Without a doubt, the Dallas Mavericks have an incredible offensive attack. Between Dirk, Ellis, Parsons, and Rondo, the Mavs have a number of players that can torch you on any given night. Their versatility offensively is rivaled by very few teams in the NBA.
They have a player, in Rondo, who is third in assists in the Association; Tyson Chandler is second in field goal percentage; Dirk is fifth in free throw percentage. The list goes on and on with offensive accolades. As a team, Dallas is second in points scored, second in shooting percentage, and first in offensive efficiency.
Prepare yourselves, Mavs fan. You know what’s coming next. The tone is too uplifting, the hope too strong. If you want to measure the merits of this team, you can’t just look at the stunning offense. There’s another side of the ball that presents another story entirely.
Jan 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler (6) blocks a shot by Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) in the first half of the game at Staples Center. Clippers won 120-100. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
For as great as the Mavs’ offense has been, the defense has been incredibly mediocre. You give me second in points; I give you second to last in opponents’ offensive rebounds per game. You give me first in offensive efficiency; I give you 22nd in defensive efficiency (last I checked, there are 30 teams in the NBA). In just about every defensive statistic, the Mavs are slightly below middle of the pack, if not at the bottom.
Combine a stellar offensive output with a relatively below average defensive output and you get a team that’s pretty good, but not great. And that’s exactly what the Mavericks are right now, pretty good, but not great.
If you ask me, the Achilles heel for the Mavs, outside of their performances against the best in the West, has been their inability to deal with a big, strong power forward/center. Take a look at the last few games where the Mavs have struggled defensively and you see a glaring trend.
In the 120-100 loss against the Clippers, Blake Griffin tore the Mavs apart with 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. If he wasn’t driving powerfully to the basket, he was drawing defenders in and dishing the ball out to an open man (hence the 6 assists).
Why can’t the Mavs ever seem to beat Memphis? Maybe it’s because they can never handle Zach Randolph’s presence down low. How about when Dallas struggled against a subpar Brooklyn side? They were pushed around by Brook Lopez who also scored 22, well above his season average.
The Mavs brought back Tyson Chandler during the offseason to patch up the post position. Dirk certainly isn’t a force defensively, and Chandler Parsons is not strong enough to challenge big, physical power forwards like Griffin and Randolph. Tyson, however, isn’t really the answer either. You don’t picture him as a strong defensive force. He blocks shots and gets rebounds, but I wouldn’t put him body-to-body with Dwight Howard.
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Brandon Wright was a perfect fit for this Dallas defense. He was able to come off the bench and guard just about any big in the game. He was strong, physical, and athletic, but now he’s in Boston. I don’t fault Cuban for his move, though. When talent like Rondo becomes available, you make a move. Wright’s void, however, is felt in this team.
The Mavs’ performances against the NBA’s elite big-men beg the question; is there room for Jermaine O’Neal in this squad? He already lives in Dallas (does anyone know why??) and would fit well with the squad. He would have to know his place. He’s 36 and won’t be able to start, let alone play more than 25 minutes a game. But at 6’11”, 255 pounds, I’d make room for him on the bench. His presence alone is more daunting than anything the Mavs have at the moment.