Chat with Jeff Caplan
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks reporter Jeff Caplan stops by to chat about the team.
Caplan covers the Mavericks, Stars and colleges for ESPNDallas.com. He joined ESPN in December 2009.
Send your questions now and join Caplan Tuesday at 2 p.m. CT/3 p.m. ET!
Jeff Caplan (2:58 PM)
Hello Mavs and NBA fans. Glad to be back here after three weeks on the NCAA circuit. It was good fun, but it's great to be back with the big dawgs. With less than 10 games on the schedule and the calendar about to turn to April. Let's talk playoffs. There's tons o' questions in the que, so if you don't see yours, somebody probably asked it first. OK, let's roll...
DALLAS FAN (PLANO)
If the mavs don't make the western final, do you think it is a disappointment year?
Jeff Caplan (3:00 PM)
Well, let's just get right to the chase: YES!I say that because it is Year 3 with Jason Kidd and he was brought here to win a first title for the franchise and himself. Add this season's big trade for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood and the Mavs would seems as equipped as they've been to go after a championship. You have to include Shawn Marion as a huge upgrade as well so the Mavs match up better than ever with the Nuggets and even the L.A. Lakers.
Adam (Los Angeles)
Last night, Dirk was 4-5 from 3 point range. Why do you feel that Dirk has chosen to shoot less from 3 this season?
Jeff Caplan (3:03 PM)
What a great game for Dirk, and yes, seeing him drain those 3s you kind of wish he'd take more. He's an excellent 3-point shooter when he trails on the break and gets the ball at the top of the key, seems like he doesn't miss. But, the 3-ball has been a diminishing shot for him over the last several years. It doesn't get talked about enough, but Dirk really has moved his game closer to the basket. He's much more aggressive taking it to the rack than earlier his career and he's made a living with the elbow jumper. He's content to let Jason Terry and Jason Kidd take the 3s. But, again, if he can get it in transition like he did last night, then it's a great shot for him.
Looking at the teams at the bottom of the playoff race, I feel the Mavericks would have just as difficult of a time getting out of the 1st round as they would with a 2nd round match-up with either Denver, Utah or Phoenix. I really feel that if the Mavs get out of the 1st round, they will be the favorites to advance to the Western Finals. Do you feel the same way?
Jeff Caplan (3:06 PM)
There are no gimmes in the first round this year, and for the Mavs there never is (ie 2007 Golden State). If I'm the Mavs I'd rather stay away from Portland. They possess several areas of concern. One, they love their matchups against Dallas and now with Camby in the middle (what a great pickup) they're tough in the paint and on the boards. It's also very hard to win at the Rose Garden. It's an awful long trek to the Northwest and the Trail Blazers are tremendous at home. Then there's the Brandon Roy factor. He can light it up at any moment (of course, the Mavs know Andre Miller can, too).I'm also here to say that the Spurs would not be an easy out. Manu Ginobili is playing unbelievable basketball and Tony Parker is slated to return. I would prefer the OKC Thunder. I love that young squad, but young is the key word. Most of those guys could still be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Do you think Jet is right in saying Dirk will need to have 6-7 assists as they go further? Seems high, but it sounds right, too.
Jeff Caplan (3:07 PM)
6-7 assists, no. He's never averaged that and there's no reason he needs too. I want Dirk shooting more than passing. Obviously, if he's being doubled and he can kick it out, then great, but there's really no reason for Dirk to need that many assists. Again, I'd rather see some of those passes become shots. Jason Kidd can handle the assists. I think 3-4 is more realistic.
How big an impact will The Matrix have in the playoffs (long, athletic defender who can score)? Is he a missing piece, along with Haywood?
Jeff Caplan (3:11 PM)
Man, the Matrix is playing some ball isn't he? He's the pickup of the year in my opinion and it's all thanks to Hedo Turkoglu bailing on his commitment to Portland and signing with Toronto instead. That allowed the Raptors to trade Marion to Dallas. He's played great defense all year on the biggest names: Kobe, Melo and Durant. At this point in his career, he's totally willing to sacrfice offense for defense, and this month his offense has been off the charts. He's been a great team guy and nothing but good for this team.Is he the missing piece? We'll find out, but consider the Mavs tried to guard Melo in last season's playoffs with Antoine Wright and you know it's a significant upgrade. And to get to your second part, yes, Brendan Haywood is a tremendous upgrade down low, especially against Denver with Nene, who is too quick for Dampier, and to go up against the Lakers' Andrew Bynum (assuming he's healthy for the playoffs).
Would KMart make that big of a difference in Denver. Birdman looked ineffective against the new Dallas team
Jeff Caplan (3:12 PM)
I absolutely think so. Kenyon Martin isn't always the smartest guy, but he is tough and physical and can also give you some offense that Birdman can't. Birdman is far more a role player to come and do his thing. I think Denver dearly misses Martin.,
Butlers shots need to improve, Do you agree
Jeff Caplan (3:13 PM)
Yes. And he probably will shoot better. He's adjusting to playing shooting guard. He's a natural small forward, and as much as those positions overlap, it's still an adjustment. I think when the playoffs start and the games become more half-court oriented is when you might see the real benefit to having Caron on the roster. I don't know that he's ever going to be a drop-dead shooter, but he can score in bunches.
Jeremy (Fort Worth)
With everyone healthy, do you see Roddy taking away backup pg minutes from JJB in the playoffs or do you think the Mavs will try to incorporate a 3-guard offense more to get Roddy some minutes?
Jeff Caplan (3:16 PM)
Ah, Roddy, Roddy, Roddy, it took a while to get to the most popular Mav under 30. Here's the deal, Roddy has not gained the trust of Rick Carlisle, nor should he have, to play much backup point if any at all, especially in the playoffs. It's just too much of a jump too soon for the 22-year-old who was playing in some lower-level French league last year. Now, Roddy at the 2 is another story. The problem there is that Rick has to be careful. He has two proud veterans in front of Roddy in Caron Butler and Jet Terry. Are you going to reduce one of their minutes and risk rocking the boat? Hey, if Roddy is that good, then you got to do what you go to to do. Rick has to develop a rotation with the playoffs a couple of weeks away. So, we'll just have to see how he plays it. I would suggest that Roddy will see playing time, but if he becomes too much of a defensive liability he'll sit. Against Denver, his minutes as backup PG did not go well.
How much credit do Donnie and Mark deserve for reopening the window for the Mavs championship hopes? The level of length, athleticisim, and skill that has been provided by trading for Marion, Butler, and Haywood has been a MAJOR upgrade from last year. Not to mention absolutely stealing Roddy B late in the first round of the draft! How impressive has the reshaping of this roster been in less then a year??
Jeff Caplan (3:17 PM)
Yep, give Donnie and Mark a ton of credit. They've upgraded the roster, albeit it is an old roster, but it is an upgade, Roddy looks like he will be a steal for years to come. Kudos to them.
Mavs beat Denver by 16 and lose points in Hollinger's system. Meanwhile Denver gains points. I know that you guys can't really talk about other ESPN guys, but do you really buy this system he loves so much?
Jeff Caplan (3:18 PM)
More Hollinger? Let's get past Hollinger in the sense that his formula is based on margin of defeat and victory and other calculations. It is an alternative way to look deeper into stats. Hey, after the latest uproar over his rankings when the Mavs had won 13 in a row, they dropped 4 of 6. We'll see what happens, but take it for what's it's worth, an alternative view.
Ryan Linner (OU)
With last nights impressive win (again) and other previous wins over strong teams, do you think that its any foreshadow of how successful the Mavs can be in the playoffs? I believe the missing key was experience, and now that we have a team of veterans hungry for a ring, I believe that we are one of the strongest teams entering the playoffs, no?
Jeff Caplan (3:21 PM)
Last night's win was a nice win and I'd leave it at that. The Nuggets played the night before in Orlando and the game in Dallas was the last of I believe a 5-game roadie, so just like the Mavs' excuse when they lost in Denver by 35 or 36 was that it was a schedule loss, same can be said for Denver. The Nuggets also have huge issues right now, starting with the fact that their coach, George Karl, is fighting for his life, undergoing cancer treatment. They also have injuries, so they've got problems. Nonetheless, good win for the Mavs, who better watch out for Utah. You don't want a second-round matchup having to play four in Salt Lake City.
Do you think the mavs can beat the lakers in the playoffs and if so win their 1st NBA championship?
Jeff Caplan (3:23 PM)
No, not really, maybe. Head-to-head healthy, no, I don't think the Mavs can beat the Lakers. If they meet in the second round and L.A. is without Andrew Bynum, the odds get better. I'm still not a big fan of Ron Artest in L.A. and the Lakers' bench has not been as good as it was. Remember when Vujacic actually scored. Luke Walton is coming back, but there's definite vulnerability. The Mavs have to be fully healthy and Jason Kidd would have to be at the level he was during the 13-game win streak.
who do you think is going to win the natoinal championship?
Jeff Caplan (3:24 PM)
Very clever Martin, slipping an NCAA Tourney question in there. Nice job. My pick is West Virginia, and not because both of my parents are Mountaineers. Really like the way that teams plays. It'll have to get by Duke's top-notch defense, but it will and Bob Huggins will win it for his home town school.
This is the year.... I can feel it!
Jeff Caplan (3:25 PM)
Thanks for elaborating David. Just a gut feel, huh?
I see the Mavs as being the best all around team in the league. I feel like we can matchup with anyone on defense. Do you think we have some matchup problems with some of our opponents in the playoffs?
Jeff Caplan (3:26 PM)
As I mentioned earlier, I like the Mavs' matchups post-trade with Denver much more than last season. The Melo factor and the Nene factor have been soothed a bith with Marion and Haywood providing much more versatility than previous years. And against the Jazz, the Mavs would hold, in my opinion, a substantial muscle advantage in the paint, but would also face very difficult matchups on the perimeter, namely with a young man named Deron Williams. Maybe you've heard of him.
DALLAS FAN (PLANO)
what do you think about Rick C?
Jeff Caplan (3:28 PM)
I think Rick has done a pretty job since arriving here. Expectations are always high and his biggest headache, Josh Howard, is finally gone. Rick has a reputation from past head coaching jobs and not being able to keep the players' attention for much more than 2-3 years because of his quirky personality and style. But, I think he's done a good job mixing and matching lineups, I think he's a good coach in terms of in-game adjustments. He's been stubborn on Roddy B, but I'm going to take his word that he plays Roddy the amount that Roddy's earned. Let's revisit at the end of the playoffs.
Jeff Caplan (3:29 PM)
OK, lots of repeats in here, so let's get to one more...
Hey Jeff anyone say you look like Manu?
Jeff Caplan (3:30 PM)
Dirk, hey, you know what, actually, yes, especially down in San Antonio. The fact that I'm 5-8 (barely) hasn't seem to matter. (he's balding faster, too).
Jeff Caplan (3:31 PM)
OK, everyone, thanks for the questions. I think I got to most of them that didn't hit on the same subject. Keep reading espndallas.com, tell your friends we're here, you won't find more comprehensive coverage anywhere (just try).We'll be back next week, same place, same time.Have a good week.