The Utah Jazz are down 0-1 in the season so far, and the road only gets rougher with a big Texas-sized "Welcome to the NBA" game tonight where our team faces off against the angry Dallas Mavericks. In terms of history, we love the Mavs compared to how much we loathe the Houston Rockets, and we love the people over at Mavs Moneyball. So we're doubling it up with answers to our inane questions from Kirk H. and Doyle R.
Let's start jammin'
1. Tell me how the Dallas Mavericks could be the best team in Texas. What obstacles exist to prevent this from happening?
Kirk: The largest obstacle are those darned Spurs. They are so good and it's obnoxious. Even down three key cogs, the Spurs snuck past Dallas in the season opener. The other obstacle is the health of Tyson Chandler. Dirk is the sun in the Maverick system, with his gravity on offense causing problems everywhere. But Tyson Chandler is the guy who really takes them to another level. His value is obvious on defense, but offensively his activity is very important in an offense based around space. The last obstacle is the size of the Maverick back court. Everyone's fairly short.
Doyle: If the Spurs and the entire city of San Antonio collapsed on itself (likely due to fracking) the Mavs could be the best team in Texas. Unfortunately, such a geologic occurrence isn't likely to happen. Instead, the Mavericks will continue to exist as the second fiddle.
What the opener of the season showed was that, despite being down two starters, the Spurs can still play at an extremely high level. Dallas hung tough but there is obviously a considerable defensive drop off when Tyson Chandler sits down. Neither Greg Smith nor Brandan Wright were able to defend San Antonio's bigs at a high level. Nor are they intimidating enough to stop dribble penetration from the perimeter.
Even though I would say that the Mavs guards played well, they still allowed their men to get by them, cutting apart the Mavericks defense. Overall, though, Dallas' defensive rotations looked good especially considering all the roster changes that took place over the summer.
The Mavericks need to get a better effort from the players behind Chandler and keep their guards in front of the players they are defending. Until that happens, Dallas will only be second best in the Texas Triangle.
2. Tyson Chandler did not get it done in New York, according to some in that media market. What does he bring back to Dallas? How much more is left in his tank?
Kirk: He brings a desire to be in Dallas. When he signed in New York, getting that last large contract was important to Tyson and I think all the fan base understands that. Now, though, as he faces the back end of his career, it's more about fit and purpose. As I said before, offensively he's a sneaky important component to the Dallas offense. Defensively he brings a commanding presence and an understanding of team defense that has been lacking since his departure from Dallas. It's really hard to say how much he has left in the tank. The desire is there, but whether his body can hold up... that's the biggest question.
Doyle: The main thing he brings with him is nostalgia. Chandler only played one season in Dallas before but it was the year the team won it all. Other than that, he should bring a stabilizing force to the Mavs' defense which was rather porous last season. Actually, it's been shaky ever since Chandler left. Funny thing that is.
As for how much he has left, we will just have to wait and see. He hasn't looked like his former dominant self in a couple of years and he's 32 now. Hopefully, he has enough in him to play at least 65-70 regular season games and then however many playoff games the Mavericks partake in. Fingers crossed.
3. If everyone is healthy, what is your idealized guard rotation? Is this an improvement from last season?
Kirk: Jameer Nelson gets the start at point joining Monta Ellis. Devin Harris is the first guard off the bench and J.J. Barea as the waterbug who can mix things up. It's different? I'm not sure if it's any better because that group can't defend any better than last years squad. They will miss the shooting of Jose Calderon, but Nelson is a decent shooter in his own right and probably better off the dribble. They're certainly all short. Oh, and Raymond Felton is the odd man out unless he manages to find a time machine.
Doyle: Clearly, J.J. Barea should start because ... actually, yeah. No. Jameer Nelson is the clear starting point guard in my eyes with Devin Harris running with the second unit. Rick Carlisle will use a lot two point guard lineups with both Nelson and Harris. Where Raymond Felton and Barea fit in at this point is anyone's guess at this point. It's too early.
I'd say that the point situation is better than last year, though. As much as Jose Calderon could space the floor with his 3-point shooting on offense, he was like a Doric column on defense. Beyond Harris, last season, there was Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. It really wasn't a robust rotation.
As for Monta Ellis, he still have it all.
4. Chandler Parsons: skinniest fat guy, or fattest guy with ripped abs . . . or really this shouldn't have been that big of a deal this off-season?
Kirk: Ask me last week and I would say this was a big bunch of nothing. Then Parsons looked tired and slow and... well, unprepared in the first game. His weight or muscle mass is not the story, what the story is whether or not he's prepared to fulfill his contract. He has massive expectations and it's going to be hard to live up to them. The reason his weight is a story is it calls into question his dedication to the Maverick organization. He hasn't consistently looked very good on the floor. It's way early to freak out for Mavs fans, but he could have gotten off to a better start in Dallas.
Doyle: Carlisle openly questioned his conditioning during the preseason so it must have been an issue within the organization. Parsons has bulked up this season but it's not detrimental. I really don't see it as a lingering problem. He's still in much better shape than I am.
5. Which Western Conference playoffs teams don't want to face Dallas this year?
Kirk: The Rockets and the Grizzlies. Dirk has a delightful tendency of setting the Rockets on fire. They have no one, past perhaps Dwight, who can even bother Dirk. There's a reason Houston pursued Dirk in the off-season... he fits with the Rockets perfectly and despite having some interesting options at the four, Dallas exploits this mismatch. The Grizzlies do not like facing Dallas. Despite having a solid defense and a good rotation, the Mavericks have generally had the Grizzlies number for the past year and a half. Good offense beats good defense in this case.
Doyle: All of them. Carlisle is widely regarded as the second best coach in the league behind Gregg Popovich. Time and again he proves that he deserves that title. In a seven game series, his brain and schemes will test the limits of each and every team in the West. With a deeper roster this season, he has even more tools to work with. Heck, he's helping Al-Farouq Aminu with his 3-point shot and allowing him to take them in games if he is open. That in itself should scare teams.
6. What does Dirk Nowitzki average this season? Not that I have a fantasy draft coming up or anything . . . just . . . uh . . . curious . . .
I'd guess 19 points per game, 5 and a half rebounds and a hair over three assists per game. Expect his scoring average to rise as the season goes along too. His percentages will remain absurdly high too.
My best guess is 18-22 points per game. It's Dirk. He's going to get his. I hope that fantasy draft went well for you.
Thanks once again to Kirk and Doyle of Mavs Moneyball. Read their stuff, starting with my answers to Kirk's Utah Jazz related questions over here. Be sure to follow them both on twitter @KirkSeriousFace @TheKobeBeef. Also, a special shout out to my family in Texas. I miss you. Please visit Chicago and bring BBQ. (Provided there are no follow up questions about my diet.)