The Mavericks are clear contenders and continue to be competitive despite not having their second-best player. Kristaps Porzingis’ absence has not only provided much-needed rest but has given credence to one of the most interesting topics in all of basketball.
Can a 7’0″-er win big from outside the paint?
Coaches, pundits, and players have all low-key loathed the 7’0″ player willing to play on the perimeter. We understand there are always exceptions to the rule (Dirk) but largely people of this size tend to play offense from the inside out. The most recent version of this debate took place on Inside the NBA on TNT. Shaq, Kenny, and Charles discussed the electric narrative with KP and the Mavericks as the central focus. Here’s a clip of how it all began.
On this night the Mavericks would squeak by the San Antonio Spurs by a slim margin of four points. These comments were made at halftime where KP was a measly 2-9 from the field and only three of his nine attempts were from the paint. This type of underwhelming performance is tailor-made to support the claims of the TNT crew.
The second half was no better for Kristaps as he continued to struggle despite the win. In the third and fourth quarters he went a combined 2-6 from the field with just two attempts coming inside the paint. Once again adding fuel to the crews argument.
This lackluster output concluded with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assist, a steal and a block. Far from ideal stats for the Unicorn. A quarter through the season and he’s been aggressive averaging 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks so far. The number produced versus the Spurs make it difficult to argue against more post touches and attempts for KP. Offensively scoring is always the primary objective so common sense says getting closer to the basket equals a more quality shots. Right?
In this debate the “who” is extremely important. The retired players of the “Inside The NBA” crew have all achieved remarkable success. Primarily based on superior post play. Hall of Fame-er Charles Barkley is easily one of the greatest undersized power forwards EVER. Although not as proficient as KP Chucks ability to shoot from range created issues for defenders, which ultimately expanded his game. While playing for the Rockets Kenny Smith won multiple championships by way of the great Hakeem Olajuwon and everyone knows Shaquille O’neal as arguably the most dominant big man to ever play. This groups “Hay-Day” was during a post-centric NBA. This is how they found success in the game.
In hindsight their assertive post centric argument was to be expected. Regardless how impartial to the crews’ attempt was, its virtually impossible for them to remove personal bias when such a high level of success was achieved.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had quite the unique response. He conveyed his point with conviction and it’s hard to dispute his perspective.
?? Rick Carlisle SOUNDED OFF on Charles Barkley, @Shaq, @NBAonTNT Broadcasters for Criticism of Kristaps Porzingis Usage (H/T @tim_cato)
FULL POST-GAME:http://t.co/zzy9UxkZfq pic.twitter.com/YvIsWgj3lU
— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) December 27, 2019
The numbers support the championship coaches’ strategy. The Mavericks are currently ranked third in team ppg (116.8), first in offensive rating (116.9) and have a top ten overall record (23-13). This is remarkable considering most off-season predictions had the Mavericks at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race. If not the entire conference. That night against San Antonio the outcome may have been in the crew’s favor but wholistically RC is on the money. The Mavs take 46.2% of their field goal attempts from three and have the eighth-best field goal percentage from three (36.5%).
Kristaps is merely a cog in the Mavericks analytical machine. Among 7’0″-ers he’s ranks third in three-point field goal attempts per game (6.4) behind Lauri Markkanen and Karl-Anthony Towns. Carlisle and the club have adopted a mentality that was once frowned upon but is now in vogue. This however isn’t a trend for the organization its simply an update. The Mavs have never been afraid to own their data and make key choices based on it. Although KP has missed the last four games the team has remained competitive going 2-2 which includes a close OT loss to Charlotte. A closer look at the schedule reveals rest for the Latvian big-man is more plausible now as the competition isn’t as significant.
Carlisle does an outstanding job of “speaking coach” while addressing the media. Although unlikely, he maybe advocating for more KP post touches but its done behind the scenes. In an effort to protect his players. When one of his players is faced with criticism he clearly goes above and beyond to defend them. These are the aspects of Rick Carlisle’s coaching bag many overlook even though it’s been a key component to his success.
Shaq was the last finals MVP to primarily dominate the paint so it’s only fitting he be at the forefront of this debate. Rings typically have a way of shutting down sports banter but here it only gives credence to each side of the argument or coin.
There may come a time when paint domination rules the NBA landscape once again but that time isn’t now. For the Mavs back to the basket post play is a fading trait utilized only when necessary. Kristaps Porzingis just makes this more obvious. Although there are two sides it’s still just one coin.
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