The Oklahoma City Thunder‘s most important position battle next season will be at shooting guard, where Jeremy Lamb, Anthony Morrow and Reggie Jackson will compete for the chance to play alongside Russell Westbrook.
Lamb, the 12th overall pick of the 2012 draft and one of the key pieces of the James Harden trade, is still itching to break out as he enters his third season. The 22-year-old played in 78 games last season for the Thunder, averaging 8.5 points in 19.7 minutes and shooting 35.6 percent from behind the arc.
Like Lamb, Jackson is also a former first-round pick (No. 24 overall, 2011). He played in 80 games, including 36 starts for the injured Westbrook. In the playoffs, Jackson eventually replaced defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. He contributed 11.1 points per game in the postseason, which was down slightly from the 13.1 points he put up during the regular season.
Lastly, there’s Morrow, who signed a three-year, $10 million contract with OKC this summer after spending last season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Morrow is a lethal shooter from the outside. He shot 45.1 percent from three with the Pels, which was good for fourth best in the NBA.
Each candidate makes sense in their own separate way, but who is the best option of the three? To help answer that question, we will take a deeper look at all three players and break down what they would bring to the table as a starter.
Afterward, we’ll pick the best man for the job.
Jeremy Lamb has the potential to be a solid starter in the NBA. He’s quick and athletic. He has good range on his jumper, and he has great measurables (6’5″ with a 6’11″ wingspan and 8’6″ standing reach, per Lamb’s DraftExpress.com profile).
However, two seasons into his pro career, Lamb has yet to put it all together. Lamb’s inability to live up to the hype so far isn’t completely on him. The UConn product was starting to come along last season, averaging 10.6 points per game for the month of December and 10.7 points in January.
By February, his minutes started to dwindle and he was starting to become an afterthought in the rotation once Caron Butler came aboard in March. As with any young player, confidence is key. Lamb can’t show the coaching staff what he can do if he’s unsure about his role.
Joe Atmonavage of HoopsHabit.com shared the same sentiments in a recent article about Lamb:
I think the Thunder can expect Lamb to average around 10-12 points per game while knocking down 38-40 percent of his 3-pointers…A big part of putting it altogether and having that type of season for Lamb is his confidence. I think Brooks needs to let Lamb play through his mistakes and regain his confidence through his play. It is hard to gain confidence when you are not on the floor.
The flip side to Atmonavage‘s point is that Lamb has to give the franchise a reason to put its faith in him. He has to make the most of the opportunities he gets and prove himself worthy of more playing time. Inconsistency, at both ends of the court, has been one of Lamb’s biggest obstacles.
Lamb’s consistency woes could be attributed to a lack of confidence, but it’s on him to motivate himself to play up to the high standards. When you look at the best players in the league, they don’t rely on others to instill the competitive drive to be great. It comes from within.
Now let’s take a look at some of the things Lamb can do and what he can offer the Thunder when he starts feeling confident in himself. This video is from Lamb’s career night against the Houston Rockets on Dec. 29 of last year.
Throughout the highlight reel, you’ll see Lamb’s outside jumper on display. His ability to catch and shoot will come in handy for a Thunder team that finished 14th in both three-point percentage (36 percent) and three-pointers made per game (8.1 per contest).
That’s not the only thing Lamb showcases here though. At the 34-second mark, Lamb shows off his wheels as he races down the court in transition to get the easy bucket. Two minutes in, Lamb brings the ball up and lobs a perfect mid-court pass for the alley-oop.
Games like this have been infrequent throughout Lamb’s short career, which is a large part of the frustration for the organization and its fans alike. The talent is definitely there, but it’s up to Lamb to provide the spark that will lead to a bright career.
Like Lamb, Morrow’s best attribute is his ability to light it up from the outside. Morrow was silent for the first half of last season as minutes became scarce playing behind Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon in New Orleans. It wasn’t until injuries forced him into a bigger role late in the season that the 28-year-old really came to life.
Morrow came alive in March and April, averaging 11.1 and 15.1 points, respectively, in the final two months of the season. He became a go-to offensively for a Pelicans team that wasn’t left with much beyond Anthony Davis down the stretch.
The key was his shooting. He converted 42 percent of his three-point attempts in March. Then, he followed that up by nailing 44.8 percent of his treys in April. Was this scoring outburst a sign of future things to come, or was the Georgia Tech product motivated by his impending free agency?
Prior to his explosion with the Pelicans, Morrow flew under the radar as he bounced around with several different teams. He hasn’t averaged double-digits in scoring since the 2011-12 season with the then-New Jersey Nets, and he’s never started more than 47 games in a single season throughout his six-year career.
Despite the lack of starting experience, Morrow clearly did enough to convince the Thunder to sign him during the offseason. Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti spoke highly of his prized acquisition when asked why the shooter is such a good fit for the Thunder (h/t to Susan Bible of Basketball Insiders).
Anthony Morrow has demonstrated that he is amongst the most consistent and efficient three point shooters in the NBA over his career. With his body of work, we feel Anthony is a unique addition to a diverse roster, while also possessing the toughness and selflessness that we are consistently seeking in Thunder players.
In this video of Morrow’s 27-point performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, the veteran shows he’s more than just a long-range specialist. While he shows off his ability to knock down open threes, Morrow does a nice job of mixing in some post moves as well as creating his shot off the dribble.
If Morrow can prove to be more than a niche player, he could be a nice fourth option on what is already a devastating starting rotation. Even if Morrow doesn’t get the starting job, he provides depth for a team that needs scoring off the bench as well as a solid mentor for the prospects on the rise.
There are a number of reasons why Reggie Jackson would like to start this season. Jackson has played well enough, both as a reserve and as an occasional starter, to earn an increased role. Last season, he scored a career-high 13.1 points per game and raised his three-point percentage from 23.1 percent in 2012-13 to 33.9 percent.
A spot in the starting lineup would also increase Jackson’s chances of securing a nice payday down the road. Jackson will be a restricted free agent next summer, which puts the Thunder in an awkward position since they don’t have the money to lock up their super-sub this year.
The more Jackson plays, in theory, the higher his value becomes. As his value rises, so does his price tag. Teams with cap space and a need for a scoring point guard could make a run at Jackson knowing Oklahoma City’s budget will be thin with Kevin Durant‘s contract expiring a year later.
As we’ve seen this summer with guys like Chandler Parsons, teams are willing to overpay for rising stars if it will also hurt a fierce rival as well. We’ve also seen how relationships between restricted free agents and their respective franchises can become strained when pennies start getting pinched (as in the case of Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns, per Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com).
Business aside, there are pros and cons to putting Jackson in the starting lineup. On the one hand, playing Jackson and Westbrook together gives the Thunder an interchangeable backcourt. Both men are capable of bringing the ball up the court or playing off the ball and creating offense for themselves.
On the flip side, playing two point guards together as opposed to the traditional guard pairing creates a size disadvantage (though Westbrook’s insane athleticism would allow him to hold his own defensively).
There would also be a downgrade at the backup point guard spot going from Jackson to Sebastian Telfair. Quality depth was one of the Thunder’s biggest issues last season and, while Telfair could be serviceable, he doesn’t offer the same spark that Jackson does.
Speaking of the spark Jackson provides, watch how he torched the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. While Lamb and Morrow use their jumper as their bread and butter, Jackson’s calling card is the ability to get to the hoop at will.
Time and time again, he penetrates the Grizzlies defense and attacks the basket. That’s not to say that Jackson can’t knock it down from deep. At the 1:04 mark, you’ll see him dribble out of trouble, step back and nail a trifecta.
Jackson would finish with 32 points as he helped bring the Thunder back to earn the win and even the series up.
With Jackson getting better every year, the Thunder have an interesting decision ahead. The Boston College product will be motivated to play well. That could work to Oklahoma City’s benefit or its detriment.
And The Winner Is…
In truth, having three starter-quality candidates at one position is a good problem to have. Regardless of what direction head coach Scott Brooks goes in, he’s likely to make a good decision. Based on how he’s performed the past two seasons (especially in the playoffs), the popular choice would be to go with Jackson.
However, I think Lamb should get the nod. The time has come for the team to get a good look at one of its prized prospects, and it will be a boost to Lamb’s confidence if he can finally have a defined role. If the only thing holding Lamb back has been what’s between his ears, a little support could go a long way.
Furthermore, by relegating Jackson and Morrow to the second unit, Oklahoma City’s bench becomes deeper and stronger. While both have shined as starters before, Jackson could excel as a sixth man and Morrow could thrive as a three-point specialist.
Meanwhile, this becomes a make-or-break season for Lamb. With the team trusting him with starter minutes, there’s no more excuses for his failures. Either he puts all of his physical tools together and lives up to his potential or the team must move on.
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have waived guard Jamaal Franklin.
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In today’s NBA, there is hardly a limited supply of talented point guards.
Perhaps more so now than ever before, the league can boast remarkable depth at the position as well as incredible star power at the top. And of course, the San Antonio Spurs can claim both within their roster as well.
The spotlight certainly falls on Tony Parker, a soon-to-be 14-year veteran who has played various roles within the organization since he was drafted in 2001. He provides the team with the superstar talent necessary to win titles, though the roster boasts plentiful depth behind him—another key given Parker’s age.
As a whole, the point guard rotation has consistently been one of the team’s strongest features, and following a strong 2013-14 campaign, there’s little reason to believe 2014-15 won’t follow suit.
As he does every year, Parker headlined the Spurs’ point guard corps with under-the-radar excellence—serving as the team’s alpha dog and primary orchestrator throughout its 2013-14 pursuit of a title.
Despite a significant drop from his 2012-13 MVP-caliber stat line—his scoring and assist averages dipped from 20.3 and 7.6 to 16.7 and 5.7, respectively—digging deeper, the Spurs’ lone 2014 All-Star showed little evidence of a decline.
His playing time took an expected hit, and his changing role within the offense—spurred on by the rapid development of Kawhi Leonard as both a scorer and a playmaker—had a noticeable effect on Parker’s numbers.
Even so, his shooting efficiency remained top-notch, hovering around the 50 percent mark throughout the season. His poise, leadership and overall ability to drive his team to success were unchanged, and his stats remained admirable given the circumstances.
But Parker, though the linchpin of the team’s backcourt, hardly ran a one-man show. In fact, given his preseason expectations, Parker wasn’t even San Antonio’s showstopper at the point guard position. That honor belongs to Patty Mills, the team’s resident towel waver-turned-bench spark, whose contributions proved essential from start to finish.
Though he isn’t quite the player Parker is, he shattered expectations from day one. After serving the previous year as a bench bookend, Mills entered camp slimmer, the first of many improvements that surrounded his 2013-14 campaign.
He became one of the team’s most reliable three-point shooters and a leader in the second unit from the season’s start to his championship-clinching Game 5 performance, in which he contributed 17 points, including 14 in the third quarter.
When tasked with a heavier workload midseason due to a Parker injury, Mills responded with the strongest month of his career, establishing himself not only as a capable reserve but also as an individual capable of carrying a team in the near future.
His breakout alone is worthy of endless praise, but given the continued excellence of Parker and the increased development of fourth-year Cory Joseph, the Spurs deserve the highest of honors when it comes to the point guard position throughout their championship season.
2013-14 Point Guard Grade for San Antonio: A
The 2014 offseason was filled with highs and lows for the San Antonio Spurs, and a fair share of both revolve around Mills.
After his impressive campaign, Mills—an unrestricted free agent—entered the summer with a handful of options. Numerous teams with greater needs for his services had the money available to outbid San Antonio, and there was chatter within NBA circles regarding the young man’s potential as a starter.
Fortunately, Mills ended up re-signing in San Antonio. However, the reunion is due in no small part to a shoulder injury that cost Mills both a few million dollars and the opportunity to explore a future as a starter elsewhere.
The injury will keep him sidelined for a projected six months, heartbreaking news for both Mills and the Spurs, who became reliant on his services off the bench.
Beyond Mills, San Antonio offered a partially guaranteed contract to undrafted point guard Bryce Cotton, who will compete in training camp for a two-year contract after an impressive Summer League outing with the Spurs.
At 5’11”, Cotton is hardly an imposing threat. However, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in talent. His success in college led to unanimous inclusion on the All-Big East First Team.
A talented scorer, he’ll have the opportunity to translate his collegiate success into a professional setting as he attempts to secure a roster spot for the upcoming season.
Even with Mills sidelined, the 2014-15 NBA season won’t be too different for the San Antonio point guard crew. Parker will return to lead the team, though he’ll likely see his stats and playing time diminish, as coach Gregg Popovich conserves the health and energy of his veterans.
Additionally, an increased focus on Leonard should take a load off Parker’s shoulders as the small forward looks to build upon his Finals MVP-worthy playoff campaign.
Still, Parker will serve as the team’s offensive catalyst and a likely contender for the All-Star Game.
Backing him up will be Joseph, who will assume the lead reserve duties as Mills recovers. Joseph has manned the main backup role before and has done so well. He’s the team’s best defensive option at the 1, and his confidence running the floor allows for seamless transitions whenever Parker needs to catch a break.
Joseph, though still raw, has been improving annually, and many people, including Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon, are confident that Mills’ absence won’t prove too hard for a Spurs team knee-deep at the point guard position:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has adapted his schemes to match his team’s collective strengths; he only needs to tweak it for Joseph.
San Antonio should not skip a beat because the efficiency of the backup point guards was so similar, both offensively and defensively.
After all, Pop captains a plug-and-play operation, inserting the next man up and getting results. Besides, the show must go on, and the franchise will undoubtedly survive an unfortunate injury to a significant piece.
And of course, once Mills returns, look for him to pick up right where he left off. Joseph—who has shined in the past when given the opportunity—may steal a few minutes should he take advantage of his upcoming increased role, though the big picture—as it relates to the Spurs’ collection of point guards—should look similar to 2013-14.
After a season in which it sported one of the greatest cohorts of floor leaders, San Antonio will look for a repeat, relying on a full recovery from Mills, consistent improvements from Joseph and perennial excellence from Parker.
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Shannon Brown signed Wednesday with the Miami Heat, the ninth team the veteran guard has been part of in his career. Brown appeared in 29 games last season with New York and San Antonio. He has appeared in 403 games for seven different clubs, and was briefly with Washington last season though never appeared in a game. Brown played for the Los Angeles Lakers when they won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.
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Shannon Brown could play a big role if Dwyane Wade gets more rest time this season.
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When you have someone like LeBron James around, traditional point guards almost seem unnecessary.
The four-time MVP has established himself as the planet’s very best thanks in large part to his extraordinary playmaking ability. He may be a forward on paper, but in practice he’s also a floor general who can run and initiate offense with the very best of them.
Now the Miami Heat confront a post-LBJ era, an era in which point guards are suddenly anything but unnecessary.
While Dwyane Wade remains a capable ball-handler and facilitator, he’ll need help—the kind of help Miami sorely missed during the 2014 NBA Finals.
The question is where that help will come from.
Grading 2013-14′s Point Guard Performances
Maybe it’s unfair to judge starting point guard Mario Chalmers on the basis of his NBA Finals performance alone, but it’s awfully hard to ignore.
After a season in which the 28-year-old tallied 9.8 points and 4.9 assists per contest, Chalmers saved his worst for last—averaging just 4.4 points and 2.8 assists through five games against the San Antonio Spurs. For the series, he was just 7-of-21 from the field and turned the ball over 10 times through the first four games.
By the end of Game 3, Chalmers’ confidence had all but collapsed.
“I think everybody else is doing their job and I’m being that guy that’s not helping out,” Chalmers said after the game, per Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick. “I don’t want to be that guy.”
Chalmers added that he was “still at the drawing board.”
After Game 4, it was time for change. Head coach Erik Spoelstra benched Chalmers for Game 5, instead inserting shooting guard Ray Allen into the starting lineup. The decision conceded the Heat were struggling at a position widely regarded as the most important on the floor—and that backup point guard Norris Cole offered little hope.
During the season, Cole averaged just 6.4 points and three assists in 24.6 minutes per game. Beset by uneven playing time in the Finals, those numbers dropped to just 3.2 points and 1.8 assists per contest.
After three seasons of running point for Miami’s second unit, Cole clearly hasn’t instilled much confidence. He’s a frenetic player with solid defensive ability, but he’s less adept at hitting the open shots Chalmers ordinarily made. Recall that Chalmers converted on 38.5 percent of his three-point attempts during the regular season.
Cole made just 34.5 percent of his.
On paper, Chalmers’ Finals implosion was untimely but also anomalous. Yet concerns about his fit on a championship team were nothing new.
Hardwood Paroxysm’s William Bohl recently wrote that, “He was, in the eyes of his superstar teammates, their idiot younger brother, always to blame when mistakes were made, the whipping boy when a defensive assignment was blown or an open man wasn’t passed to on offense.”
Bohl adds that, “LeBron, especially, wasn’t afraid to let ‘Rio have it from time to time, often over Chalmers’ shot selection, defensive intensity or lack of court vision.”
Though Chalmers seemed to justify himself with a surprisingly electric performance in the 2013 NBA Finals, it’s this June’s disappearance that left a lasting impression. He looked like a backup guard in over his head—which puts Cole’s limitations in even greater perspective.
Team president Pat Riley called in some reinforcements this summer, but there’s little reason to believe it will be enough.
The organization’s big acquisition came on draft night when, per The Palm Beach Post‘s Jason Lieser, “Miami immediately traded for [Shabazz] Napier [taken No. 26 overall] by giving up its first-round spot, second-round pick (No. 55), an unspecified future second-round selection and cash.”
The 23-year-old most recently averaged 18 points and 4.9 assists per game as a senior at Connecticut.
His subsequent performances at the Orlando and Las Vegas summer league tournaments left something to be desired. Through his first five games, Napier made just 15 of 55 field-goal attempts. After piecing together a couple of respectable games, he finished by going 9-for-42 from the field in his final three games.
“I definitely needed this one to understand the game much better,” Napier said during summer league play, per Jeff Shain’s special to the Miami Herald. “It’s a big adjustment, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Napier offered an example, adding, “I was unable to do a lot of things I did in college as far as passes. I’m going to have to learn how to adjust and make those certain passes on an NBA level. That’s the learning curve.”
More recently, Napier cited another culprit.
“But my biggest thing is getting comfortable with that basketball,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “That’s one of my biggest problems and it’s kind of ironic, because it’s a basketball. But it’s different than a college basketball.”
Assuming those issues work themselves out in time, Miami should have some additional firepower in its backcourt this season.
Otherwise, little has changed.
The franchise re-signed Chalmers to a two-year deal reportedly worth a total of $8.3 million, and Cole will make $2,150,188 this season in what could be his last with the Heat (the club can make him a restricted free agent next summer with a qualifying offer).
Miami certainly hasn’t taken a step back at the point guard spot, but nor has it made significant strides.
Napier could certainly evolve into a starting-caliber floor general, but it’s hard to see where he fits in this season. Assuming he shakes off whatever ailed his summer-league shooting, he should be able to carve out a few minutes early on. Whether he plays enough to make a consistent impact remains to be seen.
There could be some additional opportunities for Napier in the event Chalmers begins adopting a slightly more versatile role.
“We’re looking at Mario differently in this roster,” Riley explained, per the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson. “He’s a point guard, but we’re also looking at him as a [shooting guard]. Mario can be very effective as a long-armed [shooting guard] who can shoot the three.”
For what it’s worth, Riley added that Napier, “struggled this summer somewhat shooting the ball, but we still feel he has a tremendous upside.”
At the moment, however, the starting gig belongs to Chalmers. And at the very least, the Kansas product should be good for a few passes and around 10 points per contest—perhaps more without James around to soak up touches.
The good news is that Chalmers has been with this team since he was drafted in 2008. He preserves some measure of corporate knowledge and understands Spoelstra‘s system. His experience in Miami could be instrumental to the club’s ability to steady the ship in the wake of James’ departure.
The bad news is that by now Chalmers is what he is. It’s unlikely he takes a significant step forward this late into his career. The odds of Cole rapidly ascending the point guard ranks aren’t much better.
While this team’s need for a credible floor general is suddenly acute, its ability to meet that need is in question.
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Anybody who watched the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks knows that this team needs good point guard play.
And if you were one of those people who hung in there with that squad, you deserve a back rub or something.
That year was rough in many ways. Dirk wasn’t himself, the nucleus from the 2011 title team was gone, and all year the Mavs seemed out of sorts. With a roster almost entirely full of players on one-year deals, it was an experiment gone wrong.
But as the saying goes, you can learn more from failure than success. And one of the primary lessons learned was that the Mavs need a competent point guard.
The 2012-13 playoff-less season was marred by less than adequate guard play. There was a lack of understanding of how to run the offense, how to get the whole team involved and maybe most importantly an inability to perform in crunch time.
According to NBA.com’s team clutch database, the 2012-13 Mavericks were 23-24 in games where the spread was five points or less in the last five minutes. That was 17th in the league.
This team needs a solid point guard play, and with all the turnover at the position this offseason, it’s about time to take an assessment of exactly what the Mavs are working with here.
Grading Last Year’s Performance
The 2013-14 Mavericks went 26-22 in games where the score was five points or less in the last five minutes of a game. An obvious improvement over 2012-13 simply in terms of record, but their plus minus in those situations showed even greater progress. The point differential of 1.3 was a 1.4-point improvement from two years ago.
But someone had to get Dirk the ball. Someone had to calmly run the offense under pressure. And that someone had to be a point guard.
Enter Jose Calderon.
The veteran fit the bill in crunch time, and the team owes a lot of their improvement to Calderon’s addition.
Clutch situations weren’t the only spots where Calderon made a difference. Their point differential increased by three points per game, and their assisted field-goal percentage shot up to fourth best in the league.
Of course, Calderon isn’t solely responsible for this. The entire team went through an extreme makeover last season, it wasn’t just the point guard that changed. But these are areas where Calderon can make a big impact. Where a guy with his skills is very valuable.
All that being said, the Mavs were limited at the position last season. The two main guys were Calderon and Devin Harris, though Harris missed 42 games. So essentially, the main guy was Calderon.
And anybody who watched him play knew the Spaniard had gaping holes in his game.
In addition to being a notoriously bad defender, the guy had next to no ability to finish at the rim. He made just 46 shots from five feet and closer last season in 2,468 minutes played last season.
For some perspective, Nate Robinson is generously listed at 5’9” and only played in 44 games last season yet he made 66 shots from that same distance.
The position improved dramatically from 2012-13, but still had plenty of weak spots. It was good, but definitely not great.
2013-14 Point Guards: B
What to Expect This Season
Half the roster has changed this offseason, but perhaps no one position has undergone more of a radical shift than the point guard spot. Two of Dallas’ top guys in Calderon and Shane Larkin were traded to the Knicks as part of the package that brought Tyson Chandler to the Mavs.
And along with Tyson Chandler came Raymond Felton. Dallas also signed Jameer Nelson, and re-signed Devin Harris. Those three will be the point guards for this season.
Gone is Calderon’s steady hand, and in come three relative question marks.
As previously stated, Harris missed 42 games due to various injuries last season and he also hasn’t played more than 70 games since the 2010-11 season. He brought energy and some offensive punch when he played, but he also only shot 37.8 percent from the field last season. He was good, but often inconsistent with his production.
Speaking of inconsistency, Raymond Felton will compete for starters minutes. He went from key player on a 54-win Knicks team to an afterthought in just a year. It’s anybody’s guess as to which Felton the Mavs get, let’s just hope it’s an in shape one.
Finally, Jameer Nelson might be the closest thing to consistent the Mavs have at the position. His shooting numbers are in decline, but he’s still a good passer and a smart player. His best years are behind him, but he still has a lot to give.
Obviously, this group does not have a Jose Calderon. There is a striking lack of the sharp-shooting and sure-handed point guard who fixed so many of Dallas’s ills last season.
So the plan of attack has to change, but just a bit.
Even though Dallas is without a Calderon-type point guard, the new guys bring other things to the table. Namely, they’re more athletic.
Now nobody is calling these guys crazy athletes, but athleticism was something the position was sorely lacking last season. Devin Harris brings the speed, while Felton and Nelson are far from slow. All three are quick, and they make their money by getting into the teeth of the defense.
And with essentially three starting point guards, we might see a bit more pace-pushing. ESPN Dallas’ Tim McMahon recently wrote about how the roster seems to be moving in that direction, and the point guards are certainly equipped for that style.
As far as missing a steady hand, the Mavs should be just fine there too. Harris, Nelson and Felton have all been starters. They all know what they’re doing. And Nelson specifically has consistently run a team for all 10 of his NBA seasons.
To be clear, this is a team and a position in transition. Things are going to be different this year. Hopefully better, but nonetheless different.
Where Calderon was a limited player, the new trio is versatile. Where there was mostly just one point guard last season, now there’s three.
In football there’s a saying, “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” There’s no saying about three point guards in basketball, but either head coach Rick Carlisle will have his hands full or he will have three weapons to work with.
Based on his track record, it seems Carlisle should be happy this year. The Mavs can now play different styles, play mismatches and be less rigid in their lineups thanks largely to their flexibility at the point.
Change can be good. The Mavs have been proponents of that over the years, and this overhaul certainly puts that logic to the test. But the point guard position should improve with its new look. The front office did a nice job of keeping the position’s basketball IQ high while also upgrading its athleticism and versatility.
Now it’s time to start putting all the pieces together.
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks have re-signed guard Shelvin Mack, who general manager Danny Ferry says proved to be a good fit for coach Mike Budenholzer’s system.
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The Dallas Mavericks may lack star power at point guard, but they make up for it with depth.
After trading away one of the more reliable game-managers and shooters in the game in Jose Calderon in order to acquire Tyson Chandler from the New York Knicks, the Mavericks are betting that a veteran platoon of guards will be able to share the load and keep one of the league’s very best offenses chugging along.
Who will be the man primarily tasked with that job? It certainly isn‘t easy to handicap.
Raymond Felton, who was acquired alongside Chandler in the trade, is coming off the worst season of his 9-year career, where he averaged just 9.7 points a game and shot 39.5 percent from the field. Felton appeared to lose a step offensively, as he could no longer reliably get in the paint or threaten opponents with his three-point jumper (31.8 percent last year).
There is hope that Felton will return to the mean this season for the Mavericks, however, as the 2012-13 season was one of his very best. Felton proved to be a capable distributor out of the pick-and-roll with Chandler during that season, and he was part of a team that shot a ton of threes, which is something Dallas should do this season.
Felton will be suspended the first four games of the season, but he’ll get his chance to prove he’s worthy of holding down the starting job.
Counting on Felton to be in shape and return to form is always a dicey proposition, and so it makes sense that the Mavericks addressed their point guard situation with other signings this offseason as well.
Former Orland Magic point guard Jameer Nelson was a late offseason addition, but his shooting and distributing ability should help alleviate some of the sting from losing Calderon.
Here’s what Nelson told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel about joining the Mavs:
I just think with the makeup of the team and the organization it’s similar to what we had in Orlando when we were winning. And I wanted to get back to that. I’ve dealt with the process of rebuilding, and it’s tough. I want to win. I don’t want to sit back and develop anymore.
Nelson may be on his last legs at 32 years old, but he did average 7 assists a game last year with minimal talent around him. Now with guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis next to him, Nelson could have a bit of a revival.
It’s important to note that Nelson only played around 29 minutes a night even in his prime, so sharing the load with the other point guards shouldn’t be much of an issue. He’s used to playing in shorter stints.
In addition to Felton and Nelson, the Mavs also re-signed Devin Harris, who brings a change of pace and a little more size off the bench. Harris should spend a good deal of his time backing up Ellis at shooting guard, but he’s easily capable of getting substantial minutes at point as well.
Here’s Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News with his take on the Harris signing:
Devin Harris got a good deal.
And by the way, so did the Mavericks.
Harris showed in the second half of last season that he is still a very solid option at point guard and at shooting guard in smaller lineups. He also re-proved that during the playoff series against San Antonio, when he was still a pest to Tony Parker.
Harris is the best defensive option of the bunch, which could mean he’ll see an uptick in minutes when the matchups call for that. Harris can also help the Mavericks play a little faster when he’s at the point.
Here’s what Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle told Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:
The Mavs ranked in the middle of the pack in pace last season, averaging 95.7 possessions per game, almost six fewer than the team that played at the fastest tempo. Carlisle hopes the remodeled Mavs, a team he believes is built to run, will be among the leaders next season.
“We want to play faster,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to have to do it by playing with our depth and playing with intelligence. We should be able to do that because we’ve got a lot of high-IQ players.”
That includes three point guards with significant starting experience in Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris. Of that trio, only Harris could be considered fast by NBA point guard standards. However, the Mavs’ hope is that their three-man rotation at the position gives their point guards the luxury of playing at maximum speed without concern for conserving energy.
The idea isn’t necessarily for the point guards to run the transition offense on a regular basis anyway. The best way for them to push the pace is often via the pass, something Jason Kidd was a master of as an old man during his second tenure in Dallas.
The reference to Jason Kidd and that 2011 title team is important. The Mavericks have shown before that they can get by with creative defensive schemes to make up for a lack of foot speed and athleticism, which Kidd was short on at that point.
With Felton, Nelson, Harris and maybe even a little bit of Gal Mekel, the Mavs will largely need to get by with intelligence instead of athleticism at the point this season. Egos will need to be cast aside, as playing time should be based on matchups and who has the hot hand.
That could cause some serious issues, but the presence of a leader and teammate like Nowitzki and an excellent coach in Carlisle provides a pretty strong foundation for this point guard experiment to flourish.
That being said, there’s no mistaking that point guard is the one weak link for the Mavericks right now. Monta Ellis had some great moments at the 2 last year, Chandler Parsons should be a huge offensive upgrade at the 3, and Nowitzki and Chandler have proven in the past that they are a perfect fit for one another. There’s just one hole in this starting lineup.
Relying on this veteran group beyond this season probably isn‘t ideal. The Mavericks could potentially get involved in a big way in free agency next year, particularly if Chandler re-signed on a friendly deal similar to Nowtizki’s. Thanks to the contract that will pay Nowitzki $8.3 million next season, the Mavs can address their long-term point guard situation sooner rather than later.
The free agent market for point guards in 2015 should be a strong one. Eric Bledsoe could very well be an unrestricted free agent, should he take the qualifying offer for this year. Rajon Rondo is set to hit free agency. Goran Dragic will likely decline his player option and become a free agent. Ricky Rubio could be a restricted free agent.
A lot can change between now and then, but Dallas is in a good spot having point guard as the only real position of need. That’s the deepest positional talent pool the league has to offer.
While it’s possible the Mavericks get involved in trade talks if the veteran platoon doesn’t work out, building chemistry and letting this roster jell is probably the preferred way to go.
There are a lot of new pieces and old faces in Dallas this season, but having multiple experienced players at the point should go a long way for a team that once again has legitimate title aspirations.
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