Rick Carlisle could coach a tube sock into the 8th seed.
– The Prophet
While I was working on this process I thought back to an article/podcast combination I recently read/listened to – Real GM’s 2015 Year-End NBA Team Portfolio Rankings. This was the process that Christopher Reina used to rank each of the NBA’s 30 teams:
The only considerations are talent, age, cap flexibility and future draft picks with the goal being to eventually compete for and win the NBA Finals. An older team already contending is more highly valued than a younger team with a ton of talent that may not get there, but the younger team with upside is a better bet than an older team that’s currently better but without the upside.
There is no consideration given to team location, history, head coach, general manager or owner. The exercise is to isolate the conditions of the assets to assess their value.
Coming in on top were the Warriors, Cavs, and Thunder – each chosen for understandable reasons i.e. they’re dominant and will be neck deep in talent for years to come. The lowest ranked team is the Nets, duh, but then, #29, is the 23-19 (good for 5th in the West) Dallas Mavericks. That rubbed a couple of people the wrong way.
These comments aren’t cherry picked. A month after the article was posted, they remain the only two comments on the article.
The decision to remove coaches from the evaluations was questionable, but it makes sense, particularly on a ‘cap-space nerd’-friendly website: coaches salaries don’t take up cap-space and they can’t be traded as an asset. So, despite being pro-Mavs, I don’t agree with CrazyB0y’s harsh criticism of Reina’s journalistic talents.
Though Rahenry’s comment is more… shall we say, ‘agreeable,’ he also missed the point – yes, the Mavs consistently outperform expectations, but why?
Yes, players like Zaza, Matthew and Parsons look good, but why?
Carlisle. (Plus, Parsons and Zaza are potential free-agents this coming off season, so they aren’t really assets going forward.)
What both commenters fail to realize is that, if anything, Reina’s article thought experiment is a tip-of-the-hat to Carlisle’s other-worldly coaching finesse. The Mavs are good this year. And, rest assured, they will continue to be for years to come.
How the is this happening?
Here’s how: Rick Carlisle could coach a tube sock into the playoffs.
The Chandler Parsons acquisition is often questioned, particularly now that his production has nose-dived this season. The obvious reason for this is his recent micro-fracture surgery, but even as he does return, there are serious questions about how the current roster construction fits his strengths and weaknesses.
With this in mind, his play as of late is encouraging: going into the Mavs’ January 31st game against the Suns, his last six games he’s averaged 24.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 37.2 minutes – all this on 57.8 percent shooting and 56.8 percent 3-point shooting. Dirk’s recent absences makes his stellar play even more encouraging.
Nevertheless, I have doubts about Chandler Parsons as a primary scorer for a play-off worthy team in the wild, wild West: His career usage is a sub-average 18.8 percent, peaking at a mere 20.6 percent in his first year with the Mavericks. That being said, a convincing logistical projection for the handsome combo-forward is as a Boris Diaw/ Draymond Green archetype that one might reasonably expect to average 15-20 points as a secondary or tertiary scorer. Expect him to play a similar role to the role he played on the year he emerged on the Rockets – except with a coach that can utilize him better in almost every regard, particularly as a play-maker.
Pick a Pick Partner, Parsons
Off the court, DeAndre and Chandler Parsons were in the clubs going hard in the paint, but they would have gone even harder in the paint off the pick-and-roll heavy offense that Carlisle is known for. Tyson Chandler was a staple of the Mavericks’ offense last year, despite this year looking like an expired gallon of milk on the Phoenix Suns. I talked about this in my “Smoking Cuban” series, (pt. 1, pt.2) and it remains true: the Mavericks’ team of the future needs to revolve around Chandler Parsons as a “play-making 4.” And you know Chandler: He’s always DTF (Down to Four).
“It just gives our team a different, versatile look,” Parsons said. “I’m more than comfortable sliding over to the 4.”
Instead of DeAndre, Chandler is working primarily with Zaza and JaVale, both of whom have difficulties in a pick-and-roll. Zaza is solid as a rock, but he isn’t exactly an athletic dynamo.
Plus, at nearly 32, he’s not exactly a spring chicken either.
Meanwhile, JaVale is… well…
Nevertheless, we’ve seen some promising play from Parsons in the pick-and-roll:
“I really like playing with JaVale and the lob threat is a game changer for us,” said Parsons. “That’s not taking anything away with Zaza because he’s playing unbelievable but when Javale rolls and I’m handling the ball it gives our team another look. When pulling out shooters, him diving to the rim just opens up the whole floor for us.”
Jonathan Tjarks, Mavericks’ Future Revolves Around Maximizing Chandler Parsons
JaVale is tantalizing as always: his per 36 averages are 17.1 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks – with a 20.7 PER. But, as always, the proof is in the advanced stat pudding: his Real +/- is -0.28 compared to Zaza’s 4.21, which is good for 8th in the league.
Salah Mehjri (SP) is a blend of the two players, and despite being an intriguing part of the Mavericks’ center carousel, simply doesn’t seem to be the answer to our conundrum athletically, particularly in terms of above-the-rim athleticism.
Sophomore Dwight Powell may be the answer going forward, but his limited finishing ability gives me pause. He was recently selected to the Rising Stars challenge in the 2016 All-Star weekend, and was a stand out this offseason in Summer League; but there are questions about his ceiling, 3-pt consistency, and finishing ability.
Centers of Attention
Going into next season, the Mavericks will no doubt target athletic centers who can protect the rim and finish off of pick-and-rolls. Perhaps Dwight Howard (UGH), Hassan Whiteside (OMG YES), or Festus Ezeli can be pried away from their respective teams. Or maybe Ian Mahimi will return from Indiana, considering his starting job will likely go to the emerging star Myles Turner. One thing is certain: the Mavericks will not be able to draft said big man, considering their 1st rounder is no longer with us.
Maybe Carlisle will be the coach who finally cracks the McGee code and figures out how to utilize his outrageous athletic talents for good instead of evil; to a certain extent he already has. But could McGee be the center of the next Mavericks dynasty?
Don’t hold your breath.
Each article in this series will focus on a different aspect of the Mavs’ surprising success this year, and pontificate about how that success might be carried into the seasons to come.
Mavericks fans can rest assured: if there’s a way, Rick will.