might have a market that's settling in far sooner than the deadline suggests.
It also means that every single court appearance for someone like Bogut or Williams is magnified, because people are looking to make moves right now.
I'll write about the trade deadline at least a couple more times before it arrives--but it should be on your mind right now. (And on Tuesday morning our David Lord is going to release a very important piece on the Mavs, the CBA and roster-building.
My view? Don't be shocked if you wake up over the next few days and hear that a Mavs player you like is about to shoot bricks for an Eastern Conference contender.
Deadline Tip 3: Deron Williams Shrink-Wrapped?
I'm inclined to find the positives in Deron Williams' game of late.
Yeah, he was terrible vs. the Hawks (shooting 25%, and scoring 7 points), but he'd been incredibly efficient in the 5 of the 6 games before that.
His numbers from December 26th to January 1st: 33 of 69 for 90 points and 42 assists over 6 games. Those numbers, of course, dragged down by the 2 of 11 night he had vs. Houston.
Still, there is enough positive momentum that Williams is still an incredibly viable (and hopefully not shrinking) trade asset. He just needs to keep those 2 of 11 and 3 of 12 nights to a minimum over the next week or two.
Deadline Tip 4: Andrew Bogut's 'Dirty'
Andrew Bogut may be a much bigger concern right now.
Before his early-season knee injury, there was gossip that there were teams out there talking about giving up a first-round draft pick for Bogut.
Since his return, he's already banged up that same knee again, and his production has been uneven. He's averaging 3.1 points per game and 9.3 rebounds for the season. His PER is a 9.60.
His most active motor, as far back as the Olympics, has been his mouth--and that's not always the best way to increase trade value.
I wish I could say that's the worst news.
In his last ten games, his numbers are even worse: 0.8 (yes, sound it out, ZERO POINT EIGHT) points per game, and six rebounds.
He's managed a grand total of 4 points and 24 rebounds in his last 91 minutes on the court.
He recognizes where this is going.
Do his bosses?
Deadline Tip 5: Howard And Harrison Eval
I want to respect and trust the Mavs front office. They seem to be made up of some really smart guys, and they've helped orchestrate years of success.
But, they've also missed. A lot.
When you hustle and draft a future Hall-of-Famer, you get a lot of due credit--but it can't be your only monster hit in 20 years.
Some might start to ask: if not for the presence of Dirk, how many questionable decisions would've been exposed years ago.
One of those: The talent valuation of big men.
The Mavs had a theoretical shot at Dwight Howard over the summer, but didn't seem to view him as a viable option. In fact, DB.com broke the story of the complete disinterest in him.
This is especially interesting because it suggests an inability of a front office to recognize both talent and value.
Versus the Mavs, Howard had 15 points and 20 rebounds. In one game, he had more production than the Mavs starting center has had over the last four games.
His PER for the season is 22.52 (which is 4th among centers with 20 minutes per game or better).
Does the Mavs front office truly believe that Howard would make a worse option offensively, or defensively than Bogut? If so, do they also believe that Howard wouldn't have been a perfect trade asset if he played at a lower level? Are we sure that Howard is a "culture'' ruiner?
Has anyone bothered to ask?
When Cuban and Company are deciding what to do in the coming weeks, they need to not only scan the countryside; they also need to look in the mirror.
But there is this:
I will admit to being nervous about the credentials of the Dallas Mavericks' front office. They've been uneven participants in the draft (when they participate). They overpaid for Rajon Rondo, but allowed Tyson Chandler to walk twice. They ignored Howard during the offseason, but refused to sell high on Andrew Bogut.
DallasBasketball.com can tell you about their failings with Roddy B (freeing him could've meant playing him more here, or simply turning him into a Herschel Walker type of asset--the Mavs did neither).
But, when you doubt the Mavs front office, you have to also credit them for moments like this summer.
Harrison Barnes has been a fantastic player so far--and a player who continues to improve. His scoring is one of the only things we've been able to count on--and it's like the Mavs got a free first round pick by virtue of a little bit of money and trust.
Beyond that, they let Chandler Parsons head to Memphis, and he's been a non-factor for that team. Mike Conley came back from a broken back for the Grizz before Parsons fully recovered from his off-season knee surgery.
When you begin to doubt the Mavs front office, as I sometimes begin to doubt them, try to remember moments like these.
Deadline Tip 6: Wes Matthews Untouchable?
You can read a piece by our own Mike Fish right here on Dallas' stated view on the Wes trade rumors.
My take on it?
I get frustrated when Wes misses too many shots--but I never get frustrated by his work ethic, his attitude, or his dedication.
He's going to be a coach some day. I don't see how he couldn't be. He knows how to set the tone, he knows how to demand accountability without avoiding it--what he doesn't know is how to quit.
There is no reason to trade someone, at least not this season, who operates like a tiny fusion battery.
His defensive energy alone made him worth keeping. The fact that his shot has started to fall--well that makes him exactly the type of piece young teams rely on in the new NBA.
Plus, a guy like Wes doesn't lose his value going into next season--so why throw away one of your best culture/glue guys when he might be exactly what young additions need to see to learn how to play the game? (Yes, that "culture'' word again. It's a toughie.)
I'd rather watch a team full of gym rats (Dirk, Wes, Barnes) lose games than watch a team of lazy players win. I may be alone there--but I'm ok with that.
Now, if Dallas gets blown away by an offer? Cuban listens then, sure. But I must say, I appreciate that Fish gets on-the-record quotes when possible rather than the "secret sources'' that sometimes smell like headline porn.
Deadline Tip 7: The 8th Seed
The eighth seed is so wide open that even after a bad week, the Mavs are still only 5 games out of a playoff spot.
On the other hand, they're also tied for the worst record in the West (with the 11 and 26 Timberwolves, tonight's foe at Minny.)
The Nets are a very special kind of terrible (at 8 and 28), but the only reason the Mavs still talk about playoffs (or get angry at Bogut for talking rebuild) is because the 8th seed in the West has only 16 wins.
That means two things:
1. A good run over the next two weeks could convince the Mavs to be buyers instead of sellers--which could be a nice story for this year, but damaging for the years to come.
2. Being sellers might not prohibitively change the Mavs shot at the 8th seed.
If the Mavs can get real assets out of Williams and Bogut, do we really believe that their production is all that difficult to replace?
Are the Mavs really better off with Bogut's six rebounds per game than they will be with almost any replacement? His value added says: no, they will not.
So, don't be shocked if the Mavs sell high on a couple of assets, and actually IMPROVE their chances at the 8th seed.
Deadline Tip 8: Sellers?
Some of you might not remember the last time the Dallas Mavericks were sellers in the trade market, but that's how it is, and everyone--including some of the people in that Mavs organization--needs to figure out the reality that they're living in.
For a decade and a half, every time the trade-deadline rolled around we were asking the same question: What will the Mavs do to make this team better for the playoffs?
It was, outside of hyperbole, never: who will we trade to start rebuilding?
Suddenly, the Mavs find themselves in a perfect storm of the seller's market. They're losing a lot of games in a top-heavy conference. Their roster is top-loaded with aging vets who probably need to transition into role-players, and they have a young core that needs playing time.
They could also use an infusion of young talent via the draft.
Since Dirk arrived, we haven't had to watch this particular front office pick up the pieces of a losing team on the decline. They've been so effective at holding things together, that we can't really be sure what they know about building a team from scratch.
The Harrison Barnes acquisition might be a great sign--but you need a handful of those to field a playoff team--and even more to challenge anyone at the top of the Western Conference.
Deadline Tip 9: Buyers?
Lost in a lot of the postulation is this: What in the world are the Mavs looking for in trades?
There are guys on the market, but the question is: which of those guys makes the Mavs better next year and the year beyond? It's not really about this year. As I mentioned above--it might be--but that can't be the first thought.
If Dirk Nowitzki is going to play center for a year or two, I'd actually love to see a guy like Paul Millsap in a Mavs uniform for the next couple of years. The problem is, Millsap costs a lot of money (20 million) and he's 31 years old.
Still, the aging Mike Dunleavy still hasn't reported to the Hawks--so they might be in the market for a guard who can make plays--making that a possible (though unlikely) destination for Williams.
My assumption might be that the Mavs look for players under 30, or draft picks--which is the sort of thing we'll be keeping our ear to the ground about over the next week or four.
Is there a young big man who's out of favor? Greg Monroe seems to be less-maligned in Milwaukee, but he's still not started a single game for the Bucks this year. Is he still a dangling asset? Or, is he a piece that they love bringing off the bench?
It's tough to know what this team is shopping for, because the Mavs refuse to admit that they're shopping. Right now, they're circling the wagons--but as I mentioned recently--the wagons are full of dysentery.
Deadline Tip 10: The Final Word
We take a lot of pride in the way we cover the Mavs. As a fan, I also take a lot of pride in watching the team, even as they struggle.
They've earned that. They've won more games than most teams over the last 15 years. They've won two conference championships. They've employed some of the finest basketball players on the planet (much love for guys like Jason Terry, Matrix, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd--and Dirk of course).
It's tough to watch the team you love lose 2 out of 3 nights. But, it does make it far more rewarding to watch them learn how to win again. It's been a long time since we've been in this position, and I hope you'll hang out with us while we talk our way through this together.
Meanwhile, there is something Dirk has earned -- or at least, DB.com can report, this is the way the Cuban-led Mavs think of the situation.
Stay tuned for that information at Mavs Premium on DB.com.