Dallas Mavericks: Darren Collison

Devin Harris gave Mavs a great deal

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
2:11
PM CT
Devin HarrisChris Covatta/Getty ImagesDevin Harris could play an even more significant role for the Mavericks next season.
The inflation in the market for backup point guards didn’t end up affecting the Mavericks’ negotiations for Devin Harris much after all.

A source said Harris and the Mavs agreed to a deal similar to the one they originally struck last summer (three years, $9-plus million), only to mutually agree to pull it off the table after the discovery that he needed complicated toe surgery. The details of the deal are still being finalized, but it will be a great bargain for the Mavs in a market in which point guards Shaun Livingston and Darren Collison were given the full mid-level exception, getting three-year, $16 million deals from the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, respectively.

Harris, a key component of the Mavs’ bench in the second half of the season and playoffs, likely could have squeezed more money out of another team. However, he said all along that he wanted to stay in Dallas.

The Mavs were equally determined to keep Harris, making it clear that he was a priority when Mark Cuban met the 10-year veteran point guard in the opening minutes of free agency.

That mutual love resulted in relatively easy negotiations. The Mavs hope the same holds true for sixth man Vince Carter.

Harris could play an even more significant role for the Mavs next season due to Jose Calderon being dealt to the New York Knicks in the Tyson Chandler trade. The tentative plan is for Harris to come off the bench again -- the Mavs love his chemistry with high-leaping reserve center Brandan Wright -- but Harris’ minutes could increase after averaging 20.5 per game last season.

That might have been the case anyway with Harris a full year removed from the surgery that sidelined him for the first half of last season. It’s possible that Harris ends up playing more minutes than Raymond Felton, the Knicks castoff who is penciled in as the Mavs’ starting point guard. (It’s also still possible that Felton could be moved in a salary-dump deal to free up more cap space if the Mavs need it.)

No matter the minutes, as long as Harris can stay healthy, this is a great deal for Dallas.
Mavericks sources remain confident that they’ll figure out a way to keep Devin Harris.

The team's point guard Plan A is just likely to cost the Mavs a little more than they anticipated.

Golden State gave Shaun Livingston a three-year, $16 million deal, using the full midlevel exception. Sacramento will sign Darren Collison to an identical deal. Harris is certainly in their class, so it’s reasonable for him to expect to be paid in the $5 million-per-year range. That’s a nice bump from the deal worth a little more than $3 million per year that Harris originally agreed to with the Mavs last summer, only to settle for the veteran’s minimum after the discovery that he needed complicated toe surgery.

In the likely event the Mavs don’t use all their cap space to land one of the available superstar small forwards, the Mavs are prepared to pay market value to keep Harris, who could start over Raymond Felton next season.

If they manage to get Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James to come to Dallas, the Mavs are hopeful that Harris would take less to stay in Dallas on a championship contender, likely getting the cap room exception of about $2.7 million. If it’s a one-year deal, the Mavs would have Harris’ Early Bird rights next summer, allowing them to exceed the cap by paying him up to 104.5 percent of the average salary in the upcoming season.

The Mavs have also been in contact with the agents of guards Isaiah Thomas, Mo Williams and D.J. Augustin.

The 5-foot-9 Thomas, who is being replaced as the Kings’ starter by Collison despite averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists last season, is viewed in Dallas as a Plan B option if they aren’t able to get a deal done with Harris.

Williams and Augustin could be fallback options as well, but they could also fill a need for backcourt perimeter shooting ability, even if Harris returns. Williams, who lives in the Dallas area, was Portland’s sixth man last season and can’t be paid more than $3.18 million next season by the Trail Blazers after they used their midlevel exception on center Chris Kaman.

It’s also possible that the Mavs could be in the market for a pair of point guards if they move Felton in a salary-dump deal.

Should Mavs make Thomas a priority?

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
11:34
AM CT
The Mavericks’ primary focus in free agency has been finding a younger, higher-scoring small forward. Should that change in the likely event that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t choose the Mavs?

Here’s a suggestion: Bump point guard Isaiah Thomas to the top of the priority list.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Thomas
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesIsaiah Thomas could be an affordable option for the Mavericks.
Thomas is a restricted free agent, but the Sacramento Kings appear to be ready to move on after reportedly agreeing to a three-year, $16 million with Darren Collison. The Mavs put out feelers to Thomas on the opening night of free agency, but their plan all along has been to address point guard by re-signing Devin Harris.

But Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists last season, might be the most impactful player within the Mavs’ reach in free agency.

The odds of getting Chandler Parsons or Gordon Hayward are extremely slim due to their status as restricted free agents and their teams’ intention to match any offers. Maybe that changes with Parsons if Anthony heads to Houston, but it’s still a slim possibility.

If Washington succeeds in its goal to keep Trevor Ariza, that’d likely leave Luol Deng as the Mavs’ lone available Plan B small forward target. Deng is a high-character guy, great defender and career 16-point-per-game scorer, but he’s far from a perfect fit for the Mavs due to his durability issues and lack of perimeter touch.

The tiny Thomas, listed at 5-foot-9, isn’t a perfect fit, either. (Coach Rick Carlisle raved about Thomas’ big, uh, courage when the Kings were in town this season.) That’d be an awfully small backcourt, pairing him with Monta Ellis. But, man, it’d be explosive with two dynamic off-the-dribble creators.

Thomas will also likely be paid less than Deng, who wants his salary to stay in the eight digits and is likely to get his wish, as his suitors with cap space include the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Pure speculation here, but let’s say Thomas can be signed for a deal that has a starting salary in the $8-9 million range. In that scenario, the Mavs could probably re-sign Shawn Marion to start at small forward and Vince Carter as the sixth man.

Pay premium for Deng and the Mavs probably have to pick between Harris and Carter with their cap leftovers.

The Mavs might not agree, but I’d rather bet on the little guy, especially if his salary is smaller.
Here are four words that might confuse Dallas Mavericks fans: Darren Collison, playoff hero.

Collison, the scapegoat for many of the Mavs’ crunch-time failures during their miserably mediocre 2012-13 season, keyed the Los Angeles Clippers’ comeback from a 22-point deficit in Sunday’s series-evening Game 4 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, making several impact plays with his speed as part of a three-guard late lineup, including a couple of layups that were the Clippers’ last two buckets.

“Game ball goes to Darren Collison,” L.A. star Chris Paul said.

What a moment for Collison, whose one-season stint in Dallas was so disappointing. He arrived with hope that he’d have a chance to prove he could be a long-term solution as the Mavs’ starting point guard and ended up getting demoted for an elderly, off-the-street replacement ... twice.

Collison, who signed a two-year, $3.9 million deal this summer, has been a great addition to the Clippers. His stats (11.4 ppg, 3.7 apg) are actually down a bit from last season, but not nearly as much as the pressure on him.

L.A. didn’t ask Collison to replace a legend, as the Mavs did after scrambling to fill Jason Kidd’s shoes. They signed Collison to complement a perennial All-Star point guard.

(Read full post)

Mavs again can't close vs. Clippers

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
11:55
PM CT
Mavericks/Clippers Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWith or without Chris Paul, the Clippers have found a way to bury the Mavs down the stretch.

DALLAS -- Maybe the Mavericks can convince the Los Angeles Clippers to play by college rules next week at Staples Center.

Shorten the game to 40 minutes and the Mavs might even be considered favorites.

Heck, for 43 minutes, the Mavs can more than hold their own against the Clippers, but those last five minutes are absolute misery for Dallas.

"For some reason, we felt like we should have gotten all three of them and got none of them," Dirk Nowitzki said after the Mavs blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s 109-103 loss to the Clippers, their third defeat in three games against Los Angeles this season. "Very disappointed."

The Clippers closed out this game with a 16-5 run. That matches the way L.A. finished off the Mavs during the Clippers’ previous visit to the American Airlines Center this season. And that looks competitive compared to the finish when these teams met at Staples Center on Jan. 15, when the Clippers erased a 17-point deficit in the final 4 minutes, 49 seconds.

The Mavs’ three losses to the Clippers have come by a combined 15 points. They’ve been outscored by 38 in the final five minutes of those games.

"I think we did a pretty good job until the end," Mavs point guard Jose Calderon said, reaching for the silver lining. "We’ve got one more chance. Hopefully, next week we can beat these guys. We’re close. We’re right there with them. We’ve just got to try to finish a little bit better."

Yeah, just a little bit better. That’s like saying the Mavs were just a little bit interested in recruiting All-Star point guard Chris Paul away from L.A. this summer, a deal they never had a chance to close.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki scored 21 but missed all six of his field goal tries in the crucial fourth quarter.
It’d be frustrating but somewhat understandable if the Mavs could simply tip their caps to Paul, one of the game’s great closers, who lit it up for 31 points and nine assists Thursday night. But Paul wasn’t even available for crunch time in the previous Mavs-Clippers meetings this season, having injured his shoulder earlier in the Jan. 3 game and having sat out the rematch less than two weeks later.

It was Darren Collison, the scapegoat for many of the Mavs’ closing woes last season, running the show for the Clippers during their crunch-time clinics those nights.

It’s not surprising for the Mavs to struggle to get stops late against an elite scoring team such as the Clippers, but the Mavs' high-powered offense has gone impotent down the stretch in each game.

Warning: MFFLs might find the following numbers offensive, so to speak.

Combining the final five minutes of Dallas' three losses to the Clippers, the Mavs made only five of 26 shots from the floor. That’s a shooting percentage of 19.2, which looks like a batting average for a Texas Rangers catcher, not something you’d see from one of the NBA’s most efficient offenses.

Much of that failure falls on the broad shoulders of the big German. Nowitzki has only one more point (three) than turnovers (two) during that 15-minute sample, making only one of 11 shots from the floor.

Nowitzki was tremendous through three quarters and terrible in the fourth in this loss. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, but he missed all six of his field goal attempts and even missed a few free throws in the final frame.

"We were trying to find a hot hand at the end," coach Rick Carlisle said, "and it was just a struggle."

Monta Ellis, who has been magnificent in closing time since the All-Star break, couldn’t pick up the slack. He had the Mavs’ only bucket in the final five minutes, but Ellis had an awful shooting night (4-of-19 from the floor). He bricked a potential go-ahead long 2-pointer with 1:03 to go and clanked what would have been a tying 18-footer with 15.9 seconds remaining. The shot selection in those two instances was iffy, to be polite.

But the Mavs were desperately searching for a source of offense down the stretch. Sixth man Vince Carter poured in 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, but his final attempt was a wild, air-ball fadeaway with a little less than four minutes to go.

"We just haven’t gotten over the hump," Carter said. "It’s tough. It’s very frustrating, but we fought like hell to give ourselves a chance to win at the end. That’s all you can ask for."

Yeah, it’s probably pointless to ask for a college clock.
The point guard who wasn't good enough to close games in Dallas helped the Los Angeles Clippers pull off a couple of monster comebacks against the Dallas Mavericks this month.

It would be bad enough to blow big leads against a team led by Chris Paul. But the fact the Los Angeles Clippers' comebacks from 17-point deficits occurred with Darren Collison on the court makes them even more bitter pills to swallow.

Jose Calderon and Darren Collison
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs' meltdowns against Darren Collison's Clippers stung, but not enough to make them have second thoughts about signing Jose Calderon.
Collison was a Dallas reject, a point guard the Mavs replaced with a pair of 37-year-olds last season and showed no interest in re-signing, running the show when the Clippers slammed the door with game-ending runs of 16-2 and 23-4. Collison won his individual matchup in both meetings with the Mavs, averaging 16 points and seven assists.

It's almost enough to make you wonder how much the Mavs really upgraded at point guard by signing Jose Calderon to a four-year, $29 million deal this summer. Actually, it was more than enough for a couple of particularly annoying Collison apologists to troll me about it on Twitter, prompting me to agree to crunch some numbers for an unbiased comparison.

Truth be told, it's tough to make a statistical case that Calderon is much better than Collison was during his one-season stint in Dallas. It's especially difficult to do with traditional stats.

Collison averaged 12.0 points, 5.1 assists, 2.1 turnovers and 1.2 steals while shooting 47.1 percent from the field for the Mavs. Calderon's numbers this season: 12.1 points, 4.8 assists, 1.2 turnovers and 1.2 steals, shooting 46.7 shooting percentage. The biggest differences are the reduced turnovers and improved 3-point shooting (Calderon .467, Collison .353).

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DALLAS – Los Angeles Clippers backup point guard Darren Collison arrived at the American Airlines Center with a point to prove Friday night.

Collison left the arena as the Clippers’ starting point guard, at least for the next three to five weeks, coach Doc Rivers’ estimated timetable for perennial All-Star Chris Paul's recovery from a separated right shoulder.

[+] EnlargeJae Crowder, Dirk Nowitzki, Darren Collison
AP Photo/Sharon Ellman"There's always that one game that gets you ready, that you work hard for in the offseason," Clippers point guard Darren Collison said after his impressive effort Friday in Dallas against his old squad. "This is one of them."
Collison wanted to show the Dallas Mavericks that they made a mistake giving up on him as their starting point guard last season. He hoped to make them regret, at least for one night, not attempting to re-sign him over the summer.

“I didn’t want to leave tonight without making a statement,” said Collison, who scored a season-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting and dished out four assists in 35 minutes to help the Clippers pull out a 119-112 win over the Mavs despite losing their leader Paul midway through the third quarter. “You play 82 games in a season; you can’t say you’re motivated for all 82 games, you know what I mean? You’re motivated because you want to win, but there’s always that one game that gets you ready, that you work hard for in the offseason.

“This is one of them.”

The 23-12 Clippers need this version of Collison on a consistent basis to keep rolling without Paul.

This isn’t the first time Collison has had to fill the figuratively large shoes of the NBA’s best little man. As a rookie, Collison started 37 games for the New Orleans Hornets while Paul was out due to a knee injury. Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists in those starts, including a 35-point performance against Dallas in February 2010 that still stands as his career-high scoring total.

The Mavs hoped Collison would resemble the player who flashed brilliance as a rookie when they acquired him from the Indiana Pacers in the wake of Jason Kidd’s departure in the summer of 2012. However, the hope that Collison could be a rebuilding block didn’t last long in Dallas.

In fairness to Collison, he had the difficult task of trying to run a team that primarily consisted of one-year rental players forming a supporting cast for a hobbled Dirk Nowitzki, who missed the 27 games while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Collison still took a large share of the blame for the 41-41 Mavs missing the playoffs after 12 consecutive postseason appearances. Dallas was 21-26 in games Collison started.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Collison put up decent numbers (12.0 points, 5.1 assists) during his lone season in Dallas, but his defensive flaws and crunch-time struggles caused him to fall out of favor with the Mavs. He twice lost his starting job to late-30s veterans the Mavs signed off the street, first for the couple of weeks that Derek Fisher stayed in Dallas and later to journeyman Mike James.

That didn’t help Collison’s cause in free agency. The Mavs made no effort to re-sign him, and Collison couldn’t find any suitors that saw him as a starter. He ended up setting for a two-year, $3.9 million deal and reserve role with the Clippers.

“I’m just glad I fell into a situation like the Clippers that’s given me the opportunity,” Collison said. “Now I have a chance to play for a contending team that’s going to give me a chance to play for something more special.”

The Clippers need Collison to be a solid starter over the next month or so to give them a legitimate chance to have home-court advantage for a round or two in the Western Conference playoffs. The intensity and aggressiveness Collison displayed during this trip to Dallas can’t be a one-game thing.

“The way D.C. was playing, it didn’t matter which one of those guys was out there tonight,” Mavs big man Brandan Wright said, referring to Collison and Paul.

The Clippers can’t reasonably expect Collison to produce like a point guard who has played in the past six All-Star Games. They have to hope, however, that Collison fares much better during this stint as a starter in L.A. than he did in Dallas.
Coach Rick Carlisle is no longer revealing a closely guarded secret 16 minutes before tipoff.

There’s no mystery about the Dallas Mavericks’ starting lineup these days. Barring injury, there shouldn’t be all season.

The starting five of Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Samuel Dalembert is working just fine. In fact, it’s by far the Mavs’ most successful lineup after five games, outscoring opponents by 33 points in 66 minutes.

That’s a major change from last season, when Carlisle was constantly tinkering and searching for combinations that worked during Dallas' frustrating .500 season. The Mavs rolled out a ridiculous 23 starting lineups last season.

Carlisle, of course, would much rather stick with a starting five. It appears promising that he’ll have that luxury this season, although the fact that four starters are 32 or older significantly increases the odds of injury interruptions.

“The benefits are you can build consistency,” Carlisle said. “Guys can get an opportunity to get a feel for how to play with each other.

“I want to have consistency. I would love to have a consistent rotation, but not to the point where guys can keep a job by playing mediocre basketball. You can’t have that.”

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Mavs backcourt -- from 'brutal' to beautiful?

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
9:43
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A brief, blunt conversation between Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban during the Mavericks' European trip last fall pretty much foreshadowed that .500 team's biggest problem.

Nowitzki: "We can't pass and we can't shoot. Our guards aren't there."

Cuban: "Are you kidding me?"

Nowitzki: "Sorry, bro."

It's not unusual for Nowitzki to express some doubt to his billionaire boss, who recalled the exchange during an appearance on 103.3 FM ESPN on Tuesday. Never to that extreme, though.

"That was the first time I've ever heard him say anything that negative," Cuban said, "and he was right."

In the next breath, Cuban noted that Nowitzki is all smiles these days. The Mavs' offseason backcourt makeover has apparently brightened the big German's mood.

Gone are Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Mike James. Here are Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and Devin Harris, although the latter is still weeks away from being ready to play after undergoing toe surgery.

The buzz phrase at the American Airlines Center is "basketball IQ." The belief is that the backcourt shuffling has turned that from a major Mavs weakness into a significant strength, especially with Calderon, whose career assist-to-turnover ratio (7.2/1.7) is outstanding.

"You have no idea how brutal it was," Cuban said. “I remember Shawn Marion just looking at me and saying, 'Point guard.' It was brutal. We tried and tried and Mike did his best to try to fit in, but you can just see the difference.

"Monta with basketball IQ is better than anything we had at the point last year. Our guys tried hard. They were great people, but they just didn't have the skill set. ... We saw just the difference with Jose and Monta out there. We're going to be able to make just a lot smarter decisions and play better basketball."

The Mavs' power brokers believe the benefit will be much better performance in crunch time and a much more aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball.

"I think [fans are] going to be reminded of the Mavs from 2011, from 2006 and '07," Cuban said. "We move the ball. There's just the beauty of the ball going around the perimeter to move faster than the defense and hit the guy to hit the shot. They're going to love that."

Sources: Israeli PG Mekel commits to Mavs

July, 1, 2013
7/01/13
2:23
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The Dallas Mavericks will go into their crucial Tuesday meeting with Dwight Howard having already secured one of the first verbal commitments of 2013 free agency in the NBA.

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Sources told ESPN.com that the Mavericks, in the early hours of Monday morning, received word from Israeli point guard Gal Mekel that he is committing to sign a multi-year guaranteed contract at a league minimum salary after the NBA's annual moratorium on signings and trades is lifted July 10.

Although the Mavericks are not allowed to publicly discuss the move until the moratorium is lifted, NBA rules allow players and teams to strike verbal agreements during the leaguewide freeze on business. And the fact that Mekel, sources say, has agreed to accept a minimum salary means that Dallas can come to terms with him safe in the knowledge that it would be able to formally sign him to a minimum deal either following the successful recruitment of Howard or -- if the Mavericks lose out in the Dwight Sweepstakes to the favored Houston Rockets or the incumbent Los Angeles Lakers -- or after using up all its available salary-cap space on other free agents.

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The Mavericks might not have put up any pleading billboards around town, but it’s no secret that their recruiting pitch to Dwight Howard scheduled for Tuesday in L.A. is the franchise’s top priority for the first few days of free agency.

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But Mark Cuban certainly wasn’t going to miss out on the action when the free agency frenzy opened at a minute past midnight Eastern time.

“Getting ready to make some phone calls ! Lets go Mavs ! #MFFL !” Cuban tweeted 10 minutes before the madness officially began.

Cuban’s bank account is basically frozen until the Dwight Decision comes down, but the Mavs’ front office spent the late-night and early-morning hours putting out feelers and attempting to get a feel for what the market might bear.

Howard is Priority A, but B is addressing the point guard position, a problem all of last season. Anyone who considered the Mavs declining to make a qualifying offer to would-be restricted free agent Darren Collison to be newsworthy apparently missed him losing his starting job to a 37-year-old who was unemployed for the first half of the season.

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It’s no surprise then that the Mavs are among several teams to express interest in point guards Jose Calderon and Mo Williams, according to a league source. The Mavs have long been intrigued by Calderon, who they discussed trading for last season. Calderon is also drawing interest from Detroit, Houston, Atlanta and New York among other teams.

The Mavs were also reportedly among several teams to reach out to small forwards Andre Iguodala and Chase Budinger and shooting guard Kevin Martin. One team source considers Iguodala to be the third-best player in this free-agency crop, behind only Howard and Chris Paul, who has already committed to re-sign with the Clippers.

The Mavs have interest in re-signing O.J. Mayo and Brandan Wright, depending on the markets for each player. At this point, it appears likely that Mayo will be out of the Mavs’ target price range, with USA Today reporting his likely suitors will include the Jazz, Bucks, Timberwolves, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Bobcats and Bulls. Mayo, who will hold all of his meetings in Los Angeles, said during Dirk Nowitzki’s Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game on Saturday that he’d like to return to Dallas but is clearly looking for a big payday after playing last season on a one-year, $4 million deal.

There are surely several other free agents the Mavs have expressed interest in as Cuban and Co. begin the no-stone-unturned process of trying to rebuild a championship contender over the next two offseasons.

Free-agent PGs: Search for Plan B starter

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
10:10
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The first in ESPNDallas.com’s position-by-position series previewing the free agency market that opens July 1.

Barring a one-in-a-million type of miracle, the Mavericks must move on to Plan B.

With Doc Rivers re-locating to Los Angeles, Chris Paul maximizing his money by re-signing with the Clippers is all but a done deal. There’s a steep drop from CP3 to the rest of the point guards available in free agency -- and maybe the Mavs acquire their starter via a trade – but upgrading this position ranks right up there with center among the Mavs’ top priorities.

A look at potential PG fits for the Mavs in free agency:

Jose Calderon: The Mavs were intrigued enough by the 31-year-old Spaniard to engage in trade talks about him with the Raptors before and during last season. Calderon, who has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.2/1.7, would give the Mavs a significant boost of basketball IQ and get Dirk Nowitzki the ball at the right spot and right time on a regular basis. Calderon can also consistently knock down open jumpers, as evidenced by his career percentages that are outstanding by point guard standards (.483 FG, .399 3s).

The concerns with Calderon: He’ll remind Mavs fans of the biggest flaws of the two best point guards who have played with Dirk. Calderon has never been a good creator or defender, and that’s putting it kindly. His hesitation/inability to penetrate is Kidd-like; his 0.9 attempts per game at the rim were the lowest among starting point guards last season, according to hoopdata.com. He’s a Nash-like liability at the defensive end, especially against explosive guards. Those issues aren’t going to improve as Calderon ages.

Nevertheless, Calderon could be the best fit for the Mavs in the market, assuming the price drops significantly from the $11 million he made last season. Estimated cost: three years, $18 million.

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Which free agent PG would you like to see with the Mavericks?

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Monta Ellis: He’s the most talented point guard in the market who isn’t a perennial All-Star. The problem: It’s a stretch to call Ellis a point guard. He’s a scorer first and foremost, probably best suited for a Jason Terry-type of role as instant offense off the bench.

The Mavs have major question marks about how Ellis would fit as the starting point guard alongside Nowitzki. Ellis is a premier penetrator in his prime, which makes him intriguing, but he’s never averaged more than six assists per game and is a high-volume, low-efficiency jump shooter. His 3-point percentage last season (.287) was the worst among any player with more than 170 attempts. He shot more long 2s than any point guard other than John Wall but hit only 34 percent of them, per hoopdata.com.

Ellis gets a lot of steals, but he’ll never be confused with a defensive stopper.

He’d give the Mavs the kind of athleticism they haven’t had at point guard since Devin Harris. Of course, you might remember Nowitzki lobbying hard behind the scenes for the Jason Kidd trade because he wanted a more cerebral partner at point guard.

The Mavs will pass if Ellis gets something close to the four-year, $40 million deal he’s rumored to be seeking. If he slips through the cracks like O.J. Mayo last season, the Mavs could be waiting with a short-term offer in the $6 million-per-year range.

Jarrett Jack: He excelled as the Warriors’ sixth man this season, often running the point next to Stephen Curry during crunch time. That’s a role that suits him well.

While he struggles to defend quick foes and isn’t a pass-first guy, there are reasons to be intrigued about the 29-year-old Jack’s potential as the Mavs’ point guard. He’s an outstanding midrange shooter (48 percent last season) and has a knack for knocking down floaters in the lane. Those are the kind of shots that come in bunches when running pick-and-pops with Dirk. And Jack has the type of tough-minded mentality that would mesh well with the Mavs’ vets and coach Rick Carlisle.

A four-year, $24 million deal for Jack would make sense for the Mavs. However, it’s a long shot at best that he’d leave Golden State for that kind of money. With Golden State’s ownership promising to spend to sustain success now that the Bay Area is buzzing about the Dubs, another team would probably have to overpay to get Jack.

Mo Williams: The 30-year-old Williams is really a score-first combo guard, not a pure point. He’s a good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter (.386 career) who also likes midrange jumpers off the dribble but isn’t much of a threat to drive. He’s an average passer (6.2 assists per game last season) and mediocre defender. And he’s injury prone, missing at least a dozen games in seven of the last eight seasons.

Williams would be a stopgap starter, not a long-term solution. The Mavs probably wouldn’t be willing to pay more than $5 million per year for his services.

Brandon Jennings: The Mavs had mild interest in Jennings before the trade deadline and he’s made it clear that he’d love to play in Dallas. Let’s hold off on the debate about how much the 6-foot-1, 169-pound, lightning-quick, low-percentage-shooting Jennings would benefit from playing with Dirk. Jennings, a restricted free agent, is expected to sign an offer sheet to play one more season with the Bucks before having the freedom to be a free agent with no strings attached. If he’s a Mav this season, it almost certainly means there’s been a trade. (Same goes with Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, but we’ll classify him as a shooting guard.)

Jeff Teague: There’s a lot to like about a 25-year-old who averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists while playing good defense for a playoff team, which is why Atlanta is expected to re-sign the restricted free agent. He’s only an option for the Mavs if the Hawks strike it rich in free agency and are forced to renounce Teague’s rights. You could do a lot worse than signing Teague to a four-year, $30 million deal.

Darren Collison: He clearly considers himself a starting point guard and will search for a team that agrees with him this summer. The Mavs do not. If he slips through the free agency cracks, the Mavs would welcome him back as a backup for the kind of money that reflects that role.

Devin Harris: There’s a lot of love in the Mavs organization for Harris as a person. However, he isn’t perceived to be a starting point guard at this point of his injury-prone career. He averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists as a part-time starter for the Hawks last season. The Mavs wouldn’t mind bringing Harris back to Dallas, but it’d have to be as a $3 million-per-year backup.

Nate Robinson: He’s like a turbo edition of J.J. Barea with baggage that has caused Robinson to bounce around to five teams in the last five seasons. He was arguably the best minimum-salary bargain in the league last season, averaging 13.1 points and 4.4 assists off the bench for the Bulls and starring in some playoff wins. How much did Robinson boost his value? The Mavs wouldn’t spend big on him, but if he’s in the $2 million salary range, he’d be a great fit.

Chauncey Billups: His career really took off during his season playing for Rick Carlisle with the Pistons, so there’s a strong tie there. But he’s 36 years old and wasn’t close to being the same player when he came back from a torn Achilles tendon last season. The Mavs might value his veteran savvy enough to offer Billups the bi-annual exception of a little more than $2 million.

Shaun Livingston: The 6-foot-7 former straight-outta-high school high lotto pick whose career was destroyed by a devastating knee injury wouldn’t be a bad, low-dollar backup. He’s not a good shooter, but Livingston is a solid defender, passer and rebounder.

Will Bynum: The 30-year-old, who averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists off the Pistons’ bench last season, is a poor man’s Barea. If he’s getting offers for the minimum, the Mavs should be interested.

Mike James: The 38-year-old who ended the season as the Mavs’ starter is an option as a minimum-salary backup.

Daniel Gibson: “Boobie” is a bench shooter who would pique the Mavs’ interest as a minimum guy.

Finals Frontier: Efficiency in the corners is key

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
11:30
PM CT
With the NBA Finals in full swing, the Mavericks are watching two familiar foes -- the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat -- battle it out for the chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Both teams have key components that established them as championship contenders. Let's point out those components and how the Mavericks can learn from them.

One of the most efficient shots on the floor is the corner 3-pointer. One thing that both Miami and San Antonio have in common is that they’re both strong in terms of offense and defense from that spot.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyDirk Nowitzki and the Mavs haven't been as efficient shooting and defending the corner 3-pointer since their title season.
For Miami, they were first in the league during the regular season with 309 corner 3s made. The Heat's biggest weapons were Shane Battier and Ray Allen. Battier actually led the entire league with 88 corner 3s, while Allen ranked eighth with 63. Miami maximized this strength and made sure other teams couldn’t capitalize on it as they ranked second in defending corner 3s based on percentage.

Miami ranked first in corner 3s and San Antonio wasn't far behind, ranking third with 261 makes. The Spurs had two players who ranked in the top 20. Danny Green was second with 73 corner 3s made and Kawhi Leonard had 52, ranking 18th in the league. San Antonio allowed only 156 corner 3s in the league, the seventh-fewest in the league.

Looking at Dallas, the Mavs ranked 21st in the league in corner 3s made with only 141. O.J. Mayo made the most with 26 and ranked 65th in the league. The Mavs only had two other players in the top 100 -- rookie Jae Crowder ranked 78th and Darren Collison ranked 89th. The Mavs allowed the fifth-most corner 3s in the league. They also ranked as the 10th-worst team in defending corner 3s based on percentage. Those numbers show that Dallas didn’t utilize or defend that critical zone.

Looking back at the Mavs’ 2011 championship team, there is a radical shift in the numbers between then and now. Back in 2010-11, Dallas was fifth in the league with 211 corner 3s.

PODCAST
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle gives his take on the NBA Finals, talks about the Nets decision to hire Jason Kidd, the advice hed give Kidd about being a head coach in the NBA and more.

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The eventual champions had two players who ranked in the top 25. DeShawn Stevenson was 21st with 45 corner 3s, while Jason Terry had 44, ranking 24th in the league. Surprisingly, Brian Cardinal ranked 67th. Dirk Nowitzki ranked 96th and Jason Kidd was 99th in the league.

Like the teams in this year’s NBA Finals, the Mavs held their own defending the corner 3 during their championship run. The Mavs allowed only 158 corner 3s that season, the eighth-fewest in the league. They also ranked ninth in defending corner 3s based on percentage.

Dallas has one of the best weapons the league has to offer as a shooter in Nowitzki. They need people on the corner that can be just as dangerous of a weapon.

Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.

Finals Frontier: Mavs must play team defense

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
11:30
PM CT
With the NBA Finals in full swing, the Mavericks are watching two familiar foes -- the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat -- battle it out for the chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Both teams have key components that established them as championship contenders. Let's point out those components and how the Mavericks can learn from them.

Miami and San Antonio aren’t one-trick ponies. It’s been established that they are skilled and efficient on the offensive end of the floor, but both teams are equally skilled on the defensive end. The “defensive rating” is an advanced statistic that measures a team’s points allowed per 100 possessions.

Jason Terry, Darren Collison
AP Photo/Brandon WadeWith Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo as the Mavs' perimeter defenders, opposing teams often had a clear path to the basket this year.
Out of all NBA teams, there were only three that were ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the regular season. Oklahoma City was one of the teams. The other two are in the Finals.

Miami ranked first in offensive efficiency with a rating of 110.3 and seventh in defensive efficiency with a rating of 100.5. San Antonio was seventh in offensive efficiency with a rating of 105.9 and third in defensive efficiency with a rating of 99.2.

When it comes to defense, neither team has a dominant big man in the post who collects all of the rebounds or anchors the middle, so they mask that weakness by putting a stronger emphasis on contesting shots. The downside is that fouls tend to add up and fewer rebounds are collected. The risk is worth the reward because the opposing offense is disrupted with contested shots.

This season, Dallas had the 10th worst defensive efficiency in the league with a rating of 104.0. That rating was the third worst defensive mark for the Mavericks in the last 10 years.

PODCAST
Dirk Nowitzki joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett live in studio to discuss the moves he expects the Mavericks to make this summer, what his pitch would be to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and his upcoming Heroes Celebrity baseball game.

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With O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison as the perimeter defenders, the opposing team often had a clear path to the basket. The two guards being beaten by back cuts and off-ball screens that contributed to the Mavs' lackluster defensive effort.

During the 2011 title run, Dallas showed the defensive disposition that coach Rick Carlisle craves. The Mavs had the seventh best defensive efficiency with a rating of 102.3, their best during the last five seasons. While there were only three teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive ratings this season, there were only two teams in the top 10 in both categories in 2011: Dallas and Miami.

The Mavs had a true defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler. He was a solid last line of defense as his teammates gambled on the perimeter. The Mavs also played together on a string. By doing that -- which requires teamwork, coordination, trust and synchronicity -- they were a team with only one premiere defender but became a roster full of team defenders. It came down to the five players on the floor doing their job, being in position and being accountable.

Dallas’ flow offense is predicated on its ability to get stops. If the front office finds players who believe in playing on a string and bringing a strong defensive disposition, it will open things up on the offensive end of the floor. The Mavs don’t need a roster full of All-NBA defenders. They just need a set of players who will buy in to playing defense together as a team.

Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.

Dirk Isn't Done: Guards, depth would help

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
11:30
PM CT
As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 16th season, he's coming off his lowest points per game average since his first full year, saw a dip in rebounding and health is now becoming a factor. ESPNDallas.com will explain five reasons why it’s too soon to say Dirk’s demise as an elite player has arrived.

What always seems to happen when two teams are playing? It seems like it comes down to execution at the end. Teams have to rely on their top option in the clutch.

PODCAST
Galloway & Company discuss Chris Paul's situation with the Clippers. Paul is unhappy being linked to the firing of his former coach. Could he join the Mavericks?

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Nowitzki averaged 2.9 points in the last five minutes of games when the Mavericks were ahead or behind by five points or less, which ranked 12th in the NBA last season among players in that situation at least 25 times.

And only Chris Paul had a higher field goal percentage (49.2 percent) than Nowitzki (47.5 percent) among players who averaged at least 4.0 minutes and 2.0 field goal attempts in that situation.

If Nowitzki was such a beast in the clutch, why were the Mavs nothing more than a mediocre team?

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki has been a beast in clutch situations, but the Mavs didn't use him properly last season.
The answer: The Mavericks didn’t use Dirk properly. There is an advanced statistic known as “usage percentage” that shows the percentage of team plays used by a specific player while he was on the floor.

During the four years leading up to the 2012-13 season, Nowitzki’s usage percentage rate in the fourth quarter never ranked below 13th in the entire league. He had two seasons, 2009-10 and 2011-12, where his usage percentage ranking was inside the top 10 at 29.6 and 31.9, respectively.

His usage percentage last season ranked as 21st in the league at 27.6. During the championship season, Dirk had a percentage of 29.3 in the fourth quarter, ranking 13th in the league. There are two clear reasons to see why the usage percentages are lower in those two seasons but have two very different results.

“We’ve been spoiled with Jason Kidd and Stevie Nash before,” Donnie Nelson said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Galloway & Company as the season came to a close. “I think the quarterback position is just a really, really important one. I’d say that that’s up there.

“That’s no disrespect for anyone. Darren Collison did a terrific job with a tough situation, and we’d certainly be open to the conversation of him coming back, but (upgrading point guard) has got to be in my mind first and foremost.”

Dallas and Nowitzki’s success have been tied to the point guard position. At the very least, the Mavs need to secure a point guard who can deliver the ball where it needs to go.

The collective success has also been linked to quality depth. During the championship year, the Mavericks had multiple weapons that could do multiple things and they had specialists that could be depended on.

Yes, Nowitzki's knee injury got in the way of his productivity, but the flawed roster also got in the way of the team’s success, as well as his. Nowitzki is a once in a lifetime player, but he still needs help around him.

Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9