The Dallas Mavericks are winning games and it feels so good. Whether they win games or not REALLY comes down to a single factor: three-point shooting.
As the Mavericks entered the season, they had increased their 3 point shot attempts every year since 2014. In 2014-15, the Mavs were shooting 25.4 3PT shots per game and are currently attempting 39.6 threes a game, according to Basketball-Reference. That difference is an extra 1,164 extra 3PT attempts compared to just 5 years ago. This is a 3PT shooting league and the Mavs are leaning in HARD.
HOWEVER, the team is shooting it at the worst rate over that same span of time at a rate of 33.6%. Yes, that includes the past 3 years where the Mavs won 33 or fewer games. That’s…not ideal. The Mavs are enjoying a similar split to what they did last year regarding the 3-point shooting in that they are 3rd in attempts per game, but 23rd in 3PT percentage. The reason the Mavs are doing as well as they are is that with the extra attempts, they’re making the 5th most 3s a game at 13.3. This is all to point out how strongly the Mavs are committed to using the 3 as their primary weapon.
For further proof of this concept, let’s look at the rest of the Mavs offense to see if it remains an outlier. The Mavs currently sit in second in overall offensive rating (per NBA Stats) at 112 points per game.
So it would stand that if they are scoring more, they are doing so more efficiently than most teams, right? Well, the numbers don’t exactly bear that out.
They sit EXACTLY in the middle of the league in field goals attempted, field goals made and field goal percentage. The only outliers to their offense are either their 3 point shooting or their free-throw shooting. The free throws will be there for Luka who is attempting 3rd most in the league at 9.4 a game, so the item to look at is the 3 point shooting.
Wins vs Losses
When looking at predictors for this team to win or lose, most of the stats seem to be somewhat similar as the Mavs have almost exclusively played close games. Whether they played at home or on the road doesn’t seem strikingly different with most stats within 5 whether they are home or away and the margin for victory is different by less than a game. So in looking at purely WINS vs LOSSES, you see virtually identical numbers except for 3 categories: POINTS, FIELD GOAL % and 3 PT %, all of which can be explained by how well the team is shooting the 3.
According to NBA Stats, the Mavs are 8% worse in losses than wins at shooting 3s, which accounts for 6 points, which is the exact scoring deficit in wins vs losses. They are literally winning and losing off of a pair of 3s.
The Mavs have been all over the map in their 3 point shooting, which is to be somewhat expected with as much youth as this team has. They’ve shot anywhere from 22.2% against the Knicks and as high as 48.8% when they blew the Cavs out by 20. That’s a huge variation that can only come down players either making or missing shots. Ask any coach in the NBA and they’ll say that the difference between and an average NBA player and a good NBA player is consistency, which is usually the #1 thing young players have to train into themselves. Hopefully, throughout the year, as rotations tighten up and players get further into the flow of their offense, they’ll find more consistency, but as of now the team just has to hope someone goes off besides Luka.
Luka is, of course, making the most 3s, but he’s also doing it on the most attempts on the team. He’s making 2.8 a game on 31.4% shooting. For perspective, there are 9 Mavs who are shooting a better %, but only Kristaps approaches his actual made 3s at 2.3 a game. Seth Curry is far from his career average, but its trending upward as his role has settled in. Maxi Kleber has improved his outside shot by nailing 38% of his 3s, which shows why he’s getting that look so often.
Really the best 3PT shooter who isn’t getting minutes right now is Justin Jackson who is making 42.3% of his 3s. If he can absorb some of Tim Hardaway’s 22 minutes a night (who’s shooting 25.9% from 3), he might be able to make up the 3s needed to put them back in games they are losing. Justin Jackson might not be a solve-all, but he at least deserves some more exploratory minutes in the second unit to stretch the floor and see if his numbers can hold up to more run.
Even though the 3 ball isn’t the end-all, be-all of the scoring in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks have made it 44% of their attempted offense.
If one-shot is going to be nearly half of the designed offense, the team needs to figure out how best to maximize it.
Featured Image: AP Photo/Cooper Neill