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Let's be real about what we had with Starter Powell
#1
Interesting data from Tim Cato's piece on the lineup change.  It kind of highlights the "eye test vs. data" debate that often rages around here.  Cato starts out talking about whether things were really that bad defensively with Powell as a starter:

     
  "Powell has conceded 85% of shots he's defended, per the NBA's stat site".


Well, that explains the eye-test part.  If it appears that every player who takes a shot against Powell makes that shot it is because that is exactly what is happening.  Then Cato goes on to say:


  "but the starting lineup with him (Powell) has only allowed a 100.9 defensive rating - almost 10 points better than last season's                average and six points better than the team's overall rank."

This is somewhat backed up by D-Rating where bigs so far this season have the following ratings:

Johnson 99
Powell 103
WCS 104
Maxi 106

All of those are actually really good numbers.  Dallas is 6th in the league in Opponents PPG and 11th in the league in Defensive Rating.  Dallas is playing better D and it wasn't just this one game against Houston.

Rebounding was abysmal with a non-rebounding C like Powell playing as a stand-alone big.  You might get by with that if Powell's well established lack of board prowess was surrounded by Luka and another big.  But it was a killer when he was run out there by himself.  Powell's rebounding is off this season compared to his pedestrian past, but at least part of the team's putrid rebounding has to be laid at the feet of the decision maker who thought we could get by with him as your single big.  As I've said before, none of our bigs is well equipped to run out as a stand-alone big against the starting bigs from other teams.  Running out WCS AND Maxi is not apples to apples compared to what we did for six games.

The most interesting point Cato made was that our historic "O" is really what killed us.  Six games in we were only managing 90 PP100 with the starters in.  Ouch.  It was easy to see WCS's electric athleticism on finishes compared to the still recovering Powell (despite the fact WCS sets really sloppy picks).  It is also in the numbers.  Powell has averaged an O-Rating of 132.6 the last 3 seasons.  Through seven games he's at 113.  He's not alone here.  Luka is down from 116 last season to 108.  THJ is down from 116 to 112 and DFS is down from 122 to 109.  To me, the question is chicken or egg.  Was Powell's lack of lift killing Luka's game or was Fat Luka's poor play killing the "O" (or both).  At least through one game you have to tip the scale more heavily toward Powell being the issue, because the moment he sat, Luka looked like Luka again.

I realize this isn't like my usual defense of Powell.  I've consistently complained about the single big approach and have said neither Maxi or WCS would work any better than Powell (I've not seen anything to disprove that).  I've preached patience and been surprised that people are so down on him.  He's had seven fewer months to recover than KD.  It is a miracle that he's playing at all.  My main objections come when people make sweeping statements about Powell's past.  The team has done very well with him on the floor the last three seasons despite what our lying eyes tell us.  The main reason for going through all of this was to have the real data out there a week or a month from now when posters try to create a narrative that the team was horrendous defensively with Powell as a starter.  Number one, Powell alone isn't comparable to playing two bigs and number two, it isn't true.  Team D was actually very good despite Powell's inability to guard anyone or secure a defensive board.  Hopefully in a week or two this will all be a long forgotten memory and the debate will rage as to who is the best pairing with KP.
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#2
Very well written. I would also add that bad shooting has also contributed for much worse O rating and it is difficult to attribute this to any of the written causes (Powell or Luka). Perhaps it was just a consequence of small sample and it will get back to "normal" levels.

The other thing that was somewhat obvious was the approach to games. Mavs looked very different against Lakers, Charlotte or Chicago than against Houston, Clippers or Miami. With the exception of Phoenix it was either a blowout win or blowout loss while Mavs were very stable in their offensive production. They were bad mostly. The difference were opposing teams in our wins, where they really sucked. I like to think part of it was also a very good defense and effort in those games. Let's hope Mavs can show same effort and win against a team that will score a normal percentage of shots.

Mavs 3pt% in losses (LAL, Cha, Chi): 40, 28, 26
Mavs 3 pt% in wins (LAC, Mia, Hou): 34, 32, 41

Opp 3pt% in losses: 48, 45, 35
Opp 3pt% in wins: 12, 21, 27
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#3
Yeah, I think WCS at 5 was the right way to go for now, but the reason Powell was actually BENCHED, imo, is that he doesn’t fit WITH WCS. Kleber’s presence as a floor spacer is much more appropriate to complement WCS. 

When KP comes back, I do NOT expect Kleber to remain in the starting lineup, personally. I expect Kleber’s shooting to return to “first big off the bench” status. Not sure what to expect, but my guess is that either THJ or Powell comes back into the lineup with Porzingis.
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#4
(01-06-2021, 09:43 AM)KillerLeft Wrote: Yeah, I think WCS at 5 was the right way to go for now, but the reason Powell was actually BENCHED, imo, is that he doesn’t fit WITH WCS. Kleber’s presence as a floor spacer is much more appropriate to complement WCS. 

When KP comes back, I do NOT expect Kleber to remain in the starting lineup, personally. I expect Kleber’s shooting to return to “first big off the bench” status. Not sure what to expect, but my guess is that either THJ or Powell comes back into the lineup with Porzingis.

Fit is definitely going to be an issue among bigs (assuming you believe we need two bigs even when KP returns).  Maxi's perimeter D makes him a solid choice, but Powell and WCS aren't a fit, so you'd have to keep one of your starting bigs (KP or Maxi) on at all times.  That is possible, but the limited data we have says Maxi loses effectiveness at higher minutes.  WCS isn't good enough on the perimeter to be the answer next to KP (see all the points people made against Gobert and KP and replace Gobert with a worse defender).

If it isn't Maxi, the most logical choices are Powell, Johnson and DFS and none of those are ideal either (especially with Powell not 100% yet).
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#5
(01-06-2021, 10:09 AM)DanSchwartzman Wrote: WCS isn't good enough on the perimeter to be the answer next to KP


So just for the record (and speaking of LYING EYES), let's look at KP's synergy tracking stats of when he is switched onto the ball handler in the pick and roll (for the last three years there was enough data on him):

16-17: 0.79 PPP (70.5 percentile)
17-18: 0.55 PPP (96.2 percentile)
19-20: 0.50 PPP (98.0 percentile)

KP is actually ELITE at switching onto the perimeter ball handler in the pick and roll and shutting that down. Yes, there have of course been times we can all remember that KP has gotten beat on the perimeter, but overall history has shown that KP can switch onto the perimeter very effectively as a defender.
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#6
(01-06-2021, 10:41 AM)Kammrath Wrote: So just for the record (and speaking of LYING EYES), let's look at KP's synergy tracking stats of when he is switched onto the ball handler in the pick and roll (for the last three years there was enough data on him):

16-17: 0.79 PPP (70.5 percentile)
17-18: 0.55 PPP (96.2 percentile)
19-20: 0.50 PPP (98.0 percentile)

KP is actually ELITE at switching onto the perimeter ball handler in the pick and roll and shutting that down. Yes, there have of course been times we can all remember that KP has gotten beat on the perimeter, but overall history has shown that KP can switch onto the perimeter very effectively as a defender.

He basically never had to and that makes me question the the way they track those numbers. Cannot imagine that he only guarded the pick and roll ballhandler on 0.2 possessions per game last season.


#7
(01-06-2021, 10:41 AM)Kammrath Wrote: So just for the record (and speaking of LYING EYES), let's look at KP's synergy tracking stats of when he is switched onto the ball handler in the pick and roll (for the last three years there was enough data on him):

16-17: 0.79 PPP (70.5 percentile)
17-18: 0.55 PPP (96.2 percentile)
19-20: 0.50 PPP (98.0 percentile)

KP is actually ELITE at switching onto the perimeter ball handler in the pick and roll and shutting that down. Yes, there have of course been times we can all remember that KP has gotten beat on the perimeter, but overall history has shown that KP can switch onto the perimeter very effectively as a defender.

In this case, I'm 100% going with the eye test. I don't EVER want to see a repeat of that Portland game in the bubble again. To me, it's worth going 1,000 miles out of my way to avoid that. 

But, it doesn't matter what I think. You think WCS/KP could work, but that doesn't matter, either. Do you think the Mavs believe that? Offensively, they could fit in much the same way Powell/KP fit in the past. Whether or not that's in the team's best interest is another hotly debated topic that we should table for now. Do you feel like the Mavs even CONSIDER the idea that that duo is good enough defensively to play together?


#8
Follow up question: what do those stats say about Boban?


#9
(01-06-2021, 10:50 AM)dirkfansince1998 Wrote: He basically never had to and that makes me question the the way they track those numbers. Cannot imagine that he only guarded the pick and roll ballhandler on 0.2 possessions per game last season.

I suspect there's a distinction made between guarding the pick and roll and dealing with the aftermath of the opponent using a pick to create a switch and then iso the mismatch. 

I can see KP being good in iso situations on ball-handlers after a switch. Good enough to discourage the opponent from targeting him in that way, which is great. My guess is that THIS is what the stat is measuring. 

What I'm talking about is when he's involved in the pick and roll action in general. He did that A TON, and I'd be shocked if he was in the 98th percentile on that type of play. I don't think he's the worst at it, by any means, but it's definitely not his strength as a defender.


#10
(01-06-2021, 10:50 AM)dirkfansince1998 Wrote: makes me question the the way they track those numbers.


So my understanding is this:

On average KP defended 0.2 plays per game last year when the pick and roll ball handler tried to score on him (meaning the handler didn't pass the ball once switched onto KP). Meaning that even if KP more often switched to the perimeter to defend that player, it doesn't count as a possession in this tracking system unless the ball handler tries to score after the switch. 

So what does this tell me?

1) KP doesn't get picked on much by ball handlers in the pick and roll when he switches on to them, meaning they don't try to score on him all that often (only once every 5 games did it happen to him last year).

2) When they do try to score on him he is elite level at minimizing that (giving up only 0.50 PPP last year...I think average is like 0.85 or 0.90 PPP).


#11
(01-06-2021, 08:32 AM)DanSchwartzman Wrote:   "Powell has conceded 85% of shots he's defended, per the NBA's stat site".
(01-06-2021, 08:32 AM)DanSchwartzman Wrote: "but the starting lineup with him (Powell) has only allowed a 100.9 defensive rating - almost 10 points better than last season's                average and six points better than the team's overall rank."
(01-06-2021, 08:32 AM)DanSchwartzman Wrote: Rebounding was abysmal with a non-rebounding C like Powell playing as a stand-alone big.  You might get by with that if Powell's well established lack of board prowess was surrounded by Luka and another big.  But it was a killer when he was run out there by himself.  Powell's rebounding is off this season compared to his pedestrian past,



One thing I'm asking myself is, if Powell as an individual is giving up 85% of shots on him, yet the team as a whole has a stellar DRTG, is it more because of Powell's presence basically funneling all of the opposing shots onto 1 player (whoever Powell is guarding essentially), thus letting everyone else stay on their assignments, and leading to an improved defense since the opposing team is essentially baited into a less efficient game plan? Or is Powell a non-factor and it's something else causing the team defense to be better as a whole (whether that be a new addition I.E. JRich and his callouts, or RC's focus on defense in training camp?) Or maybe a mix of both? Or its a small sample size that will adjust in time whether that be a lot of shots that went in on Powell were lucky or the DRTG will rise? And one has to ask how less efficient this game plan is if Powell is allowing 85% of shots to go in? 

This is even further compounded by the fact that Powell has been overall an atrocious rebounder. He never was elite at that, but right now he's putrid. Of course the fact that Powell is also not back yet to his old self on offense is playing a role with the starters poor ORTG. I liked the chicken and egg sentiment. Is it fat Luka? Is it DFS missing wide open 3s? Or is it truly because Powell is unable to provide any sort of pressure? We saw the pressure WCS brought with his verticality on offense against the Rockets and how everything looked different. But again Luka also looked a lot better that game too. Chicken or egg strikes again.

So if Powell as an individual cannot defend, is not good on offense, and cannot rebound, then how can he possibly be a positive on the court? Wouldn't common sense lead us to believe that the team is just being held back when Powell is on the court? The 2-man lineups with Luka and either WCS, Powell, and Kleber really lend credence to that idea. 

IF anything, I'm left with more questions than answers. It's hard to argue against that Powell does look better paired with another big. But is that because the other big is just hiding all of Powell's issues? And how does it affect that other big's impact having to makeup for Powell's deficiencies? 

I suppose we'll see in time. Hopefully once KP comes back this is a non-issue given that Powell's minutes should go down.
14x All-Star, 12x all-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 1 NBA Championship: Dirk Nowitzki, the man, the myth, the legend.


#12
(01-06-2021, 11:03 AM)KillerLeft Wrote: I suspect there's a distinction made between guarding the pick and roll and dealing with the aftermath of the opponent using a pick to create a switch and then iso the mismatch.

Correct, this is a separate thing. Pick and roll ball handler is when that roll play is still unfolding in the natural flow of the game. If the player backs out with a couple dribbles, then it becomes an isolation play.

KP in isolation was average last year: 0.92 PPP, 47.6 percentile (his last year in NYK: 0.85, 59.3 percentile)

The only other Mavs better than KP last year for comparison...
WCS: 0.90 PPP, 51.6 percentile
Maxi: 0.81 PPP, 64.8 percentile (Mavs best at this)
DFS: 0.87 PPP, 56.5 percentile
DP: 0.82 PPP, 64.0 percentile

All the Mavs guards are below average or way below average in isolation plays.

P.S. JRich last year was 0.95 PPP, 43.7 percentile (so worse than KP in isolation).


#13
You know who is ELITE in isolation?

ZUBAC. Doncic could NEVER do anything against him according to the eye test when he backed out in isolation against him and the tracking backs it up: 0.57 PPP, 94.9 percentile.
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#14
(01-06-2021, 11:39 AM)Kammrath Wrote: You know who is ELITE in isolation?

ZUBAC. Doncic could NEVER do anything against him according to the eye test when he backed out in isolation against him and the tracking backs it up: 0.57 PPP, 94.9 percentile.

Yes, I remember that, and it was big. Isolating on bigs is a big part of Luka's game. 

I'm not sure how many other ball-handlers hunt these matchups so frequently, though. I feel like Harden does it quite a bit, but I don't know that every great scorer's top priority is isolating against an opposing big. 

It's cool that KP is good at that, though.


#15
(01-06-2021, 11:25 AM)SleepingHero Wrote: One thing I'm asking myself is, if Powell as an individual is giving up 85% of shots on him, yet the team as a whole has a stellar DRTG, is it more because of Powell's presence basically funneling all of the opposing shots onto 1 player (whoever Powell is guarding essentially), thus letting everyone else stay on their assignments, and leading to an improved defense since the opposing team is essentially baited into a less efficient game plan? Or is Powell a non-factor and it's something else causing the team defense to be better as a whole (whether that be a new addition I.E. JRich and his callouts, or RC's focus on defense in training camp?) Or maybe a mix of both?


It's a great question. 

I'm not sure I have a strong opinion about it, but my first instinct is that Powell rarely rotates incorrectly. He rarely goes the wrong man. He doubles when he should. He recovers when he should. He seems to almost always UNDERSTAND the situation, and how Dallas is attempting to deal with it systemically. 

In short, he's a super smart player who makes very few errors. I'm not 100% sure this is the answer, but I wouldn't have any trouble believing this was the answer if Carlisle told us so. 

I really think the absence of error is much more of a goal for professionals like Carlisle (in any field) than the presence of great. When you think that way, a lot of decisions made by a lot of coaches start to make more sense, imo.
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#16
Yes, there is much more to defense than just winning your one on one match up.
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#17
I´m confused what we still have to discuss about Powell?

Our defense got better, cause we added a defensive stud in Richardson.

Our offense got worse, cause we lost an offensive stud in Curry AND Powell is completely useless on the offensive end after losing all his athletism due to injury.

The main problem with Powell is not defense, it´s the offense. Powell has literally no offensive basketball skill, if he can´t jump anymore. Of course the overall 3pt shooting percentage gets worse, when you play 4 on 5 on offense. DUH.

Last night we got outscored by 10-12 points in a two minute stretch when Johnson/Powell were on the floor together, because the spacing was all messed up.
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#18
(01-06-2021, 12:22 PM)Mavs2019 Wrote: The main problem with Powell is not defense, it´s the offense.


I agree with you about this, but I do NOT think the majority of the board would. I think that's kind of why Dan felt compelled to start this thread.
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#19
Great write up Dan! Thank you

I think KL has it right with Powell. He started because Rick knew he wouldn’t blow defensive assignments. He can switch and play team ball. You know he will bring the effort needed. Playing Powell was more of a tone setting move to make sure we play smart and together defensively.

Powell just doesn’t have it physically to contribute offensively. The lob game scoring is too easy for Luka and the team to go without. WCS getting that going early in the first and second half vs Houston made a huge difference. Without easy buckets our guys start pressing themselves and can’t get into a groove offensively.


#20
The next frontcourt matchup for the Mavs will be by far the most difficult of the season. Jokic is playing on an all time great level right now. Averaging 24/12/12 70% TS. He can do it all. Bang in the paint and dominate the post. Iso on the perimeter. Run the pick and roll as the ballhandler or roll man. Shoot from deep 3-point range.


  


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