Checking in on the Mavericks’ offseason


Precept one: In basketball as in life—how often have I written these words—it’s always good to revisit stuff you believed in pretty strongly.  Humans should test themselves, learn things about their own fallibility and instincts. If we’re wrong we should ask why so we learn, so we sharpen those instincts, so etc.

Precept two: Being on a Mavs blog email chain, or even on twitter, during an offseason is an intense experience, like achieving enlightenment on a mountain in Nepal or getting head-butted repeatedly in the nuts by an angry ram.  The plus sides are that you always have somebody to complain to and the down sides are that people get really sure really fast about stuff it’s impossible to be sure about.

The things that many of us were sure about include lots of stuff that could have been true, including, in the upperdecks, certainty that a Deron Williams-Dirk Nowitzki led team was a world-beater (hard to be sure about now), and in the lower, fury that the Mavs wouldn’t even kick the tires on Andrew Bynum and lost the sweepstakes for Greg Oden.

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  • I’m the last person to defend the Mavs’ front office. I think they’re pretty good, but hardly great, they don’t draft and every time I watch Tyson Chandler I get furious again that I was robbed of that for three years for no reason, as the Mavs are now paying the one year of the contract they absolutely dreaded and they didn’t do all that much in his absence.

    But the truth of the matter is, on a lot of the stuff we freak out about, they turn out to be right. And I thought now would be a fun time to revisit their major FA offseason targets and see how it’s going for them.

    First up, Luol Deng. Nobody wanted Deng.  I think it was a case of over-talking + potential, basically.  Deng’s a fine player, but he felt like an old 29 (coming out of the Thibs system, who wouldn’t), and he obviously doesn’t have the potential future of guys like Lance and Chandler. For me, I think Deng just seemed so obvious all along that people got tired of him. He was and is a good player and he’d be doing fine in a Mavs uniform right now.  He’s just .001% behind Trevor Ariza as the best three-point shooter of the bunch so far (.360 to .361), just .8 behind Chandler Parsons as the best scorer of the bunch so far (14.1 to 14.9) and he’s got the best PER by a fair amount (17.17) . Overall, I think fans did a disservice to Deng who is doing exactly what it seemed like he probably would 14 points and 5 boards on decent shooting from inside and out.

    Second, Trevor Ariza. Trevor’s a tough one because what he can and can’t do has been obvious for a while. The fear with Trevor all along is that his good years have been so few and far between. Because he hasn’t been so visible, I think it surprised a lot of people to learn that Ariza has been in the league just as long as Deng, and for most of it he was a bad three-point shooter. He didn’t even shoot threes for the first 6 years of his career, which raises the question of what exactly it was he did. The first year he shot over 34% from three was 2012-2013, and yet it seemed to me like Mavs fandom was certain he’d be a good three-point shooter, ‘cause he’d done it two years in a row.

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    And so far, they have been right–sort of. Shooting an amazing 7 threes a game, Trevor is hitting at a perfectly respectable, best among the guys surveyed here, 36% clip.  And he’s playing great D, which gives Dwight Howard and Houston a chance at having a decent enough defense for once. But,  though so far Ariza has managed 13.6 ppg, he’s shooting under 40%, and there are signs of trouble elsewhere. He was 3-7 from three on Friday 11/28, but before that his last game over 40% was November 12th.  In fact, since November 6th, he’s shot 22 of 84 on threes, or 26%, a trend which will be absolutely disastrous if it keeps up. If he turns it around, a reasonable expectation, he’s still probably a better fit for Houston than Dallas.

    Which brings us to Lance Stephenson. Of all the white hot certainties this summer, the lust for Lantz probably burned me the worst. The party line, and this was true, was that you don’t get guys with Lance’s potential, at Lance’s age, becoming unrestricted free agents. This is a guy who shot nearly 50% from the floor, 35% from three, grabbed 7 boards, dished 4.6 assists and scored nearly 14 points as a third banana for a team that until it mysteriously imploded, like Paul George’s leg, in a miasma of hatred, looked like it might be a contender. So what could he be?

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    But even fans of the slow-burn Mavericks are a little susceptible to putting “could” be somewhat too close to “will” be, something that is also Sixers fans have to live on but which we can probably do without.  If you weren’t dedicated to the project, there was little reason to believe that Lance could be an elite scorer. His career is far from over, though his knuckleheadness insures it will be if he ever really slips, but 18 games into his career as a Hornet, Charlotte is already looking to trade him. He’s setting career highs in rebounds per game (7.7) and assists (5.4) so that’s still there, but he’s shooting 37% from the floor and 18% from three, for 9.6 points a game. It is not an auspicious start.

    And then we have our own Chandler Parsons, who is actively maddening in his inconsistency, whose shot looks funky and whose game looks hesitant. His 41% from the floor is 5% below his career average and his 33% from three is 4% below. But with all that being said, Parsons is still averaging the most points of any of these four, has the second highest PER, and is actually shooting, believe it or not, the second highest percentage from the field (Deng 47.7%, Parsons 41.2%, Ariza, 38.7%, Stephenson 36.7%). And he may be turning it around. He’s shot 3-10, 1-8 and 0-5 from three within the last six games, but he’s also shot 50% twice and 43% once. He’s been grabbing more boards and dishing more assists.

    This story is far from finished. Right now, Deng’s probably performed the best, despite  the horror at Luol Deng, Maverick, we saw last offseason. But, considering Parsons is nearly matching his offensive production while shooting terribly it is still probably the case that of all four of these guys, CP offers the most potential, and is the nearest to that potential, for what the Mavericks need. Coming off last night’s big 24-7 against a tough, tough Chicago Bulls’ defense, he may be about to turn the corner.

     Hopefully he’s what the Mavs fervently believe he will be : a cornerstone of the next era of Mavs basketball.