The Dallas Mavericks are one of the NBA's premier organizations both on and off of the floor. They aren't afraid to make any sort of splash or shakeup when it comes to getting into the title chase and they did just that a couple of weeks ago.
The Wizards are a slightly better team than they were then. John Wall has come into his own as one of the best point guards in the league and the team is 15-5 since that loss in the Phonebooth. But the Mavericks have made quite the change since then as well.
Rajon Rondo is now a Dallas Maverick. These Mavericks are a slightly different team than the one the Wizards faced before earlier on in the season. To find out what the difference is for the Mavericks with Rondo on their roster, we had a chat with Andrew Kreighbaum of Mavs Moneyball. Here's what he had to say.
Bullets Forever: The Mavericks are currently ranked fifth in a tough Western Conference. They've still got the league's best offense, but have slipped a bit on the defensive end since the last time these two teams saw each other. How do the Mavs stack up against the rest of the Western Conference at this point?
Andrew Kreighbaum: The Mavs' defense has not been great--or even above average--for most of the season. And I think you saw some of the reasons for the struggles in that first matchup with the Wizards. Dallas allowed 45 percent shooting on three point attempts. Tyson Chandler is still a solid defensive anchor but the team was not going to do any damage in the playoffs with such porous perimeter defense.
I think the team the Mavs had entering the season was certainly fun to watch but had probably reached its ceiling. The trade for Rajon Rondo could potentially make them a much more dangerous team, in part thanks to his defensive abilities.
BF: Rajon Rondo has played in five games for the Mavericks this season. In those five games, per NBA.com's stats tool, the Mavs have allowed just 103 points per 100 possessions. That's in the middle of the pack, but it's an improvement from where the Mavericks defense has ranked overall. Has Rondo impacted the Mavs' defense at all?
AK: The team is still obviously a work in progress a week after the trade, but I think you can already see Rondo having an impact on the defensive side of the ball. One great example came Sunday against the Thunder. With under a minute left and the game close, Rondo smothered Russell Westbrook and forced Steven Adams to throw an errant pass out of bounds. The team had a couple recent defensive duds in back-to-back games against Phoenix and Atlanta. But we're seeing flashes of how Rondo can really really make a difference on that end of the floor.
BF: Staying on the topic of Rondo, how has he impacted the Mavericks' offense? In those five games, the Mavs are only scoring 104.5 points per 100, which is far worse than what they were doing without him. How has his lack of efficiency impacted the offense?
AK: There are a couple issues with the offense that resulted from the Rondo trade. First, the Mavs have less spacing in the starting lineup because Rondo is not the outside shooter that Jameer Nelson was here. Second, the bench unit has less spacing defenses don't have to constantly focus on Brandan Wright--the main piece in the Rondo trade--rolling to the rim for lobs and layups.
Resolving those issues will be up to Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle and to the team's reserves. Carlisle and his new point guard are both smart basketball minds and Rondo is an elite passer. They're going to figure out a way to make things work. Carlisle found a way to use those abilities against a depleted Spurs team recently by getting the ball to Rondo in the middle of a zone defense and having him find open shooters.
Wright is no doubt a big loss but his departure has given backup big man Charlie Villanueva an opportunity to earn a bigger role in the rotation with solid defense in the post and great outside shooting. Former third string centerGreg Smith is also getting more minutes as well and a player like him can only benefit from a point guard like Rondo.
BF: Do you think the Rondo trade was worth it in the end? I know it is hard to tell from such a small sample of games, but what do you think the long term impact will be?
AK: There are Mavericks bloggers who didn't like the trade for various reasons relating to his shooting and recent defensive numbers. But I'm pretty optimistic about the trade. I think anytime you have a chance to trade a backup center whose value will never be higher for an all-star point guard, you've got to do it. Games like this one against an elite point guard like John Wall are good measuring sticks. But this is also the kind of deal that you might not be able to really judge until the next season.