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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Fountain of Youth: Two strong plus-ratings

By Jeff Caplan

Our weekly look at the Mavericks' young players:

DALLAS -- Ian Mahinmi, obviously, continues to be the surprise player of the year for the Dallas Mavericks and maybe the entire NBA. His energy, smooth offensive skills and pretty good defense, have made Mavs fans quickly forget about Tyson Chandler.

Rodrigue Beaubois continues to be the most intriguing and most scrutinized youngster on the team, if only because his skills are so tantalizing. Of course, last week, coach Rick Carlisle warned not to get sucked in by the sensational plays and pay attention to his consistency and attention to detail.

Carlisle is tough on Beaubois, and rightfully so, but he's also been pumping up the kid, who is just now really regaining the strength in his left foot and leg and his confidence to attack the rim. Carlisle knows the Mavs could desperately use his offensive creativity on the floor more as well as his penchant to use his long arms to get steals.

An interesting look into each players effectiveness is the plus-minus statistic. Originally a hockey stat that was  introduced to the NBA a few years ago, and is still viewed with some skepticism in basketball, the plus-minus rating for Mahinmi and Beaubois suggests that the team is doing quite well when one or the other is on the floor.

Mahinmi ranks second on the team with a plus-69 rating, meaning Dallas has outscored the opposition by 69 points when he's been on the floor. In comparison, starting center Brendan Haywood is a plus-17. Now, there's many different reasons that can account for the disparity. For one, the Mavs' starters have not been high scorers and it hasn't been unusual for the bench to outscore the starters. Plus, backups play more against other backups.

Mahinmi went for 17 points and nine rebounds in Monday's win over Phoenix. It was his sixth double-digit scoring effort in the first 18 games of the season. He had four such games all of last season.

"He’s made gradual, steady progress since the beginning of last year," Carlisle said. "And hey, the guys, as they get more familiar with him, they gain more trust in him because not only is he active and effective offensively around the basket, but he’s one of our best defenders as well.

Plus-minus is not the end-all, but Mahinmi's positive rating is easy to understand just by watching the games -- and also serves a pretty good reason as to why the fourth-year, 6-foot-11 center is averaging nearly identical minutes as Haywood.

As for Beaubois, he is fifth on the team with a plus-38 rating. Beaubois has had his struggles, but he's also shown flashes. He has 19 steals, which is tied for fourth on the team -- just eight behind Jason Terry's team-high 27 -- but he's amassed his total in half the minutes played as the players in front of him.

Again, plus-minus isn't a tell-all, but it certainly can tell something, and it has to be looked at positively for the Mavs.