Friday, January 21, 2011

Grasping at Straws

Nostalgia is a tricky thing. It can be a warm security blanket that reminds you of the glory days, when times were better and men were men. But when those distant memories revert to the present, the result is usually not as good as you remember.

Case in point with the Dallas Mavericks reportedly on the verge of landing one time nemesis Peja Stojakovic after his contract has been bought out from Toronto. Peja, as many dedicated Mavs fans remember, was the sharpshooting wing from the arch-rival Sacramento Kings back when the Mavericks and Kings played nationally televised games on Christmas of who could score 130 points first. Ah, the good old days.

Obviously, Dallas needed to make a move to acquire some sort of wing player that could make shots. Sasha Pavlovic, you were nice against the Lakers, but after watching the debacle in Chicago, it's clear Dallas needs someone a bit more proven and a bit more...uhm...good. But is Peja the answer? If this were 2004, yes. Now? About as definite a 'maybe' you can get.

I think the first thing that needs to be debunked is that Peja isn't a worthless player. I feel that Twitter was giving Peja a bad rap last night, as if the Mavericks had genetically cloned Steve Novak from the bottom of their roster, gave him a new hair cut and a fake mustache, and trotted him to the world as the answer. As awesome as that might be, it's a little better than that. Peja is still a quality contributing player in the NBA. If you can give a mulligan to this year (due to injuries and his rotting time spent in Toronto) Peja was still shooting at a decent clip well past his Sacramento years. In his first full, healthy season in New Orleans, Peja knocked down 44 percent of his threes, while scoring over 16 points a game - much similar to what Caron Butler was doing this season. I was even surprised how productive he was in Indiana for half a season after being traded from the Kings, scoring 19.5 points per game and shooting above 40 percent from three.

Once again, this is not to say Peja is in All-Star form. He's not. He's been ravaged by injuries and still is a bit of a one trick poney. He isn't a facilitator - at all (career assist number of 1.8). With the age rising and injuries to go along with it, his respectable rebounding numbers have fallen off. And by no means is he even close to a defensive weapon. There was a time when you could say Peja was no-brainer All-Star but fans have to realize that those times have passed. Peja is at the point of his career where he is best suited to being a role-player. Someone who plays 15-20 minutes, can knock down a couple of threes and be on his way. If Peja is brought in (and on any contract more than a couple million) and plays 30 minutes a night and starts, you're going to start to see his flaws exposed. That's what being a role-player is. You have your niche, but if overexposed, that niche becomes a crutch and teams counter the one positive you bring to a team.

Two things bother me the most about the Peja reaction: The two extreme sides (the ones that are stuck in 2004 and think the Mavs have added an All-Star and those that think the team just brought Jon Barry from his talking head position) and then that this could be the last move Dallas makes this season. I still feel Dallas needs to make a "splash" move (such as acquiring a Kevin Martin/Danny Granger level player, as slim as those chances may be) to become a true title contender. But who knows. The last player the Mavericks took a gamble on that had succes in New Orleans before breaking down in his next stop turned out pretty well.


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1 comment:

  1. I hate Peja, but he still has that one trick that a lot of teams would covet. It's sad times here in Mavs land, but things aren't dead yet. It's a lot to ask for a banged up team to beat the Lakers one night then get on a plane and head off to Chicago to play the next night against a feisty Bulls team. This team is still far off from healthy. When Dirk gets back into form and Roddy comes back, this team should at least challenge in the quite open West. Somewhat, at least.