The post-Dirk Nowitzki prime era Dallas Mavericks are perennial overachievers, at least in this basketball observer's mind, and I say that with all due respect. They get every drop of potential out of their roster on a consistent basis, and this obviously includes their finals win over the Miami Heat in 2011, but taking last years roster to 50 wins considering how brutally difficult the Western Conference is was another good example.
Their offense last season was inexplicably good before Rajon Rondo happened, but I’m going to try to keep every post of mine from deteriorating into a discussion about Rondo, so that’ll be the last time I mention him in this particular column, maybe.
I don’t want to give the Kings’ new Vice President of Basketball Strategy and Data Science, Roland Beech, too much credit for the Dallas Mavericks’ ability to sustain success, but he’s been a big part of it, and now he’s in Sacramento.
When the Kings essentially swapped Dean Oliver for Roland Beech this summer, I didn’t think much of it other than the relief that Vlade Divac does, in fact, value analytics despite what Sportando reported after Oliver’s firing.
What I didn’t realize was how hands-on Beech likes to take his position. He was an assistant coach on Rick Carlisle’s staff in Dallas when they won the championship in 2011, and he plans on sitting behind George Karl this season to offer strategic advice when necessary.
John Hollinger, Via ESPN -
And let me reiterate that the geeks played a big role. The Mavericks knew which lineups and pairings worked for them and optimized their rotations accordingly. But it wasn’t just about personnel usage in the NBA Finals -- it was play calls, game planning and countless in-season adjustments that built to this moment.
"Roland was a key part to all his," Cuban said. "I give a lot of credit to Coach Carlisle for putting Roland on the bench and interfacing with him, and making sure we understood exactly what was going on. Knowing what lineups work, what the issues were in terms of play calls and training."
"It makes a difference. I think Jason and JET and Dirk and Tyson Chandler make a whole lot more difference, but if you don’t know what’s going on it’s hard for you to get smarter and get better."
The Mavs did both, and it’s a big reason they’re champions.
Beech made an impact for the Mavericks. Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle admitted as much. My hope is that George Karl will be as open to Roland's work as Carlisle was, and while we don't necessarily have any reason to think he won't be, it's worth expressing some concern. George Karl hasn't been in Sacramento that long, but we know how he can be.
It’s the offseason, so, unsurprisingly; everyone is on the same page right now. Roland Beech talked about his relationship with Karl, and his role with the team in an interview with Kings.com earlier this month.
Roland Beech, via Kings.com -
"I’m a pretty diplomatic guy. I don’t come charging in there saying ‘You guys don’t know anything.’ I believe the exact opposite. I believe these guys have tremendous wisdom. Like George [Karl], I don’t pretend to know 10 percent of what George knows. I just have this kind of savvy that’s combining that with all of this basketball experience. Being on the frontlines of basketball for six years, I don’t even really see myself as a stats guy anymore. I’m more of a basketball guy who can talk about the stats and do all that.
I’m hoping it’s very much like Dallas where I’m heavily involved on the coaching side. I am going to be traveling with the team this year, sitting behind the bench again, all the kind of stuff I’ve done in Dallas. At the same time, I’m there on the front office side, and that tends to be heavier, of course, at draft time, pre-trade deadline and free agency.
So my initial step is to really start building relationships with people and it’s going good so far. George [Karl] and I are having good conversations and I want to get to know every individual coach. Nancy [Lieberman], I think, is going to be a real asset for this team. I know her from Dallas and she’s got her own special skills so I think it’s a good coaching staff all around."
Beech is a notorious lineup guru. Considering the fact that we’ve all been arguing over whom George Karl should start next to DeMarcus Cousins all summer, (Small ball with Rudy Gay? Bully ball with Kosta Koufos?) I do feel a little better about the Kings coming to the correct conclusion with a guy like Beech on board.
The Kings have been a consistently poor third quarter team. They haven’t been particular good at in game adjustments, either, and often employ the ‘line change’ substitution method that results in stretches of bench play where none of the Kings starters (or five best players, if we want to make it simple) are on the court. In fairness to George Karl, we really didn't get a good look at what he wanted to do with a healthy roster last season, because he didn't have one. This is what Beech is here to optimize, though, and if empowered, he can be a valuable asset for the Kings this season.
Ok, I lied about staying away from Rondo in this post; I have one note on that.
Roland Beech willingly moved from Dallas to Sacramento knowing exactly what went wrong with Rondo for the Mavericks, and that he’d be dealing with him again for the Kings. We’ve been led to believe (and have visual evidence of) Rondo’s time in Dallas being nothing short of a nightmare, and this is what Beech had to say about moving west with Rondo.
Roland Beech, via Kings.com
"I think [Rajon Rondo] can do very well here. I always preach that fit matters so much, which differs from people who obsess about the stats. You can rate guys, but so much is about how they fit with different players and coaching schemes. The story I’ve told other people about is at the end of last season in pregame, [Rondo] was actually going one-on-one with Dwight Powell, trying to drive on him and finish and Dwight’s like 6-foot-10, a big guy, so I really like that. So many players, the pregame warm-up to them is throwaway, it’s more of a mental thing for them to get in the right state of mind. But Rajon was really looking to improve his game, even in that kind of time. [Rondo] has great court vision, he throws some of the more amazing passes that you’ll see in this league. He has a different set up for him here so I think it could be completely different for him and I think he’s obviously very excited to be here."
For more on Beech, I couldn't recommend his interview with Aaron Bruski and James Ham on the Cowbell Kingdom podcast, along with his appearance on KHTK with Jason Ross and Nate Goodyear, more. He's an impressive guy, and having some combination of George Karl and Roland Beech in charge of the day-to-day preparation of this team, I don't think it's out-of-bounds to suggest that between Karl's experience and Beech's analysis, this is the best set of suits the Kings have had in a long time.
Assuming they can work together.