Saturday, April 5, 2008

and again and again

How many times can we ask this? Is Avery Johnson not aware that Dirk is horrible at scoring on isolation plays at the ends of games? I only remember seeing that play succeed three times in all the years I’ve watched Dirk: once against the Spurs in the playoffs two years ago, once against the Heat in the Finals, and once in the regular season against Phoenix last year.

Other than that, Dirk’s points at the ends of games almost always come from either free throws or shots in rhythm, off the pass. Time and again, though, the isolation play fails.

As I wrote over a month ago (in this post), the Mavericks only hit game-winning shots when they’re set up with open looks in rhythm. Those kinds of set-ups, of course, are exactly what Kidd is best at. Get Kidd the ball, get people moving around, and let him find Dirk or Terry, or maybe even Dampier for a dunk if the defense breaks down.

So what do the Mavericks run tonight, with the game on the line and 30 seconds left?

Isolation to Dirk.

It has never worked with any consistency. Doesn’t matter why -- that play simply doesn’t win close game for the Mavericks. If Avery doesn’t get this simple fact, I don’t see why we think this team will ever succeed under his leadership.


Jeremy said...

If your best player can only hit a money shot when he's in rhythm, then your team is fundamentally flawed. Time to blow the Mavs up. This team is over.

And I agree that Avery is part of problem.

scoots said...

Fundamentally flawed, yes, but that doesn't mean you can't win a championship. Look at the Heat.

The Mavericks have shown very clearly that (1) that can consistently play well with the best teams in the NBA, and (2) that they will consistently miss the important shots at the end against those teams.

Point (1) is just as true as point (2), so all you have fix is their end-game for them to be a truly elite team. Terry, Stackhouse, and Dirk have all shown that they can get shots at the ends of games when they get quality looks, and I still think Kidd can get them those looks if Avery sets up the plays that way.

Right now, I bet the Mavericks make the big shot maybe 15% of the time. If a team can make half of those, I think it’s in good shape, regardless of whether it’s their stud running isolations or not, and I think the Mavericks have the potential to do that.

micah said...

Yes, I agree that Avery is part of the problem. I didn't get to watch the game yesterday, but by looking at the box score it looks like defense was what we were missing yesterday. Both teams shot over 50%. Am I wrong?

Jennifer said...

There is a vast difference between teams that can keep up with the best for 3 1/2 quarters and those who can close the game in 4.

Obviously, the Miami Heat were not flawed in the same way because they had one of the best closers in NBA finals history in Dwyane Wade. And they had the immense fortune of playing against Dirk Nowitzki in a high-pressure series.


Brad Cranford said...

One of the best closers in NBA Finals history? I don't know about that. Maybe one of the best free throw shooters in NBA Finals history if you measure by volume of free throws.

As for Dirk, I recall stats from a couple of years ago that had him rated as one of the most clutch shooters late in the 4th quarter.

I doubt he rates that high now. The difference? I think it has to be the coach and the offensive system.

Jeremy said...

Wade was fantastic in that series, even if he did get a lot of help.

That's why Bill Simmons called him "the single best player in the league" and "the league’s premier money player."

I don't know about, but I've never heard anyone use those words to describe Dirk.

Brad Cranford said...

I'll see if I can dig up the stats. Obviously, nobody would say that about Dirk this year.

As for wade... I know. Everybody was impressed by what he did. And he is a great player (though I think he gets fouls called that not even Jordan normally got). That said, there are several players I would take over him. Based on this season and his injury history overall, maybe quite a few players.

Brad Cranford said...

Actually, I stand corrected. still has Dirk rated pretty high (3rd) in their Clutch stats for scoring.

They've got a million ways to look at the stats and Dirk doesn't fair so well in other categories like fg% during clutch moments. So, make of that what you will.

Anyway, for what it is worth:

scoots said...

Dirk has had plenty of nice 4th quarters -- like I remember a Sunday afternoon game against the Pistons last year where he did really well.

I know Jeremy likes to beat up on Dirk, but that’s not my point. I’m just being realistic: Dirk doesn’t score on isolations at the ends of game, so the Mavericks should stop wasting their time hoping that will change. Instead, they need to work with what they have, which is two players (Terry and Stackhouse) who have proven they can hit big shots at the ends of game -- but usually only if they get set up with a nice pass. Dirk, at least occasionally, has had success with that as well.

As for blowing up the team, I think this is a group you take a chance with for at least next year. There’s just no reason to think the team will be anywhere near this good at any point in the near future if they give up, so they may as well stick it out. It’s not as if Dirk or Kidd have all that much trade value right now anyway.

Jennifer said...

"There’s just no reason to think the team will be anywhere near this good at any point in the near future if they give up."

And there's no reason to think that this group of players will ever win a championship. They are the second-oldest team in the league. They are regressing in a variety of areas. They have lost their psychological edge. They can't close out a series when they're up (Miami) and they can't fight back when they're down (Golden State). The kindest way to characterize this group is to call them fundamentally flawed.

You had it right when you wrote them off a year ago.


Brad Cranford said...

I think there are several good reasons to believe in this team for next year.

Kidd, Dirk and the potential of a whole new system around these two. Is Kidd going to outplay CP3? No. But we can already see that despite the struggles he has made Damp better. Imagine what they can do if the head coach ever figures out how to use what he has?

Although, I think there is a good chance that many of the role players on this roster don't come back next year. And that is probably a good thing.

And the point of the original article is right on. With Kidd, you *have* to put it in his hands at the end of games. Otherwise, you should never have traded for him.

jeremy said...

"I think there are several good reasons to believe in this team for next year....Kidd, Dirk and the potential of a whole new system around these two."

Precisely the reasons not to believe in this team for next year. (See the 2001-07 seasons.)

micah said...

They somehow did a nice job of coming back on the Suns today. And seeing Dirk make that off-balance shot to put the game away was nice to see.

I agree that you don't blow up the team yet. You never know what's going to happen, who is going to get hurt, ect. And this team has shown the ability to play with the great teams and win at times. And I'm a homer. Let's role the dice.

Brad Cranford said...

"Precisely the reasons not to believe in this team for next year. (See the 2001-07 seasons.)"

Something like 2 trips to the western conference finals, 1 trip to the nba finals. And an MVP award. Oh, and in that time Kidd has 2 more trips to the NBA finals and maybe another trip or two to the eastern conference finals.

Or we could blow the team up, trade Dirk for... what? We were not and are not going to get somebody like Kobe. MAYBE, we had a shot at KG but that time has passed.

I'll take my chances next season with Dirk and Kidd.

The Rockets spent a decade plus trying to find the right combination of players, style and experience to get Hakeem to the promise land.

Worst case for Dirk is that he goes out as a Karl Malone as one of the NBA's best players not to win it all. But what a heck of a career and I doubt Jazz fans would want to go back and trade him away after they got bounced by Jordan.

I just want people to, every once in a while, appreciate how good we have it with Dirk and how good he really is.

Flawed? Yes. But even Duncan has flaws.

Scoots, I apologize for getting all Mavs preachy on your blog. I like what I've read here, and I'll try to tone it down a bit.

scoots said...


Your comments are completely welcome.

In this case, you've walked in on a long-running argument between Jeremy (who's my brother) and me. We both have a love-hate relationship with Dirk and the Mavs, and I think we've both gotten burned by what's happened the past three seasons. As you can tell, Jeremy is more sold on the fact that Dirk will never win it all. I don't really think he will either, but I'm content to keep watching him try.

jeremy said...


I don't disagree that Dirk is the next Karl Malone. But for me, that is deeply unsatisfying. Karl Malone is my least favorite player in NBA history.

This is the crux of the issue: whether you think rooting for a team that gets close, and loses, year after year makes all those hours of agony worthwhile. I don't.

Dirk may be a HOFer, but he is not a champion.

Brad Cranford said...

heh, yeah I get that. I'm clearly a Dirk apologist and it pains me to compare him to Malone.

If I had any confidence that trading Dirk would make things better, I would jump on that bandwagon very quickly. But I don't think things would get better.

Also, I really appreciate players that display quality character and he is one of the best (well, when he isn't out partying with Nash anyway).

So, give me a annual 50+ winning team, featuring a likable player that doesn't cause problems in the press and is a known gym rat, and an organization that is *trying* to do the right thing... and you have my vote.

Note: I don't always like Cuban's actions, but I appreciate the fact that I think he is genuinely trying help the team win even when misguided.