As the Dallas Mavericks look towards training camp, the team will need to address their biggest flaws from last year.
Last year was not the Mavs finest season. It was a 33 win campaign that saw the Mavs cut 80% of their starting lineup at the deadline to look towards the future. This offseason they sought to address some of the issues that caused them to lose so many games, but it’s worth asking “was it enough?”
First things first, it must be established what the issues were that led the Mavs to have the 9th worst record in the NBA. Statistically speaking, over the course of the season, the Mavs were bottom 4 in the league in field goal percentage, 3 point percentage and steals.
To make matters worse, after the trade deadline, they got worse in points per game, field goal percentage, 3pt percentage, rebounding, steals and blocks due to the Porzingis trade. And even though that sounds really bad, the Mavs brought back 10 players from its 17 man roster from last season, so the question becomes whether or not the free agents are enough to drag the team’s stats out of the gutter.
Well, the team added Seth Curry, who shot 45% from 3 last year and Porzingis, who is a 36% 3pt shooter, so shooting percentages should rise. Additionally, Delon Wright will bring more than a steal a game to the Mavericks, so that should vault the team at least out of the basement in steals.
So it looks like the Mavs have plugged a lot of holes by committee with the offseason acquisitions. They have seemingly improved in points (with KP, Seth & Tim Hardaway coming back). 3pt & overall field goal percentages (with Seth, KP and Boban) and blocks should go up mildly with the Mavs sporting the only two 7’3” players in basketball.
Well that all sounds good, doesn’t it? So where are they still lacking?
The Mavericks were dead last in the league in steals after the trade deadline and 29th for the entire season. It’s never good to be dead last in a counting stat. Clearly, steals were not their focus. However, Delon Wright has long, active arms that got him 1.6 steals in a role similar to what he should be playing in Dallas on defense. His contribution to this one stat would move the Mavs from 29th on the season to be tied for 12th overall with Utah. Steals per game is a small per game stat, but it leads to possessions and points and wins, so every little bit helps!
It may be rudimentary to just plug and play with his number alone, especially with it being a small sample size from his time in Memphis, but the other offseason additions add almost no help in the steals category, so if Delon doesn’t help here, the Mavs remain in the cellar on steals.
3 PT Shooting
Yes, the team has improved here, but do not underestimate how bad they were last year. After the trade deadline, the Mavs were the 2nd worst 3pt shooting team in the NBA. That wouldn’t be too bad if the team weren’t also the 4th most prolific NBA team in 3pt ATTEMPTS. So even adding the sharpest of sharpshooters in Seth Curry, that doesn’t fully make up for the fact that Luka only shot 32.7% on 3pt shots and the remaining wings of Justin Jackson, Tim Hardaway Dorian Finney-Smith and newcomer Delon Wright shoot a combined 33.4%.
If you add in the inconsistency of Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber’s outside shots last year, you end up with a team that should be very worried about their game plan of shooting so many threes while making so few. It’s a problem the league is facing, but the Mavs need to work to get those numbers closer together.
While the Mavs tried to address as many team faults as possible this offseason, it seems like rebounding got addressed the least. The Mavs signed a pair of 7’3” big men, the two tallest players in professional basketball, yet they average a COMBINED 11.2 rebounds a game. For perspective, DeAndre Jordan averaged 15.9 rebounds for Dallas last year, so the Mavs actually got worse at rebounding this offseason. As with all things in this new positionless Mavs team, the plan is to do it by committee, but outside of Porzingis and Boban, it’s the same committee who came in 23rd in the NBA in rebounding.
The thing is, it almost feels like the team is willing to sacrifice rebounds for the sake of improvement in other areas. Ever since the team moved Dirk to the center position to hide him on defense, they took a hit in that category. On offense, Dirk would be outside, so fewer rebounds. On defense, he was a liability the team was hiding, rather than a paint protector there to get rebounds. Dirk, of course, did his best, but he took the bulk of the minutes at the best position to get rebounds. So it feels like since this offense was built AROUND Dirk for so many years, rebounds are a place where the team has gotten more comfortable sacrificing the stat for the greater good of the team and franchise.
Well, now the team has a whole new look. No Dirk (still not ready). A young core. And players who have skills that don’t fit into neat little boxes. Carlisle is a coach that excels at getting the best from his players and I’m sure he’ll be creative enough to get people to rebound well enough to stay in the hunt, but he can’t do it unless it’s a priority. And since the front office didn’t prioritize it in free agency shopping, it’s up to the coaching staff to get it done with the players.
With training camp around the corner, MFFLs will have an opportunity to see how the team plans to address these 3 issues either through team philosophy, practice or preseason games, they will need to look at them. The team is banking on their young core growing together and making a leap from one year to the next, but the additions of the offseason should buoy the growth of the young’ins and allow for a cushion if it takes some time.
We’re nearly there, folks! October, get here faster!
Featured Image: primesportsnet.com