Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia atop ESPN’s RPM rankings

This week ESPN updated its RPM rankings for the first time in the young season, and the ratings were very kind to the Mavs’ starting frontcourt of Dirk Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia.

RPM is an estimate of a player’s on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential across 100 offensive and defensive possessions. It takes into account a player’s teammates, the opponent, and some other factors. The formula is fairly complicated, but you can find more information about it here. ESPN updates the numbers nightly, once all the games are completed.

Nowitzki places fourth among all NBA power forwards in RPM at 3.79, behind only Golden State’s Draymond Green, Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, and Cleveland’s Kevin Love. He ranks ahead of the likes of Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, and some of the other excellent big men in the NBA.

Not surprisingly, most of Nowitzki’s value comes on the offensive side of the ball. He ranks third in the NBA in Offensive RPM, or ORPM, behind only Griffin and Bosh. That should shock no one, as Nowitzki’s 52.7 field goal and 51.0 three-point percentages are both career-highs, as are his 59.6 eFG and 63.3 true shooting percentages. In addition, he’s been worth .213 win shares per 48 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference, the exact same number as his 2010-11 season.

Even if he cools off as the season wears on, his RPM shouldn’t change too much. The Mavericks have always been better offensively with Nowitzki on the floor, mostly because he’s a terrific individual talent. Even if he regresses to being a 40 percent three-point shooter, he’d still be among the most efficient players in the NBA. That’s how good of a start he’s gotten off to.

At 3.48, Pachulia is behind only San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, L.A.’s DeAndre Jordan, and Detroit’s Andre Drummond. The center has been a bit of a revelation in Dallas, as his play has vastly outperformed what many fans probably expected from him after the Mavs quietly acquired him this offseason via trade with Milwaukee. It should be noted, however, that Pachulia ranked second in RPM among all centers last season despite playing just 23.7 minutes per game and starting only 45 games for the upstart Bucks.

Pachulia’s value with Milwaukee, though, came mostly on the defensive side of the ball. With Dallas he’s getting it done on both ends, ranking second in ORPM after ranking just fifth last season. He’s scoring 10.4 points per game, his highest total since the 2006-07 season, and he’s already notched nine double-doubles — about one every other game. Dallas even runs offense through the center at the elbow, giving him the space and freedom to deliver backdoor passes to cutting guards or to perimeter shooters. He’s averaging 2.2 assists per game this season.

Other notable Mavs on the list are Dwight Powell, who’s 17th among all power forwards, and Wesley Matthews, 28th among shooting guards. As his minutes go up (and his shooting percentages will as well) his number will climb. Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams will move up the table as well — once Williams becomes more comfortable in the offense and when Parsons returns to playing significant minutes. Last season, for example, Parsons finished 8th among all small forwards.

Deron Williams and Devin Harris donate 250 turkeys for Thanksgiving

Deron & Devin Turkey Giveaway

Deron Williams & Devin Harris paid for over 250 Turkey Dinners to go to families in need with the help of Albertsons & Buckner International

The holiday season is a wonderful time to spend together with family, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, families all across North Texas will sit down together to enjoy each other’s company and a meal with all the classic dishes that make the holiday what it is.

This Thanksgiving, as has been the case for six years now, hundreds local families will have a holiday feast courtesy of the Mavericks.

Deron Williams and Devin Harris purchased 250 turkeys for families in need at Buckner International in Mesquite. In addition, the players were there on Nov. 19 to hand out the meals as families drove up to the facility. The result: grateful mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and some genuinely thrilled children.

Albertsons partnered with the players, donating sides like green beans, corn, potatoes, stuffing, and more. Representatives of the grocery chain also joined in with the players, Mavs ManiAACs, dancers, and staff, and Buckner staff as well to stock the families’ cars and trunks full of food to be enjoyed on the best holiday of the year.

“It’s a great feeling, being able to come out and work with Albertsons and provide these families with what will hopefully be a great Thanksgiving dinner for them and their kids,” Williams said.

The point guard, who originally hails from The Colony, said returning to his hometown and becoming active in the community made the event mean a little more.

“It means a lot. It’s just like an added bonus, coming back home and playing for the Mavericks,” he said. “But being able to do this stuff off the court, it makes it that much more special. The community I grew up in and supported me in high school and now with the Mavs, it’s a great feeling to be able to give back.”

The turkey drive was part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving, a program that connects teams and players to their communities in an effort to brighten the holidays for thousands of children and families. This is the sixth year the Mavericks have partnered with Buckner International and the fourth year it’s teamed up with Albertsons.

Devin Harris said the families were very appreciative for the donations, and it was easy to tell just from the smiles on their faces that they truly were grateful. Many took pictures with the players, and some kids even got autographs.

Harris isn’t new to giving back during the holiday season. He took part in this same event last season, joining up with Chandler Parsons. In addition, he’s spent the last several Thanksgiving mornings at local shelters and food banks feeding the homeless and those in need. This year, he said he’s taking his kids with him for the first time.

“Hopefully they’ll enjoy it as much as I do,” he said. “It’s about establishing a foundation and understanding that you have the right and the need to help people, and if you can do so, you should do it.”

The Fast Break: Mavs at Grizzlies

Final: Grizzlies 110, Mavs 96

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

The Mavericks scored 1.063 points per possession in the first quarter against Memphis when they at least got a shot off, which is a pretty respectable number. But the club’s 8 turnovers put a damper on the offensive efficiency, resulting in 5 Grizzlies points. The good news is the team’s final few giveaways in the quarter didn’t result in any extra points for the home squad.

The Mavs’ first-half defense was among its best in a half all season. Memphis scored only 46 points on 17-of-46 shooting, including 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. More importantly, Dallas allowed just a single offensive rebound, gathering 27 defensive rebounds in the process. A huge key to defense is preventing your opponents from getting any extra shots, and in that regard Dallas excelled in the first two quarters.


  • You love to see teams make spirited runs when they fall down big, and that’s exactly what the Mavs were able to do in the fourth quarter. After trailing by as many as 25 points, Dallas brought the margin to as close as 10 points the rest of the way (at one point J.J. Barea was shooting to make it nine) to make the Grizzlies think twice about how easy the win might be. Dallas is too proud and too mature a team to go down easily. The Mavericks made Memphis earn it.

  • Sometimes the shots just don’t fall, and that was the case in the first three quarters. That doesn’t mean the Mavericks played poorly offensively, however. Dallas was able to create plenty of good shots that just didn’t find the bottom of the net. It’s amazing what happens to perception when the ball goes in — a team looks very sharp. But when those same shots bounce out, we think it looks all out of sorts. Those shots fall on most nights for the Mavericks.

  • With no Zach Randolph in the starting lineup, the Grizzlies went small with Matt Barnes and Jeff Green in the frontcourt alongside center Marc Gasol. That gave the Grizzlies more of a wide-open offense than normal, but also led to mismatches in Dallas’ favor on the offensive end. Barnes guarded Nowitzki, as he very commonly did earlier in his career with Golden State. The Mavs make it a habit to attack size mismatches almost every time down the floor, and that’s what we saw right from the opening tip in this one. And while Dallas might not always shoot out of the post, setting up a possession in the post could lead to open opportunities elsewhere if the opponent double-teams or over-rotates to compensate.

  • Devin Harris was inactive tonight so he could get some rest ahead of Wednesday night’s contest in San Antonio. The Mavs have plenty of guards capable of playing minutes in his stead, and tonight Barea and Raymond Felton both saw some extra run. Harris has been a very high-energy player off the bench this season and his active, pacey play was missed in this game. However, that move could easily pay dividends in San Antonio if Harris can make a positive impact against the Spurs.

  • In an attempt to make up points quickly, Rick Carlisle used the first four-guard lineup I can remember seeing this season. He deployed Barea, Felton, Deron Williams, and Wesley Matthews alongside Zaza Pachulia to create maximum spacing and give Dallas speed all over the floor. The group was looking to generate basically nothing but three-pointers to get back into the game, and it was able to find some pretty good looks. When your back is up against the wall, you look to extremes to make things work. Carlisle is a masterful tactician and it was interesting to see him put that strategy to use.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (9-6) play the San Antonio Spurs (11-3) Wednesday at the AT&T Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • Hard in the Paint: Episode 3

    Catch Jeff “Skin” Wade’s weekly podcast as he interviews local personalities and picks their basketball brains.

    This week’s special guest is Mark “Followeezy” Followill, the play-by-play voice of the Mavs television broadcasts on Fox Sports Southwest and TXA21.

    JaVale McGee showed against the Thunder what he brings to the offense

    It didn’t take JaVale McGee very long to make an impact Sunday in his first appearance with the Mavericks. He scored baskets on his first four trips down the floor and had a fifth called off on an offensive interference call. Oklahoma City couldn’t stop him, especially in his first series of minutes on the floor.

    The smaller picture is that McGee had a very positive debut with the club, which is obviously a good thing. Considering head coach Rick Carlisle had earlier predicted the center wouldn’t play until at least December and sparingly gave good news regarding his injury progress, the fact that he even took the floor was a good sign. But that he performed like that? Even better.

    But the larger picture is much more exciting. On each of his four scores, McGee showed what he can bring to the table offensively for the Mavericks, particularly as a roll threat. His explosiveness and athleticism has never been in question at any point in his career, and if Dallas can keep deploying him in situations which highlight his greatest attributes, McGee is set to contribute on a nightly basis.

    First, let’s look at a standard pick-and-roll play with McGee as the roller. (These plays will be shown out of sequence as they happened in the game.) He easily beats Enes Kanter baseline and lays in a nifty reverse.

    JaVale reverse

    The Mavs spaced the floor so that McGee and Raymond Felton were all by themselves on one side of the floor. It was essentially a two-man game, and the big man won his matchup. But it’s when you play a center off of Dirk Nowitzki that you really see what type of impact a player can make.

    In this sequence, Nick Collison should theoretically slide over to help against the rolling McGee, but there’s no way he’s going to leave Nowitzki open. The German has beaten his cheating defenders time and time again over the years and by now they know better. So what happens?

    JaVale dunk

    McGee dunks it, so someone has to help against the roller, but who’s it gonna be? (Notice how, after the play, Kanter looks at Westbrook and Waiters looks at Collison. When you have all four defenders directly involved in the play blaming each other, you know you did something right.) On another trip down, Collison does help out against McGee, leaving Nowitzki alone in the corner. Notice how the OKC big man inches closer and closer to the rim as a help defender.

    JaVale roll threat

    Devin Harris then makes a pass to the corner to Nowitzki, and while Collison closes out well, McGee beats a double-team and turns a Dirk pass into an assist with ease.

    Post up score

    McGee isn’t just quicker and more explosive than most big men. He’s also simply bigger than most of them, and he has the physical tools to win battles in the post.

    Finally, even if you play the pick-and-roll well, the big man has the touch to finish from a few feet out.

    JaVale float

    That’s a play we saw Brandan Wright make time and time again when he was with the Mavericks, and McGee was used in a similar role in his first appearance in a Dallas uniform. Wright was shooting nearly 75 percent from the field when he was traded to Boston last season, and while that’s a pretty unfair expectation to set for McGee as he works into game shape and gets used to the flow of the offense, that’s definitely the type of player he can be.

    He’s a big man who can create instant offense for himself, and his mere presence on the floor is enough to dominate what the defense is doing. Defensive units are never going to freely give up uncontested dunks and layups to centers, so eventually those perimeter players are going to be sucked into the lane. That’s when players like Nowitzki and other shooters will burn opponents from deep. There aren’t many people in the world as big and athletic as McGee, and if he can continue operating within the offense with that level of fluidity and force, this Dallas second unit is going to be awfully fun to watch — and awfully good, too.