D-Will’s Return: Previewing Dallas From Dallas

Deron Williams Brooklyn Nets Dallas Mavericks
Deron Williams & the Brooklyn Nets travel to Dallas for the only time this season. (AP)
Deron Williams Brooklyn Nets Dallas Mavericks
Deron Williams & the Brooklyn Nets travel to Dallas for the only time this season. (AP)

The 39-28 Brooklyn Nets are in game two of their eight-game, 17-day circus road trip, tonight in Dallas to take on the 32-35 Dallas Mavericks. This is the second time the Nets and Mavericks will face off, the first a 98-90 Mavericks victory in Brooklyn fueled by efficient 20-point games from both Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks have fallen out of the competitive picture entirely after winning a title two years ago against the Miami Heat, but they’ve still got one of the best coaches in the league and one of the greatest European players in history.

This is the first time Deron Williams is playing a game in Dallas — he went to high school in The Colony, a Dallas suburb — since Williams decided to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets this offseason.

Joining me to help me learn just what this Mavericks team is all about is Ian Levy, mastermind behind Hickory High, where he does cool stuff like visualize efficiency and the Four Factors, and contributor to ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate Dallas Mavericks Blog Thet Woman Game The Two Man Game. Ian’s one of the best analytic writers we have, so give his stuff a read.

And, as always: The BK Game Streak is up. Get to playin’.


Devin: Two of the Nets’ biggest weaknesses are defending teams that run a lot and defending teams with finely-tuned offenses. Are the Mavericks one of these teams?

Ian Levy: The finely-tuned offensive machine that picked apart the Heat in the Finals two seasons ago has largely fallen into disrepair, a combination of poorly fitting parts and ineffective implementation. For most of this season, the Mavericks’ offensive efficiency has hovered around league average, but over the last ten games they’ve been scoring at a rate of 108.9 points per 100 possessions, the sixth-best mark in the league over that stretch. Key to this resurgence has been the slow, but continuous, return of Dirk Nowitzki’s legs, some hot shooting from O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter, and the insertion of Mike James into the starting lineup. They have a different half-court look than they did earlier in the season but consistency continues to be a challenge.

The Mavericks do like to run, but aren’t a typical up-tempo team. They don’t generate a lot of turnovers, so many of their transition points come on an aggressive push off a defensive rebound. They actually do generate a high number of fastbreak, points but usually these are of the “secondary break” variety — a cutter flashing through against a half-formed defensive front, or a trailing wing finding open space for a three-pointer. They definitely don’t have the explosive transition game of the Heat or Thunder, who can quickly turn a handful of miscues into a blowout.

In short: the Mavericks have a little of each of the Nets’ weaknesses in their offensive mix, but don’t do either well enough to really frighten.

Devin: Deron Williams spurned Mark Cuban & his hometown Dallas by choosing to sign with Brooklyn this summer. How do you think D-Will will be received by the home Dallas crowd tonight?

Ian: There was definitely some initial frustration with Williams choosing Brooklyn over Dallas, but I think that has mostly been forgotten. To be honest the Mavericks have much more pressing and immediate roster questions to worry about than could’ves, would’ves and should’ves.

The Mavericks have suited 21 different players this season. Is the rotation set? Is it optimal for this roster?

Ian: It’s been unbelievable to watch almost two full rosters worth of players cycle through the rotation this season. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it. (Note from Devin: did you see the Nets last year?) Mike James has started the last eight games at point guard, and I would assume he finishes the season there given how well the team has played of late. But on a game-to-game basis, players continue to pop up and fade away as Carlisle flails about for the perfect combination.

Given his previous track record at managing lineups and the 21 different pieces he’s had to work with, the fact that he hasn’t been able to find a more consistently successful rotation has been fairly discouraging. I’d like to say the Mavericks have something good going that they’ll try to ride through the end of this playoff push, but honestly nothing would surprise me personnel-wise.