If pure numbers aren’t fun, let’s look a visual to see how the Mavs are doing through 10.
As the Mavericks wait for their next game in New York that will see Kristaps Porzingis’ return to Madison Square Gardens, the team sits with a 6-4 record through 10. In those 10 games, we’ve seen some very good things (Luka Doncic), some very bad things (losing at home to the Knicks) and a myriad of other things that are up for debate. As the league gets further and further into analytics, there are stories and caveats to each and every stat that can confirm things each fan gleans from their own eye test. However, numbers aren’t always the most enjoyable way to watch a sport, so visuals of these numbers become important. A recent tweet by @NBA_Math has taken a look at the overall performance of the Dallas Mavericks roster through the first 10 games and put it into a simple graph that deserves a look.
— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) November 12, 2019
This graph reduces all Mavericks players down to how much offense they bring to the team vs how helpful they are on the defensive end compared to league average players. There’s a full explanation of their methodology here to fully understand the nuts and bolts of it all. However, looking at this graph says a little more on closer inspection other than that Luka is really, really good.
The Best Maverick
It’s no secret that Luka Doncic has been competing on an entirely different level, as spelled out here by our own R.C. Takes. His near triple-double average places him top 10 in the league at this moment and separates him from his own teammates in a way that is clear from the moment the game starts. What is more surprising from this graph is not Luka’s offense, but his defense. One of the major knocks against him coming into this season was that he was a defensive liability, which justifies the heavy minutes of Dorian and the addition of Delon Wright this offseason to help defend while Luka ran a show on offense. However, this shows that so far this season, Luka has been a slightly above average defender AND one of the better defenders on the team by the numbers.
Porzingis has not caught up to the hype surrounding his return to game action yet, and he’ll be the first one to admit it. However, he’s still putting up a reasonably impressive stat line, with or without the rust. He’s averaging 18.3 PPG, 7.9 rebounds (a career-high), and 2.4 blocks/game (tying a career-high) all while shooting 37.5% from 3. If this is rust, let’s get this man some WD-40 and GO!
However, his counting stats don’t fully match up with the eye test as he has looked somewhat lost in offensive sets and has had a mini shooting slump over the past 2 or 3 games. As he’s struggled, he’s remained consistent on defense, which shows he’s engaged and attempting to help in other ways when his shot isn’t falling, which is all that can be asked of someone when they don’t have their shot that night. Even though he isn’t contributing up to his minutes played on the offensive end, he is not a drag on defense, which is good.
A Bunch of Guys
From here, the graph gets a little harder to make out as nearly all the Mavs are clumped together right around the 0 points added and 0 points saved crosshairs. This ostensibly means that all remaining Mavs are just average. As the team ended the offseason by adding Seth Curry and Delon Wright as their major additions, depth looked to be the theme for the season, rather than any single player to run with Luka.
MFFLs probably picked their candidate to break out from the pack like a Seth Curry or a Jalen Brunson or a Justin Jackson to blossom into that third-best player who could help Luka and KP win games, but through the first 10 games, it seems like everyone else is just a role player on this team. There are some candidates for potential breakout who have shown some promise that sit SLIGHTLY closer to Luka on this graph and they are Maxi Kleber and Delon Wright. Those two players are doing more with their minutes on both ends of the floor in ways that show they deserve more playing time.
The only other player that sticks out on this graph is Tim Hardaway Jr. and he has separated himself from the pack in the wrong way. Looking at where he sits, Tim is SLIGHTLY better than league average on offense but is far and away from the least value-added defender on the team. He has had a few defensive plays stick out, namely drawing a foul on Aaron Gordon late in the Orlando game that allowed the Mavs to win by 1, but overall he sticks out on defense.
Some of this can be laid at the role asked of him (which seems to be a flamethrower off the bench) where he should try to score as much as he can in the minutes he plays, but he also takes some ill-advised shots that lead to fast breaks on the other end. This is not to fully say that Tim Hardaway does not deserve playing time because, without him, we do not win the Denver game nor the Orlando game, but it shows where his faults lie and hopefully the team can put him in a position to maximize his skills while minimizing his problems on the court.
Rotations & Rhythms
The last thing to really gather from this single graph is that this team is still searching for who it is. From the beginning of training camp, the coaching staff and all of the players have said that this season is all about developing Luka and KP as the cornerstones of the franchise and they would all do what they could to help that one goal come to fruition. From his first interview, Rick said that Luka and KP would start and the rest of the lineup would be fluid. If you look at this graph, he was being totally honest. Luka and KP stand out and the rest are lumped in the middle. Rick has started nearly as many different starting lineups as he has played games. And with that sort of instability of roles and that many different combinations of players to get comfortable with, it’s no wonder that every player besides Luka and KP have yet to show out. They can’t predict their rhythm nor can they know which combo of players they’ll be working with.
Case in point, against Orlando, Seth Curry started the game and played 6.5 minutes before subbing out. He then sat, for over two real-time hours, until there 7 seconds left in the 4th quarter and proceed to miss 2 free throws and subbed out the very next possession. Seth is a career 85% free throw shooter who hadn’t played for hours being expected to be an NFL kicker and nail his shot with no warning or warm-up. That’s a big ask in a game built on rhythms. Carlisle did the calculus right to get his best free throw shooter out there to take them, but without building him into the rotation to keep him loose.
This rhythm issue is not limited to Seth or even the role players but extends to his new prized Unicorn as well. KP has talked about needing to get back into his rhythm on numerous occasions. It’s true, he’s shaking off the rust, but more importantly, he’s in a new system here in Dallas. He’s in a flow offense rather than some mutant version of the triangle they ran in NY where he was handed the ball in the post and asked to create. Getting KP into some sort of rhythm in the offense should help relax and unlock all of the potentials in that 7’3” frame. Carlisle has remained steadfast in his commitment to getting KP more involved and more comfortable shots to help get him going, so as with all things on this team, it will take some time to work itself out.
The Mavs are only 10 games into their season, but already have some trends that need addressing because the next 10 games see their competition pick up steam. In that span, the Mavs will face the defending champion Raptors, the always good Spurs, the 3rd place Rockets, the Clippers with recently added Paul George, the surging Suns, the dreaded Lakers and the Pelicans who MIGHT have Zion Williamson back. So if the first 10 games were too small of a sample size to draw any conclusions, the second 10 should be more than ample to see what the Mavs really have on their roster.
AREN’T GRAPHS FUN!?!?!
Featured Image: NBA Math