February 20, 2008
Dallas traded for Jason Kidd. I saw it on the ticker. The team will probably improve from here on out. Here's why:
The Mavs aren't as bad as the team's record indicates.
This is a team that was going to get better anyway, with or without Jason Kidd. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have kind of been dogging it all season, saving their best efforts for later in the season, while coach Avery Johnson has admittedly taken to limiting the minutes of his most productive lineups in order to save some legs for the playoffs.
Dallas is a year removed from winning 67 games, and while I'll be the first to tell you that "a year older" doesn't always mean "a year better," this ain't the Spurs. This is a team full of guys in their primes, they took it easy on defense for the first half of the season, and while the defense has improved recently, the offense took a nosedive (from second in the NBA to fifth) after Devin Harris and Jerry Stackhouse took the sidelines and big minutes for Eddie Jones and Jose Juan Barea opened up.
Kidd's presence will help the offense.
Then again, so would any starting point guard not named "Jose Juan Barea." Barea tries, but he's nowhere near as productive as Harris, so any personnel improvement at that position would see the Mavs righting the ship.
Once again, Dallas was second in offensive efficiency when Harris went down. SECOND. This isn't a team that was crying out for a point guard to start dishing assists and making the offense hum, because the offense (even with limited minutes and loafing superstars) was pretty damn hot to begin with.
Keep this in mind when a couple of 109-point games on national TV get the people at ESPN all excited. The Mavs had been doing that with Harris, on anonymous nights, throughout the first half of the season. They just hadn't been matching the offensive execution with defensive effort, which is why they couldn't match last season's 67-win pace.
Keeping Stack and Devean George helps.
In a great move for everyone and everything save Mark Cuban's Ghostbusters wallet, Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George will stay in Big D; while the New Jersey Nets don't have to deal with Stackhouse's contract on their books for two more seasons beyond this one. Depth for Dallas, relief for New Jersey, everyone wins.
(How cool is Mark Cuban?
Seriously, how cool is he? This is a guy that, when the luxury tax hit hard in 2005, was candid and open about past financial missteps that forced him to think twice about extending Steve Nash (he didn't, and before you whine, understand that 99 out of a hundred of us NBA observers would have done the same thing back in 2004), while cutting Michael Finley loose.
Unlike other owners, he came out and called the luxury tax an issue for his team, and didn't let his general manager take the heat for not making certain team-improving moves. GMs in Chicago, Memphis, and several other outposts can only hope for such support.
Now, with a Kidd trade dangling, some feelings already hurt, and only a few days to get it done: Mark Cuban gets it done. He's trying to buy a championship, getting killed by the luxury tax, and showing that winning is what's most important to him. Awesome.)
The defense will improve.
It won't be able to help it. This team was fifth in defensive efficiency last season, and after languishing in the low 20s for most of the season, the Mavericks are stuck at 13th right now.
Keep in mind that this is just about the same team that dominated at times on defense last season, and though losing DaSagana Diop hurts, increased minutes for better players and a renewed focus should have Dallas shooting back up to the top ten defensively.
Kidd will get credit for this, no doubt, but unlike the offensive end of things, he'll probably deserve some credit. Over the last 13 months, Jason has played some pretty weak defense at times, shooting for steals and getting lit up on occasion by quicker point guards. With all eyes on him in Dallas, Kidd will likely put in the effort, and turn back the clock a few years.
What's ironic is that it was Kidd's defense, and not his offense, that turned the Nets into contenders during his first two seasons with New Jersey. The Nets under Stephon Marbury were horrible on D. With Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson, Todd MacCulloch, and a full season of Kenyon Martin coming on board in 2001-02, the offense improved from 24th to 17th in offensive efficiency in comparison to Steph's final year, but the defense shot from 23rd to 1st in the NBA.
With Kidd throwing passes around, the mainstream media never touched on that aspect. But it was Kidd's lockdown, pressure D that turned New Jersey around. The man was a beast, and heralded for all the wrong things.
Turning 35 soon, Kidd won't be able to replicate that run, but I have little doubt that he won't develop a spark in his step, and dial it up again. The trick is in the playoffs, when Tony Parker or Deron Williams or Jordan Farmer or Chris Paul come a-callin'.
I beg of you, dear reader: keep this post in mind when cable TV swoons over an improved Mavericks team over the season's last two months. The answers to their resurgence won't come in the singular form of Jason Kidd, and they won't be articulated with nausea-inducing bluster like "that championship focus," or some twaddle about "leadership."
No, the Mavs will be better because they were already a championship-level team to begin with, one that was playing below expectation and limiting the minutes of its best players. That stops, now.
They will also be better because Dallas added a very good point guard (with renewed purpose) to replace one of the worst starters in the NBA in Barea, and because the team's season (as was expressed back in October) won't really start until early spring.
Enjoy it. And don't let ‘em tell you any differently.