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Wrapping up the 2011 NBA Playoffs

Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki walks with his MVP trophy and a bottle of champagne after the Mavericks won the NBA Championship defeating the Miami Heat in Miami, June 12, 2011. At right an assistant is carrying the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy (R). REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In an attempt to put the final nail in the coffin that is the 2010-11 NBA season, it’s a good time to look back on the 2011 Playoffs and try to make sense of it all.

Let’s start with…

DIRK’S LEGACY

Easily the biggest winner of these Playoffs, Dirk has shrugged off charges that he was soft and/or a choker by leading the Mavs on one of the most epic postseason runs in recent history. Firing up the NBA StatsCube, we’ll find that Dirk averaged 47.5 points per 36 minutes in the clutch (game within five points with under five minutes to play). Not only did he score a ton, but he did it efficiently, shooting 54% from the field, 97% from the free throw line and 60% (!!) from long range. Even in Game 6, after a miserable 1-for-12 first half, Nowitzki had the mental toughness to go out and score 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final 7:22. He’s never going to win as many championships as Larry Bird, but dynasties are a rarity these days (which favors Bird, historically speaking), so now the Bird/Nowtizki comparisons are legit.

CUBAN

Yes, he’s irritating. Most billionaires are. He made his fortune during the internet bubble and had enough sense to get out when the getting was good. He parlayed that into an NBA team, and is definitely a loudmouth outspoken, but in an age when team owners don’t always show a commitment to winning, Cuban has been more than willing to spend in his chase for a ring and in collecting all these aging All-Stars, he finally found a combination with enough grit, determination and defense to put his franchise player in a position to close the deal. Love him or hate him, he’s entertaining, and in a matchup with the Heat, he was most definitely the lesser of two evils. (And give him credit, when interviewed after the Game 6 win, he was quick to defer the spotlight. Classy move.)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (R) celebrates with his family after the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

KIDD, MARION

Jason Kidd didn’t do much stat-wise in the Finals, and seemed to turn the ball over a lot, but he hit a huge three towards the end of Game 5 and played tough defense on LeBron and Wade for the entire series. After leading the Nets to back-to-back Finals in the early ’00s, he finally got another chance at a ring, and played an important role, even at 38-years-old.

The Mavs got a similar contribution from Shawn Marion, who many left for dead after stints in Miami and Toronto. He helped score when Dirk was getting his rest and played inspired defense on LeBron and Wade at different points in the series. Dallas would not have won the title without The Matrix, especially once Caron Butler went down during the season.

THE JET

Other than Dirk, I can’t see a bigger winner (legacy-wise) in these Finals than Jason Terry. He jumped from also-ran status to clutch Finals performer — one who most definitely backed up his smack talk. He outplayed LeBron down the stretch and didn’t miss a free throw in the clutch in the entire Playoffs. When we look back on these Playoffs a decade from now, we’ll remember Dirk, the Jet, and the Heat’s disappointing performance.

THE BIG THREE

There’s plenty of time for LeBron to redefine his legacy, but this was not a good start. He was mediocre to bad in the fourth quarter for most of the series, and it sure doesn’t seem like this leopard is going to change his spots after tweeting that God decided that it just wasn’t his time to win a title. Um, okay. That doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to hone his post game (like MJ or Kobe) or spend all summer with a shooting coach to make his jumper more consistent.

As for Wade, he doesn’t get off scot-free after fumbling away a chance to tie Game 5 and dribbling the ball off his foot late in Game 6, but he already has a ring, so his legacy has a higher floor than LeBron. And it’s not like the guy didn’t produce — he averaged 27-7-5 and shot 55% from the field in the Finals.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (L) and teammate LeBron James wait to leave the stadium after losing the NBA Championship to the Dallas Mavericks in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Lastly, let the record show that Chris Bosh played his best ball of the Finals when the chips were down. In the last three games, he averaged 21-8 on 55% shooting, and even hit the winning jumper in Game 3 after a rough shooting night. Bosh was something of a punchline during the season, but he came up big against the Bulls (23-8, 60% shooting) and did some damage in the Finals.

Where does Miami go from here? While some are arguing that Pat Riley should trade LeBron for Dwight Howard, this is certainly not the last we’ve seen of this trio. They made it to the Finals in their first try, and did it with a substandard supporting cast. I expect changes to be made, but I’d be shocked if any of the stars are moved.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Kudos for Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during his team’s play against the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, Texas June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Jason Whitlock heaps praise on on Rick Carlisle for his coaching in Game 4:

He did crazy (stuff). He inserted J.J. Barea into the starting lineup. Barea has been a nightmare in the Finals. He can’t finish at the rim. He can’t knock down open perimeter shots. He left his game in the Western Conference playoffs.

Carlisle went with Barea to change his rotation and rest Shawn Marion. With Barea in the lineup, DeShawn Stevenson would come off the bench and defend Wade or LeBron James.

Carlisle also tied Peja Stojakovic to the bench. Peja left his shot in Los Angeles. The few minutes Carlisle would have wasted on Peja, he gave to Brian Cardinal. Well, at least “The Custodian” didn’t turn the ball over and escort a Heat offensive player to the rim.

The Barea and Cardinal moves didn’t really pan out. That’s fine. Down 2-1 and with Dirk sick, a coach has to try something.

And Carlisle did find minutes for Stevenson. In Dallas’ two victories, Stevenson has played a combined 48 minutes. In Dallas’ two losses, Stevenson has played 29 minutes. Stevenson played 26 minutes Tuesday. He knocked down three 3-pointers. He played solid defense on James and Wade.

Where Carlisle really made his mark Tuesday was in the fourth quarter, when he mixed in some zone defense. The Heat scored only 14 points in the final 12 minutes. The zone slowed Wade’s penetration, and it masked Nowitzki’s exhaustion.

Carlisle coached a masterpiece.

Carlisle definitely deserves some credit as Dallas came up big last night. But this is a crafty, veteran team that never gives up, and that, along with LeBron’s Houdini act, had just as much to do with the outcome.

Who will win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award?

Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during second half NBA basketball action in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It’s award season in the NBA and today I’ll take a look at the top Sixth Man of the Year candidates. Not only will I try to predict who will win the award, I’ll also discuss who should win win the award. Those are two separate questions and they may have two separate answers.

First, to narrow down the candidates, I took a look at the winners from the past 10 seasons:

Yr Player TM G GS GS% MPG PPG RPG APG TOT WINS
2001 Aaron McKie PHI 76 33 43% 31.5 11.6 4.1 5.0 20.7 56
2002 Corliss Williamson DET 78 7 9% 21.8 13.6 4.1 1.2 18.9 50
2003 Bobby Jackson SAC 59 26 44% 28.4 15.2 3.7 3.1 22.0 59
2004 Antawn Jamison DAL 82 2 2% 29.0 14.8 6.3 0.9 22.0 52
2005 Ben Gordon CHI 82 3 4% 24.4 15.1 2.6 2.0 19.7 47
2006 Mike Miller MEM 74 9 12% 30.6 13.7 5.4 2.7 21.8 49
2007 Leandro Barbosa PHO 80 18 23% 32.7 18.1 2.7 4.0 24.8 61
2008 Manu Ginobili SAS 74 23 31% 31.1 19.5 4.8 4.5 28.8 56
2009 Jason Terry DAL 74 11 15% 33.7 19.6 2.4 3.4 25.4 50
2010 Jamal Crawford ATL 79 0 0% 31.1 18.0 2.5 3.0 23.5 53

Notice that all 10 winners had the following in common:

– They started fewer than 45% of their teams games.
– They averaged at least 11.6 points per game.
– They averaged at least 18.9 total points, rebounds and assists.
– They were all on teams that won at least 47 games. Eight of 10 winners were on teams that won 50+ games.

Using this criteria to narrow down the legitimate candidates for the 2011 Sixth Man award, we’re left with this list of 11 candidates. To give us a little leeway, they all started less than half of their teams games, they averaged at least 17.3 total points, rebounds and assists, and they play on teams that have at least 38 wins on the season.

I also included Efficiency Per Minute to see how productive each player is in the minutes he gets. Bigs tend to do better in this statistic because it’s easier to post rebounds than it is to register assists and big men tend to shoot at a higher percentage because they play close to the basket (so they have fewer misses, which weight efficiency down).

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Shawn Marion (a.k.a. “The Matrix”) chats with The Scores Report

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Shawn Marion is a four-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA performer. He is one of the league’s most athletic and versatile players, which is why TNT’s Kenny Smith nicknamed him “The Matrix” early in his rookie season. As a testament to his versatility, he has led the league in steals twice and has finished in the top 10 in rebounding six times.

The peak of Marion’s career came in Phoenix, as he thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system. But Marion was an All-Star before D’Antoni took over in Phoenix. The guy can flat out play.

After spending last season in Miami and Toronto, Marion is now with the Dallas Mavericks, joining Jason Kidd, Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitzki for what owner Mark Cuban hopes will be a title run. Marion sat down with The Scores Report to talk about his new team, his prowess on the offensive glass, and why the Suns traded him away.

TSR: Thanks for chatting with The Scores Report, Shawn. We just spoke with your former teammate, Dwyane Wade, a couple of weeks ago. He seems like a really nice guy.

SM: Yeah, he’s my man.

TSR: I’d first like to ask you about joining the Dallas Mavericks. How do you think you’ll fit in?

SM: I think I’ll fit in very well.

TSR: What made you pick the Mavs?

SM: J-Kidd and Dirk tried to get me down there for like over a year now. But I wasn’t able to go directly to them, so they had to make some maneuvers and work out a sign and trade. That’s what it was.

TSR: How do you think the team will change now that you’re a Mav? Dallas was in the middle of the pack in terms of pace last season – do you see the team pushing the ball more to best utilize your skills?

SM: I think we’ll do a little bit of everything. I’m just going to come in and try to help the team in every aspect of the game, and that’s it really. That sums it up.

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Shawn Marion headed to Dallas

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As part of a complicated four-team trade, it looks as if Shawn Marion is about to become a Maverick.

The deal, according to sources, calls for the Mavericks to acquire Marion and Kris Humphries from Toronto and Greg Buckner from Memphis, with Marion to receive a five-year contract worth an estimated $39 million. Buckner has had two previous stints with the Mavericks but is likely to be released, sources said.

The Grizzlies will land Jerry Stackhouse from Dallas and a substantial cash payment to buy out Stackhouse’s contract. Only $2 million of Stackhouse’s $7.25 million salary next season is guaranteed, as long as he is waived by Aug. 10.

The Raptors will receive Devean George and Antoine Wright from the Mavericks, while also preserving their $5.9 million mid-level exception for the coming season by turning their acquisition of Turkoglu — who is getting a five-year deal worth an estimated $53 million — into a sign-and-trade as opposed to an outright signing. Assembling the trade this way could also enable Toronto to re-sign Carlos Delfino, after it appeared that the Raptors would have to renounce Delfino to help make room for the Turkoglu signing.

The Magic, meanwhile, were motivated to join in the trade because their participation, as opposed to merely letting Turkoglu walk, will create a valuable trade exception they can use in future deals worth around $7 million.

Mark Cuban is arguably the most polarizing owner in the league, but he isn’t afraid to try to make his team better. Whether it’s an ill-advised Jason Kidd-for-Devin Harris swap, the mid-level signing of Marcin Gortat or working out this sign-and-trade to land Marion, Cuban has always been willing to do what’s necessary to win.

With these moves, Dallas can start Marion at small forward next to Dirk Nowitzki and shift Josh Howard to shooting guard, with Sixth Man Award winner Jason Terry staying in a bench role. The Mavericks also believe that they will have a strong small-ball unit when they elect not to play Gortat or Erick Dampier, featuring Howard at small forward, Marion at power forward and Nowitzki at center.

$8 million per year for five years is a lot to pay for a 31-year-old, but Cuban knows that Nowitzki’s window is closing and the Mavericks’ time is now. Dallas now has a formidable starting lineup — Kidd, Howard, Marion, Nowitzki and Gortat — that has features four All-Stars, with Terry, J.J. Barea, Matt Carroll and Dampier coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see if the Mavs are able (or willing) to retain Brandon Bass, who is a free agent this summer.

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