Leading up to tonight's matchup against the Mavs, Doyle from Mavs Moneyball was kind enough to answer some questions about a team that's in a very different spot than the Pistons. You can check him out on Twitter at the excellent handle @TheKobeBeef.
17-8 and 7th in the conference. Ouch. What are the keys to getting this team over the hump to contend in such a tough conference?
You're right. The West is brutal and the Mavs aren't making it easy on themselves. So far, Dallas has yet to notch a win against the top tier teams in the conference. That's not to say that they won't get a win against one of those teams, however. It's a long season. If they hope to compete with these teams when the playoffs roll around, though, the Mavs are need to improve their defense.
Dallas' perimeter defense has been just shy of abysmal this season. The Mavs rank last in opponent 3-point shooting, allowing other teams to connect on 39.7 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
Often, the Mavericks are scrambling to close out shooters or trailing behind their man on screens and pick and rolls. It's not to say that they aren't trying, the effort is there for the most part, it's just that they aren't good enough. None of the perimeter players are defensive minded unless you consider Monta Ellis taking charges a valuable defensive commodity and Chandler Parsons is an average defender at best. The problem is that the better wing defenders on the roster really don't pose a threat on the offensive side of the court. Players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Jae Crowder have yet to knock down their outside shots with consistency to make them deserving of heavier minutes. Richard Jefferson is a capable shooter but he too is prone to erratic play at times.
If the Mavs could get some level of consistency out of their perimeter defense, it wouldn't be a stretch to consider them an early playoff dark horse candidate. At present, though, their 24th ranked defense speaks volumes.
At the same time, the Mavs continue to field a competitive team despite being mostly filled with guys who have been role players on bad teams elsewhere. How does the franchise continue to make it work?
You know, that's a great question. It honestly baffles me sometimes. Yet, I think as long as you have a team with Dirk Nowitzki as the focal point, everything else will fall into place.
That said, it has been frustrating over the years to watch the front office treat the draft as though it was from the untouchables caste. Their desire to continually refresh the through free agency has its ups and downs. O.J. Mayo really didn't work out. Darren Collison also wasn't long for the Mavs. So it doesn't always have good results. There is a new team almost every year. The two constants are Rick Carlisle and Nowitzki. That seems to be enough to keep the team competitive.
It sounded like folks seemed to be getting a little antsy about the Chandler Parsons signing. His last 12 games seems to be much better than his first 12. On a scale of 1-10, how much concern is there about this signing?
I guess the concern hovered at a 5 or 6 but that's mostly because of the contract he signed. He's the highest paid player on the team and that is troubling to a number of people. His first few games with the Mavericks were certainly troubling to some, including my colleagues, as the expectations for Parsons were rather high. Those concerns were premature. It takes time to adjust to a new system and new teammates. I think Parsons will round into a fine player for Dallas. He's still young and has room to keep getting better. He's only 25. He'll earn the money he was given.
True or false: Tyson Chandler is the most underrated player in the league.
I don't think I would call him underrated. I would say overlooked. He's not young and doesn't make headlines on ESPN so he's often forgotten outside of Dallas or New York, where he used to play. In Dallas he seems to have found some of that youthful vigor again. Chandler is in the top five in each rebounding category and is near the top of the league in dunks. I think almost any GM, not Sam Hinkie, would love to have him on their roster.
Why in the world does Brandan Wright play so few minutes? Is there any frustration among Mavs fans wondering what he'd look like as a 30 mpg type of guy?
It's definitely been a subject that has been brought up in the past. However, we've come to accept Wright's limitations. His numbers are insane but he can only thrive in certain conditions. He cannot match up with the bigger, stronger centers in the league but can thrive against most second units. Carlisle knows when and how to use him and most Mavs fans trust that.
How are you all liking our old buddy Charlie Villanueva?
I am probably the worst person to be asked this question. I am sure Villanueva is a nice and thoughtful person. All accounts show that he is. However, I was one of the most vocal members on the MMB staff who outright opposed his inclusion on the final roster. I cannot for the life of me understand why a washed up shooter, who will never play any meaningful minutes, was a priority. I wish the team kept Bernard James, as depth in the middle is an issue, rather than signing Charlie V. He causes me to audibly groan each time he takes the floor. But I'm sure he's really nice.