Wizards vs. Mavericks Preview: Meet the Dirk-less Mavs

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Even without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks have managed to play .500 ball this season. How have they done it? We turned to Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball for some answers.

1. As Wizards fans, we can relate to losing a cornerstone player to a knee injury, but we didn't have the same expectations going into the season that Mavericks fans had, either. What are the expectations for Dallas this year, given Dirk's injury?

Pre-season expectations were all over the map. A completely retooled roster allowed for a wide variety of possibilities, and that was before Dirk's knee surgery. As of this moment (Monday morning) Dallas is 4-3 with some pretty exciting wins coupled with some really frustrating losses. Hot shooting during wins has papered over some of the serious issues Dallas has, particularly with rebounding and consistent offense, so determining what this team can do is really hard. I think the real goal is to simply tread water until Dirk comes back and then the team can take stock of its strengths and weaknesses and go from there.

2. Was anyone expecting O.J. Mayo to break out like he has so far? Furthermore, is this something we can expect moving forward or is he going to start regressing to the mean soon?

I don't think anyone was expecting him to be this solid of a contributor, though the Mavericks hoped for it with Dirk out. In terms of regressing to the mean, it's going to happen sooner or later, because 61% three point shooting is unsustainable, but its a matter of how far he falls. He's shooting the ball really well at the rim and from deep, but everywhere else he's shooting a ghastly 31%. The threat of Dirk alone will free up most of the roster to knock down open shots, so I expect Mayo's play to level out. But if he regularly scores 15 to 20 points when Dirk returns, the Dallas offense will be formidable.

3. There were lots of Wizards fans clamoring to take Jae Crowder with their second round pick, and it certainly looks like he's been playing well in Dallas so far. How has he been so far from your perspective?

While he's had a rough go over things the last few games (he had to match up with Carmelo Anthony and then MKG, while starting in place of an injured Shawn Marion), over all he's been delightful. His play right now reminds me of Josh Howard when he was a rookie. I know we are all familiar with current Josh Howard, he is the terrible mid range game, but when Howard was a younger player he seemed to be in the middle of everything, getting hands on loose balls, grabbing key offensive boards, defending. Jae is the same way and its really fun to watch a player be so effective because of his hustle. He has a bright future in Dallas if he keeps this up.

4. Rodrigue Beaubois is starting his fourth year with the Mavericks, and he's still isn't playing heavy minutes, even with much of the old guard (no Jason Kidd pun intended) gone. Does he have a future in Dallas beyond this season?

I really have no idea. He has two things working against him. First, his injury history. The guy can't stay healthy to save his life. He's already had two ankle sprains this year which caused him to miss time. Second is his consistency. He plays about 15 minutes a game, which seems strange given his talent level, but I think Carlisle is trying to keep him on a short leash with minutes so he can establish a clear role in the offense. So far this year he hasn't been fantastic, but he also hasn't been terrible. It's a far cry from the hope we once had for him, but compared to throwing things at my TV this is a step in the right direction. If Roddy keeps this up, I assume Carlisle will expand his minutes as the season goes along. And if that works out, I'd expect Dallas to resign him. He's still so young with very little organized ball under his belt in comparison to so many NBA players. His speed is such an asset in today's NBA.

5. Realistically, how do Mavericks fans feel about their chances of landing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard this summer?

Sigh. I'm sure fans feel great about it. I'm also sure that other local media outlets and blogs have pretty high hopes. But me? Noooope. I'm the resident Eeyore of Mavs Moneyball and I'm of the opinion that every major gamble Mark Cuban has taken since he bought the team, from letting Nash, walk, to refusing to trade Roddy B. when Deron Williams was available, to letting Tyson Chandler walk, has ended up backfiring on Dallas. That's not to say I disagree with the decisions, but these more recent gambles had a low probability of success. Step one was letting guys from the championship team sign elsewhere in the name of financial flexibility. Step two was hoping these big name potential free agents made it to market. Step three is convincing them to sign for less money than their current team was offering. It didn't work with Deron Williams and I see no reason why it would work with either CP3 or Howard. There's simply not enough incentive to come to Dallas.

Many thanks to Kirk for his responses. You can check out the other half of our Q&A over at Mavs Moneyball.

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