Tonight the Utah Jazz start a crazy back-to-back set where they play @ the Dallas Mavericks, and then play the next night vs. the Miami Heat. You may know them better as the two teams that played in the NBA Finals back in 2011. Anyway, tonight it's Dallas. To help us understand the team a little better we got a chance to Jam with Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball. You can follow Tim on twitter @Tim_Cato, and please visit their site for more #UTAatDAL info. But before we get onto our more in-depth previews, let's start Jamming.
1) In my predictions for this upcoming season I felt like the Dallas Mavericks did enough to get back into the playoffs. Their Xs and Os are nearly flawless and have one of the best offenses in the league. Today they stand at #8 in the West. I don't think that it's easy to predict that the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns will do down the stretch; but the Memphis Grizzlies only look like they'll get stronger. How high can Dallas reach by the end of the season? How likely is it that they'll reach that seed?
Tim: The Mavericks have a brutal, brutal schedule in March -- at San Antonio, at Denver, vs. Portland and vs. Indiana to open the month, as well as two match-ups against OKC and another against LAC. Realistically, the Mavs need a buffer going into the final two months, because they're going to fall a little. I'm fairly certain any playoff appearance will be through the eighth seed, and while I'm thinking they make it if only on the sheer will of Dirk, it's still only a 60% shot. To move up to the seventh seed with the schedule they have to deal with? There can't be more of a 25% chance of that happening.
2) What is going on with the point guard spot this year? Is it mostly injury dictated, or by design, but at times this year it looks like you have the best point guard group in the league with Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Gal Mekel, and Shane Larkin. At other times, point guard play has been unequal to the task. None of them were picked to be All-Stars this year, and Monta Ellis handles the ball a lot, but that group appears like they should be better than they are. Am I wrong?
Tim: Oh man, where do I start? You're not wrong -- there's a lot of talent there. But what it comes down to is that Calderon and Monta Ellis don't fit together well at all. Let's start at the beginning.After missing out on Dwight Howard, the Mavericks' first signing was Jose Calderon. He was obviously part of their plan headed into the season, giving the Mavericks both the outside shooting they needed and the lack of turnovers from a guard position. But adding a defensive wing player like Andre Iguodala fell through (and just barely), and Monta Ellis was added late in the summer for relatively cheap (three years, $27 million) essentially because no one wanted him.But neither Calderon or Ellis play defense, and while Ellis is a good playmaker with the ball in his hands, he's also a little wild. If either of the two were having an off day offensively this season, things could get ugly because neither knew how to prevent opposing players to get from point A to point B.Devin Harris, who returned in the past couple of weeks from a nagging toe injury, helps a lot. He's not an elite defender, but he can make an impact on that end while still running really fast and scoring on offense. But how to manage him, Harris and Monta (who really has to be lumped into this conversation) is a task Carlisle is in the process of figuring out. Maybe he does, because of his sheer brilliance as a head coach. Or maybe Calderon or Ellis needs to depart over the offseason.tl;dr -- these talented guards don't play well together, can we just combine them all into a super point guard?
3) I thought Jae Crowder would have made another step this year. I don't think he has, and for me, that's a surprise. Which player was the biggest surprise for you so far this season?
Tim: I like Jae Crowder. He's a hustler. He makes the smart play, like cutting to the basket for a layup when Dirk is doubled. He's not an elite defender, but by golly, he busts his ass trying. He doesn't hunt for his own shot and is happy to give it up to a superior offensive player.But he cannot shoot. Like, at all. Let me tell you a secret -- he's currently shooting 33% from three point land, which isn't terrible for a role player. But if you remove the first five games of the season, where he went on a weird hot streak that we've never seen before and likely won't see again, he's shooting 26.3%. TWENTY SIX PERCENT.Teams are ignoring him and it's killing the floor spacing. If he could just be a little better, he'd be a great rotation player. But until then, he just can't do enough things to make up for his inability to spread the floor.
4) The Mavs play at home only twice in the next 8 games: hosting the Jazz and Miami Heat. There are two Eastern Conference trips coming up. What's more important right now, winning games at home, or mopping up the deplorable East? Which will mean more going forward towards your answer for #1?
Tim: I think I'm going to echo my answer in #1 and say that wins of any kind are most important right now. The Mavericks have a chance to take advantage of the East, and they absolutely have to, or when they inevitably lose two or three games back-to-back in March, they'll suddenly be in the ninth or tenth seed looking in. So both.
Thanks again to Tim for getting this going, and you can read my answers to his questions over here!