Dallas Mavericks: Finals Frontier

Finals Frontier: Mavs need to regain continuity

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
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 clearly have chemistry through continuity. Chemistry is something that is often discussed as an intangible, but it’s often difficult to quantify how much of an impact chemistry plays in success or failure. Some say it is the X-factor that separates two teams that are evenly matched. Some say it’s just a lame excuse to explain why a talented team just didn’t fulfill its potential.

[+] EnlargeDallas Mavericks
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesContinuity and chemistry were key factors in the Mavs' championship run.
If you're familiar with your environment, you will likely maneuver through it in an easier fashion. You gain familiarity over time. That familiarity and continuity allows you to feel confident in your abilities, even when you have to travel on the road into a hostile environment.

While San Antonio’s core has been together for much longer, Miami’s core has been together now for three years. They established their big three, and as the seasons moved by they have added parts to their rotation. On top of that, the Heat have kept most of those new parts together.

San Antonio has clearly had their big three together for a long time, with the earliest incarnation of it starting during the 2002-03 season. Through doubts of old age and improved competition, the Spurs kept their core together and have reaped the benefits of that decision.

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.

Listen Listen
The 2011 Mavs were a team that was built over time. They had established the two-man game between Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry over a span of just over half a decade. They also had a couple of years to incorporate Jason Kidd's basketball IQ and use it to create their flow offense. Shawn Marion had time within the organization before the championship year to establish himself as the defensive stopper on the perimeter. Over time, the Mavs created that continuity and chemistry that established the framework of their championship roster.

Looking back at this past season, they tried to build a makeshift roster, mainly on one-year deals, in the attempt to build chemistry on the fly. For multiple reasons, that attempt clearly didn’t work for them. The new CBA has worked against most teams, and the Mavs tried to work ahead of the learning curve as teams have to adapt to building a new form of cohesion and continuity.

Owner Mark Cuban certainly knows that his first major run with this new approach didn’t work and is willing to prepare with a new model if Dallas' grand attempts at acquiring a superstar fall short. “If we don’t get the big name (free agent), we want to start building that base of a team that can start having some continuity of playing together,” Cuban said earlier this month during a radio interview.

Based on the lack of information that’s being floated around, it seems like many of the current Mavs that are free agents are out of sight and out of mind in terms of coming back next year. Whether it’s a one-year or his noted two-year plan, Cuban is making it clear that the Mavs need to build continuity. That’s not a bad thing.

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: 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.

Listen Listen
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 need quality depth

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
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.

Both Miami and San Antonio have depth at their disposal. On top of that, their depth is versatile. Whether it is Kawhi Leonard, Ray Allen, Matt Bonner or Shane Battier, each team has multiple options who are solid at multiple facets of the game.

PODCAST
ESPN senior NBA analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the NBA Finals and latest Mavericks news.

Listen Listen
Each team’s respective big three carry the load, but the role players can step up in big situations. If LeBron James has to be relied upon to bring more offense, Miami has someone in Battier who can take on a larger defensive responsibility and still be viewed as a threat from beyond the arc. San Antonio’s Boris Diaw can bring versatility as a big man if the Spurs have to adjust to a shrinking lineup Miami might throw at them.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle isn’t very fond of judging players by the old, by-the-book way of thinking. “He’s a basketball player” is a phrase that often comes out of the coach’s mouth. The game is shifting away from defined labels for players based on position. Carlisle, as well as the two coaches involved in the NBA Finals, have recognized this and often try to find the best lineups that can be placed out on the floor, regardless of the traditional positions.

[+] EnlargeDallas Mavericks
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesThe Mavs have to choose wisely with their open roster spots if they want to make a return Frinals trip.
Neither Miami nor San Antonio rely on a dominant big man down on the block. Both teams faced challenges in their respective conference finals against clubs that had menacing big men. If either team lost, that might have shifted the balance in the future in regards to teams trying to gear more towards a traditional big man down on the low post. With San Antonio and Miami in the Finals, “small ball” prevails.

Now, Dallas has to try to find the right pieces that can bring true depth. The pieces they had this season didn’t amount to much, as they were depleted at the point guard and center positions. They have a relatively clean slate to work with. You have Dirk Nowitzki as the focal point and Shawn Marion and Vince Carter as the veterans. Those two could easily be moved in the offseason, but they also work perfectly in what the Mavs would need to do if they’re building a roster based on depth and versatility.

The championship team of 2011 provides an additional example of how the depth can be advantageous. The Mavs had players such as DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal who could provide tough defense and perimeter shooting. While Tyson Chandler was seen as the major big man, Brendan Haywood was a solid rim protector who could hold his own in the rebounding department. Like the Heat and the Spurs, the Mavs’ title squad had enough depth to withstand whatever challenges came their way.

Depth has delivered success to Miami and San Antonio. It clearly delivered to Dallas back in 2011. With a roster full of holes, the front office must choose wisely with their open spots.

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.

Listen Listen
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.

Finals Frontier: Mavs must reload on offensive trifecta

June, 9, 2013
6/09/13
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.

There is an advanced statistic know as the “offensive rating” that measures a team's points scored per 100 possessions. Both Miami and San Antonio ranked in the top 10 during the regular season. Miami ranked first with an offensive rating of 110.3, while San Antonio ranked seventh at 105.9.

PODCAST
ESPN NBA insider Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Mavericks news, Jason Kidd's interest in coaching the Nets and the NBA Finals.

Listen Listen
It makes sense that the two teams are proficient on the offensive end of the floor, but what exactly are they doing to be so effective?

The three biggest ways Miami and San Antonio capitalize on offense: Spacing, ball movement and masking. All three require a high level of basketball IQ.

Both Miami and San Antonio ensure they have at least one or two guys on the floor who change the geometry of the floor with their ability to hit a 3-point shot. The threat of that forces opposing defenses to stretch themselves. That space creates an easy decision for the player driving to the lane, forcing the defense to collapse on them, and gives the ability to kick out to an open man.

Neither Miami nor San Antonio has one player on their roster that would be considered a ball stopper -- someone who gets the ball and doesn’t immediately do something with it, whether it’s dribbling, passing or shooting. The ball will always move faster than a player, so proper ball movement can eventually break an opposing defense down. Both of the teams in the Finals do a tremendous job of sharing the basketball and trusting everyone who is on the floor to do the right thing with the basketball.

Masking is a form of deception and misdirection. Deception is necessary now as advanced scouting allows teams to know specifics sets that will be operated against them. The masking forces the opposing defenses to believe a designed set is coming, only to reveal a hidden layer within the set. By the time the defense realizes the actual play, it’s too late. The deception is usually triggered by a player driving to the rim and having someone set a screen for a shooter on the weak side of the floor. As the driver gets to the rim, sucking in the defense, he dishes out the ball to the open man on the other side.

In regards to spacing, the Mavericks acquired Peja Stojakovic during the championship run after he was released from the Toronto Raptors because of his reputation for being one of the premiere perimeter shooters to ever play the game. At the time, Dallas was desperate to find a weak-side shooter to keep opposing teams honest and space the floor when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were on the floor together.

The Mavs’ ball movement during the 2011 title run was second to none. Nowitzki set the table for the ball movement with his unselfish plays either in the low, mid or high post. Since Rick Carlisle has been the head coach, the team has prided itself on crisp ball movement. The championship run was no different.

Finally, the Mavericks' deception was transparent, but still extremely effective. They clearly wanted to get the ball to Nowitzki. By making Nowitzki the screener, they were able to create space for him. Whether it was Jason Terry, Jason Kidd or J.J. Barea, they all waited to see how the defense would react to Nowitzki’s pick and pop motion. To keep defenses honest, the misdirection would come when Nowitzki would set screens for someone other than the ball handler. With the defense so focused on him, another teammate on the weak side would set a secondary screen for the last remaining player on the floor to where they could finish at the rim or along the baseline.

The spacing, ball movement and masking all work together. It’s worked to this point for the Heat and the Spurs. It certainly worked for the Mavs in 2011. With cap space, Dallas will need to reload with those three facets in mind.

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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

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