Tonight we get the Utah Jazz (1-12) facing off against the Dallas Mavericks (8-4). Because SB Nation loves you, we decided to tag up with Mavs Moneyball to talk a little about #UTAatDAL (check here for most of the important stuff Jazz vs Mavericks coverage ). Doyle Rader (@TheKobeBeef) and I threw a few things around and here's what stuck. My part is up on their site here and in our cover on the front page. So without further ado let's get to some Mavs basketball!
1. Am I crazy, or do I think this off-season reload for the Mavs can make them have one last real run?
I don't think you're crazy. This team is loaded with firepower and it isn't even at full health as Devin Harris and Brandan Wright are still out. Dallas currently scores the third most points per game in the league. The one thing missing from the team in order for them to make a run is defense. Night in and night out, the defensive effort on the floor is sporadic at best. They can get stops but a lot of the time the opposing team is finishing a play at the rim. Can this team make a run? Sure. The question is: how far can they run?
2. By now you've already seen good Monta Ellis and bad Monta Ellis. How frequently do you expect to see each one, and is this something your vet team can count on?
Ellis really hasn't played all that poorly this season. There have been a few games where he has turned the ball over a few too many times, he turns it over four times a game, but for the most part, he has been steady. He leads the team in scoring and assists and is shooting near .500. Not only that but for the first time since J.J. Barea, Dallas has a guard who isn't afraid to get in the paint and finish at the basket. There really isn't much more one could ask for at this point, he hasn't scored less than 18 points in any game this season. In Dallas, it seems that Monta really does have it all.
3. The Mavs have one of the best offenses in the league this season. What has changed since last season when Dallas was a Top 10 offense, but now you are a Top 5?
The offense is improved because the personnel has changed. While I personally didn't mind Darren Collison or O.J. Mayo as players, they were certainly not the right fit for the team. Heck, Collison lost his starting role to a couple of guys who watched Naismith nail a peach basket to the side of a barn for the first time. The offense was sloppy and turnover-prone and it was missing a key component.
Dirk was out for much of last season and struggled to regain his form after he returned. However, he returned to the Dirk we all know. This year, he had a full off season under his belt and started the year health. He has been wearing a sleeve on his knee for a few games now but it doesn't appear to be slowing him down. So combine a healthy Dirk and a blitzing Monta and you have a potent one-two combination. Oh, and Calderon knocking down threes is a plus as well.
4. Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo were two kids I was really impressed by at the Draft Combine. Ledo's play spoke volumes for why he declared for the draft, and Larkin has the pedigree to be a pro for a long time. Do you see either of them having large roles this year?
It was announced earlier on in the season that the Mavs will probably send Ledo down to the D-League at some point. He remains on the team for now but doesn't get much, if any, playing time. As for Larkin, he just returned from injury and has played in the last two games. Rick Carlisle has spoken highly of him and his speed recently. Against Houston, Larkin played a considerable bit and seems to have surpassed Gal Mekel as the team's back up point guard. It appears that we will be seeing plenty of Larkin for the foreseeable future.
5. Dirk -- how much does he have in the tank right now vs. some of the other MVPs from the last decade (2000 - 2010): Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, and Tim Duncan?
Where Kobe stands is any one's guess at this point since he hasn't returned to playing games yet. Chances are, knowing how competitive he is, Kobe will return and put up similar numbers to last season. Those German doctors seem to have a magic touch. Garnett and Nash, though, seem to be at the end of their careers. Duncan, who has been foolishly written off several times, is not putting up numbers that he once did but is still a valuable contributor to San Antonio and is by no means an easy cover. I think Dirk ranks up there with Bryant and Duncan, perhaps higher at this stage in their careers. He has only had one major medical setback in his career and his body is not breaking down. The numbers he is putting up this year have him floating around 50-40-90 averages and it looks as though he can maintain those. Dirk won't be riding off into the sunset singing David Hasselhoff songs for a few years at least.
Thanks so much for answering these questions DR, you are the best! Let's hope for a good game where the best team retains good draft position!