Mavericks change of business models came to roost on court

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The old model wasn’t going to work anymore.

Mark Cuban has read the new CBA that the owners and players signed off on after the lockout, and he saw the increasingly punitive taxes and penalties on big spending teams. He looked at his business model of the last decade — which was to win by spending like the ATM machines that are the Lakers and Knicks — and knew things had to change.

Flexibility became the watchword. Starting this season Cuban started to look to the future reshaping the roster with younger free agents — ideally both Dwight Howard and Deron Williams at the time — and made hard choices. Dallas didn’t bring Tyson Chandler back. Or Caron Butler. Or J.J. Barea. Or DeShawn Stevenson.

Combine that with the roll of the dice on Lamar Odom that flamed out, and the Mavericks didn’t have the depth, didn’t have a different guy who could step up every night as the second star. Last season they had depth and matchups that could confound anyone. Last season those guys were key behind Dirk Nowitzki — and the team leader himself showed up this year with a championship hangover not ready to play at his peak. His shooting percentage dropped from 51.7 last season to 45.7 this season and there was nobody there to consistently pick up the slack.

The result was the defending champs getting unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Dallas defense was still solid this season, but their Mavericks offense fell from eighth best in the league (109.7 points per 100 possessions) the year of their championship to 22nd best this season (103.3 points per 100).

It was the price of flexibility.

This coming summer Jason Terry likely is gone. Jason Kidd may come back but not at the price he’s asking. Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood will be moved if Dallas can find takers, although Marion’s defensive value may keep him in the fold. Any player not born in Germany is not safe on this roster going forward.

Flexibility.

It is Nowitzki and the chance to chase Deron Williams this summer that is the drive. The original goal was to lure Williams and Dwight Howard, but Howard chose to spend another year with Orlando (even if the Magic decide they need to trade him the Mavericks do not have the assets anymore). Williams is the target, but he does like the idea of Brooklyn and staying with the Nets. Even though that franchise has little shot at Howard or another big name either. Here is what Marc Stein wrote at ESPN.

One source well-acquainted with Williams’ thinking told ESPN.com this weekend that the Mavericks, in their current state, have no better than a “50-50 shot” of getting D-Will’s signature in July …

Even if Dallas does not land Williams, it has landed cap space and the ability to make moves and evolve this team into a future winner. Cuban saw what Jerry Buss did with years the Lakers — make moves too early rather than too late — and saw the new CBA rules and made his move. In a couple years we may look back and see it as brilliant.

But this season it came home to roost on the court in a first round playoff sweep at the hands of the Thunder. It was the price paid for a gamble. Cuban tried for the half-court shot of trying to rebuild on the fly and not take a step back, and that missed like half-court shots usually do.

But the Mavericks got their ultimate goal. They have cap space and flexibility. Now we’ll see what they can do with it.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.