The Mavericks made a move this offseason to sign Monta Ellis, a move many thought was questionable. The Mavs are now 10 games over .500. How's the general reaction to him been so far?
The collective groan of Mavs Twitter when Monta Ellis was signed was ... well, it was something. Then when he announced he was going to play "Monta Basketball," well, we all just gave up. But then some stories started coming out that Dirk had actually asked the front office to look at signing Monta, and now we know why. Because despite a little bit of a rough stretch lately, Monta Basketball has mostly been a delight this season. He and Dirk work extraordinarily well in pick and roll/pick and pop situations. And on poor shooting nights, his effort has still been fantastic. If his shot isn't falling, he racks up assists. If I am any indication of the Mavs fan base, I have been delighted with his play and effort this season, and I hope it keeps up.
What's the team's Achilles heel?
Defense, defense and more defense. (Did I mention defense yet? I did? Okay, just checking.) But seriously. The Mavs have games here and there when they appear to be at least average on defense, but those are few and far between. Rebounding is a problem most nights, as the Mavs rarely out-rebound an opposing team. (As Zach Lowe noted in his recent article on the Mavs, "They give regular minutes to a lineup featuring no player taller than 6-foot-7." So.) Bottom line, this team can out-shoot anyone on any given night, but if you can hold them back, they probably won't be able to return the favor.
I just saw that Brandan Wright is nearly shooting 70 percent this season. What? That's the question: What?
Hahaha. Well...have you seen Brandan Wright play? It's pretty easy to shoot 70% on dunks. But for a more salient analysis, out of 164 shots this season, 90 of them have been dunks or layups. 139 of those shots have been within ten feet of the rim. So basically, unless BWright can place the ball in the basket himself or the shot clock is expiring, he isn't taking the shot. In addition to all that, perhaps the biggest improvement to his offensive game is his free-throw shooting. It's up to 73.9% this year, from 61.5% last year, which keeps some of those low post defenders from attacking him as much as they used to. And all of which makes him more effective near the rim.
What is one thing you'd like people to know about this Mavericks team?
Collectively, they have a lot of heart, which makes them more dangerous than you might think. (I am more optimistic than most Mavs bloggers in that respect, for what it's worth.) I know that sounds cliche, and maybe I've been in too many Rick Carlisle press conferences this season. But unlike the past couple of hard seasons since the championship season, this group feels like they are playing for something more. It's a very hard locker room when they lose, and it's a very happy one when they win. On nights when he could easily do so, Carlisle will not throw a player under the bus, and he is just as frustrated when the team loses, if not more. Even as recently as a couple games ago he talked about the team collectively lifting up Sam Dalembert from pretty rough stretch, which seems to have paid dividends in the past few games. They support each other, and it is noticed.
What's been the key for the Mavs on this winning streak? Besides the quality of opponents, I mean (a span that included Kings, Cavaliers, Jazz, Celtics)
This Mavs team is, as our own Andrew Tobolowsky has noted, kind of nothing if not predictable. They tend to be very good at mostly beating teams they should beat and losing to teams they should lose to. But if I had to point to one thing that has given them a little lift lately, it's been Devin Harris. It's taken half a season, but Devin might be the team's most important deadline "acquisition." He brings a different attitude to the second unit when he comes in, and he plays some consistent defense, which as I noted above, is kind of what this team needs. And as we saw against Boston, it was Harris who triggered a run. He can do that from time to time, and it has been noticed and appreciated. (Also, the improved play of Dalembert, as noted above.)
Thanks, of course, to Rebecca for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find her and the rest of her crew at Mavs Moneyball.