Matching expectations with reality is a chore most aren’t exempt from. The Mavericks are no different as they trail blaze another sub .500 season. This seasons expectations weren’t that lofty when speaking with most fans. A playoff finish, remaining competitive throughout the season and a “few” individual accolades (ROY) would be enough to satisfy the most rabid Mavs supporter. With these standards in mind its difficult to have an optimistic approach four weeks into the season.
NBA Power Rankings generally bring me back to Earth after overreacting to a positive or negative start but, when you see how the team is trending it’s far from motivating.
Take a look at ESPN’s Power Rankings here:
NBA Power Rankings WK3 (21st), NBA Power Ranking WK4 (25th)
The apparent answer to this question is Wesley Matthews. His untimely foul in the closing seconds versus the Lakers seemed to be the straw that broke most Mavs fans backs. This bonehead move coupled with his seemingly sporadic shooting has been too much to handle. Contrary to this rhetoric Wes has been a positive for the slumping squad. The teams third leading scorer is currently shooting 41% from the field, 35% from 3 and 81% from the charity stripe. His offensive aggression has kept the team in multiple games as the young guns continue to find a consistent way to produce buckets. Like the majority of fans, I have been critical of Matthews play because his role expectation is that of a 3&D guy however when we tune in, I see a far less productive version of Kobe Bryant dawning a Maverick jersey. To this point, we have to be appreciative though. Wes’s 17.6 PPG have been needed to remain competitive during a tough 2-7 start.
The Harrison Barnes to the rescue narrative is on its last legs as he participated in his 6th game of the season last night. No logical person expects Dirk to return from injury and dominate the league like years past. So the answer has to be in the locker room or is it? Surveying the league for contracts comparable to Wes is tough when considering his age and production. Waiving him makes no sense because his relative production and leadership are valued by the organization. Basically, this means we are hitched to the Wes wagon for the remainder of this season.
There is no way to make a six-game losing streak attractive. No matter how much makeup used those blemishes will continue to shine. The Mavericks are allowing their opponents to shoot 50% from the field while only shooting 45% themselves. It doesn’t take a genius to realize this is an equation for disaster. No way a club can sustain this defensive production and be competitive. In the past I’ve suggested the Maverick organizations game plan is sustainable long-term but I didn’t mean losing long-term.
This has been a long four weeks considering the individual promise many of the young players have shown but overcoming our defensive ineptitude should be the key focus. If your searching for more evidence to solidify the dismal defense look no further than the teams Defensive Rating of 114.2% good for 25th in the league. This advanced stat analyzes the team’s points allowed per 100 possessions. In addition, the Mavs opponents Effective Field Goal percentage of 57% which is good for 29th in the league. This field goal percentage tracks the percentage of points allowed by the Mavs while giving more worth to the three-point shot. As a spectator, it’s not difficult to understand these stats won’t foster a winning atmosphere. Rick Carlisle will be tasked with finding a lineup that is willing to defend with of moxie and toughness.
Moxie and toughness were on full display last night at the AAC as the Mavericks took care of business versus a struggling Wizards squad. They held the 2-8 team to a point total of 100 which is easily the least amount given up this season. Performances like this can be a tease for famished fans thirsty for success. Utah, OKC, and Chicago are up next so defense will be key. Don’t expect these dubs to come easy.
Questioning the teams defensive acumen is well within reason. Like prior seasons we will probably finish this one with more questions than answers but let’s be real, as MFFL’s we’re used to it.
Photos: Mavs.com Power Rankings: ESPN.com