Initial Report Card Grades for Every Key Dallas Mavericks Player
The Dallas Mavericks were one of the teams expected to be on the playoff bubble in a competitive Western Conference, but they've looked very good so far and all the new pieces have come together quickly.
Monta Ellis has been excellent for his new team, and he's a big part of what has been one of the best offenses in the league. Dirk Nowitzki, as you would expect, has been an efficient scoring machine and has looked much better than he did last year in an injury-riddled season.
But what about the other players in the rotation?
Here's a look at the top 10 players on the Dallas roster with an evaluation of their performance and a report card grade based on their statistical output and how well they've fulfilled their roles compared to other players in the league.
Note: All statistics are accurate up to Nov. 28, 2013.
Per-Game Stats: 3.7 points, 2.2 assists, 1.2 TO, 11.8 PER
Shane Larkin was Dallas' first-round pick in this year's draft, but he hasn't had the opportunity to truly prove himself yet. Injury kept him out of the preseason, but he'll get the chance to develop over the rest of the season.
According to Mavs.com, head coach Rick Carlisle has talked about how he wants Larkin to play a "J.J. Barea-like role" for this Mavericks team, but whether the rookie can live up to those expectations remains to be seen. So far, he's impressed with his speed, defense and ability to run the pick-and-roll.
Player Grade: D
Per-Game Stats: 4.0 points, 2.4 assists, 1.4 TO, 10.2 PER
Gal Mekel isn't a typical NBA rookie with no professional experience. He's played in the Israeli League, and he's shown flashes of great potential early into his rookie year.
Mekel has been a solid defender and has been able to run the offense fairly well. With other backup point guards on the roster like Devin Harris and Shane Larkin, Mekel's role is unclear, but he's played well enough to keep getting minutes.
Player Grade: D+
Per-Game Stats: 6.3 points (48.8 FG%, 43.5 3P%), 2.5 rebounds, 13.8 PER
Jae Crowder has developed into a great outside shooter, and his combination of size, defense and shooting makes him a valuable role player for Dallas.
The second-year player has shown tremendous growth in key areas of his game, and he'll continue to mature as the season continues. His perimeter defense is invaluable against wing players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and he's become the second-best defender on the team.
Player Grade: C
Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points (61.3 FG%), 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 17.1 PER
Samuel Dalembert was brought in for his defense, and he's been a good rim protector so far. There is room for improvement, as his blocks numbers could be higher and he's allowing opponents to shoot over 50 percent at the rim when he's in the game, according to NBA.com.
Anything that Dalembert gives Dallas on the offensive end is a bonus, and he's shooting a high percentage from the field.
Dalembert has been a solid starter at center, but DeJuan Blair has looked like a better option on many occasions while Dalembert has rarely looked anything other than average.
Player Grade: C
Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points (38.3 FG%, 33.8 3P%), 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 13.0 PER
With the added offensive boost of Monta Ellis, Vince Carter's role on offense hasn't been as big as it was last year. That's fortunate considering the drop in his production and efficiency as a scorer.
Carter has been solid as a spot-up shooter, hitting 44 percent of his spot-up threes, according to Synergy Sports, but he hasn't been as effective with the ball in his hands.
Surprisingly, he's actually been quite effective on defense, and Synergy Sports calculates that he's holding his opponents to 0.67 points per possession.
Player Grade: C
Per-Game Stats: 8.7 points (52.9 FG%), 7.2 rebounds (3.3 offensive rebounds), 1.8 steals, 21.0 PER
DeJuan Blair had always been effective in limited minutes for the San Antonio Spurs, but he could never fully get out of Gregg Popovich's dog house and get consistent playing time.
He's getting 20 minutes per game under coach Carlisle, and he's been a valuable spark off the bench. He can't protect the rim (he's averaging 0.4 blocks), but he leads the team in steals and offensive rebounds and he's a much bigger offensive threat than Samuel Dalembert or Bernard James.
Blair also brings a level of toughness to the team, especially on the glass. He ranks ninth in the league by grabbing 49.1 percent of contested rebounds.
Player Grade: B
Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points (47.1 3P%), 5.1 assists, 1.6 TO, 14.3 PER
Jose Calderon has developed a reputation as one of the steadiest floor generals in the NBA. He's frequently among the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio and one of the most reliable point guards in the game.
He's had to adjust to not having the ball in his hands as much this season with Monta Ellis handling the ball. With that transition, Calderon hasn't been as effective as in recent years, but he's still been a solid leader for a veteran Mavericks team.
The Spaniard has been an excellent spot-up shooter, scoring 1.42 points per possession in spot-up situation, which is eighth in the league, according to Synergy Sports.
As long as Ellis continues to be so effective with the ball in his hands, Calderon will need to become a better off-ball player as the year goes on.
Player Grade: B
Per-Game Stats: 12.0 points (46.4 FG%), 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.9 blocks, 16.0 PER
Shawn Marion is 35 years old, but that hasn't stopped him from being the best defender on the roster. Even though his game is based on athleticism, he doesn't look old on the court and has continued to be a valuable role player for the Mavs.
He possesses the speed and length to guard power forwards, point guards and everything in between. He's been particularly stingy in the post, allowing opponents to score only 0.69 points per post-up, according to Synergy Sports.
Marion is also shooting 38 percent from downtown, which is the third-best percentage of his career. "The Matrix" has always been one of those players whose impact goes way beyond the box score, and that is still the case today as he's been the third-best player on the roster.
Player Grade: B+
Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points (47.9 FG%, 38.2 3P%), 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 TO, 22.9 PER
Dirk Nowitzki had a disappointing and injury-plagued 2012-13 season, but he's bounced back nicely this year. His age is beginning to show in some areas of his game, as he has started to take a back seat to Monta Ellis and his rebounding numbers have dipped, but he's been very efficient.
He's still an offensive genius, capable of scoring in a variety of ways. His bread and butter is in the post, where he gets 31 percent of his plays and is third in the league scoring 1.13 points per post-up.
Nowitzki is on the downside of his career, but he's still an effective scorer who has formed a devastating pick-and-roll duo with Monta Ellis.
Player Grade: A
Per-Game Stats: 22.3 points (47.4 FG%), 3.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 3.7 TO, 19.4 PER
Monta Ellis has quickly acclimated to his new team, and he's been spectacular for Dallas so far. He's been the primary playmaker for the Mavs, creating shots for himself and his teammates.
He has always been a scorer, but he's been lethally efficient for a Mavericks offense that is fifth in the league in scoring at 105.5 points per game.
Ellis is attacking the rim (most free-throw attempts per game of his career) and has been one of the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers (fourth in points per possession) in the league, according to Synergy Sports.
He leads the Mavericks in points and assists and has formed a deadly duo with Dirk Nowitzki. He can stand to cut down on the turnovers and gamble a little less on the defensive end, but the early results have been tremendous for Dallas.
Player Grade: A