All About the Mavs – Dirk, Devin and the Trade Deadline
Dirk Deserves to be an All-Star
Dirk Nowitzki has been named to his 12th All-Star game, getting the nod over fellow legend Tim Duncan and soon to be megastar Anthony Davis. This is his 12th All Star appearance in the past 13 years with his only miss being last year (the result of knee surgery and a subsequently slow start). In a lot of ways the All-Star voting system is flawed. For example, you probably heard that Kobe Bryant was voted in as a Western Conference starter… despite only averaging 13.8 points in only six appearances this season. Dirk’s candidacy, however, is legit and his spot well earned.
Dirk is averaging 22 points per game, his best mark since the 2010-2011 season. His assist total is on pace to be his best since 07-08, the year after he won the MVP. Nowitzki’s value becomes even more apparent when you look at his advanced statistics. His PER is currently 8th in the NBA and 3rd among Power Forwards (behind Kevin Love and Anthony Davis). His estimated win added (10.1) puts him among the top 10 in the league, right under fellow All-Star and dark horse MVP candidate Lamarcus Aldridge.
But get this; Dirk has been playing his best basketball here of late. Over the past five games, Dirk has averaged 29.8 ppg while shooting 60% from the field. If you take a deeper look at his shot chart over that same span, you’ll see that he is shooting over .500 from every spot on the court with the exception of the left and right corner three, which is a shot Dirk rarely takes. Threes from the top of the arch, on the other hand, have been falling on the regular (10/16 or 62.5%). Dirk is notorious for his propensity to knock down threes in transition, and he’s just been killing it here recently. Honestly though, Dirk’s impact on the Mavericks goes beyond quantifiable numbers. Just look at what he’s done to Monta Ellis’ career in a span of just a few short months.
Dirk also had historical precedent on his side. Currently, Nowitzki is on pace to be only the sixth NBA player ever to average at least 21 points per game at the age of 35 or older (per ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Alex English, and Michael Jordan were the other five and they were All-Stars in each of the seasons they were able to post those numbers.
When asked about his All-Star bid Nowitzki was quoted as saying, “Can’t wait to wear those sweet jerseys with those sleeves. Really nice and snug. Should bring out my physique nicely.” The world deserves to see Dirk’s physique in New Orleans, and Dirk deserves this All-Star game.
Mavs at the Trade Deadline
There are rumors of some big names being shopped around the league, but the Mavericks are unlikely to play part in any earth shattering deals. The biggest two reasons for this is Dallas’ lack of young assets and moveable draft picks. Prospects potential draft picks are sexy, they are the two things seemingly every front office (with the exception of Cuban and GM Nelson) wants more of. The problem is that since Dallas doesn’t value youth as much as its peers, it doesn’t really have any. The only young asset the Mavs have with any trade value is Shane Larkin. The problem with Larkin is that he’s been buried pretty deep in the rotation since the return of Devin Harris. The return of Harris has been great for Dallas, but has done little to cultivate any potential trade return for Larkin. Complicating matters is the fact that Dallas still owes a first round pick to Oklahoma City from the ill-fated deal that brought Lamar Odom to the Mavericks. Further handcuffing the Mavs, the pick is protected, which means that the Thunder only gets it if Dallas has pick 21 or higher. Which could be this year… or next year… or five years from now. Obviously, this makes the dealing of future picks very tricky.
There are two possible scenarios in which Cuban and Co. could make a deal, but they’re both pretty unlikely. The first is a situation in which one team is looking to dump salary cap. Dallas has two expiring contracts in Shawn Marion ($9.32 mil) and Vince Carter ($3.18 mil) that a team looking to clear space may find appealing. Best example here is Boston, but really the options are slim and again Dallas lacks the available draft picks that Danny Ainge so desperately covets. The second scenario would be a team looking to dump excessive personality. Dallas prides itself in being somewhat of haven for reclamation projects (see Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis). They believe the culture they have in place is bigger than any one personality. A potential target here would be Larry Sanders, the troubled Milwaukee center. The problem is that the Bucks just signed Sanders to an extension in the offseason and, barring another nightclub brawl in the near future; don’t seem particularly keen to move him. If Dallas does make a move, it will be far from seismic. It’ll most likely be a swapping of role players, if anything.
The Return of Devin Harris
Devin Harris has returned to much rejoicing by Maverick fans that remember him as a spry young slasher from Wisconsin. Number crunchers love Harris because they believe he can be a defensive anchor the backcourt sorely needs. They might be right. Last year, when Devin was on the court, the Atlanta Hawks allowed 5.5 fewer points per 100 possessions. Does that mean Harris is an elite stopper? No. He’s average at best. Of course, average is an upgrade over current starters Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis, who have been every bit the defensive liabilities they were advertised to be. Honestly, right now a cardboard cut out of One Direction could do a better job of keeping opposing point guards in check than the creaky Calderon.
A sixth man for Atlanta last year, Devin is a smart, efficient veteran who has the size and ability to line up at either guard position, and he’s signed for the veteran minimum. A foot injury reduced Devin to a blazer adorned bench ornament for much of the season, but he’s logged time in 9 games now and the sample size is now big enough to start drawing some conclusions.
The first is that Devin is still a very fast man. He’s obviously not as quick as he was when he made his initial debut with the Mavs, but the burst is clearly still there. Harris has been solid since returning, averaging 8.8 points and 3.4 assists while logging 18.2 minutes per game. This may not sound elite, but a strange trend occurs when you look at what the Mavericks do when Devin is on the court. According to Mavs Moneyball’s Hal Brown, through his first seven games, Dallas scored an impressive 120.9 points per 100 possessions. This is 13.4 points higher than the team average. Keep in mind that this is a Dallas team that was already very proficient on the offensive side of the ball.
Strangely, Brown went on to point out that Dallas is defending at a rate of 113 points per 100 possessions with Harris in the lineup, 7.1 points worse than average. That may seem worrisome since a lot of people were hoping Devin could be something of a defensive stalwart for the team. But should we be worried? Not really. Taking that into consideration, Dallas is still outscoring opponents by 7.9 points per the 100 possessions.
Of course this was all done using a 7 game sample. The NBA season is 82 games. Seeing Devin Harris back in a Mavericks jersey has been a welcome sight. If he can help carry Dallas back into the post season, there will be no questioning his value.