The Mavericks roster and play style is a lesson in continuity. The most benign beneficiary of this superior characteristic is the under-manned front-court. Dwight Powell’s recent season-ending injury creates a vulnerability that must be addressed if contending is the goal.
Willie Cauley-Stein’s acquisition seems to be a perfect fit but his assimilation will likely take time.
The Mavs rely on a simple philosophy when developing players. Games are for the positive attributes while the practice is meant to improve upon the negative ones. The team builds on strengths instead of establishing unrealistic expectations that skew a players perception and potential. The fruit of this labor is the league’s most efficient offense but that alone doesn’t win games. A renewed defensive focus is needed in Dallas and the numbers say so.
The Last 5 Games
In their last five games, the Mavericks have a record of 2-3. This after ripping off four wins in a row. None more exciting than the eight-point victory over Portland, without Kristaps Porzingis to boot. This win all but solidified the stretch as legit and even saw the squad rise to the three spots out west. The Mavericks seemed to add certainty to the notion of being western conference contenders. The immediate future was starting to shape up well for the Mavs. However, frontcourt injuries have put the Mavs behind the eight ball once again. KP’s ten-game sabbatical, Dwight’s season is over and the twenty-nine point beat down from the Suns speaks to that adversity.
Not to mention the somber news received last Sunday. This hasn’t just been a horrid week for the Mavericks. Its been tough for the entire basketball community.
The Mavericks interior is at its most vulnerable point and its difficult to find hope anywhere other than the offensive side of the ball. The Mavericks are top half in most major team stats except for a few. The most glaring being FT% (19th- 76.3%), steals (28th – 7 per game) and blocks (20th – 3.8 per game). Central stats to a competitive defense. What drives this point home is the last place finish in opponent turnovers per game (12.7). The Mavericks are far from disruptive on the defensive end of the floor and these metrics outline it.
Basic figures like blocks, steals, and turnovers can be misconstrued as generic in the new NBA. So let’s take a look at some ratings and how the Mavs stacks up. We know about the number one ranked offense but defensively they are middle of the pack at 18 (111.67). Accompanying this is a 6.1 point win margin that continues to dissipate with each mounting loss. The Mavs stellar offense suppresses a tremendous amount of flaws. This tends to show itself in crunch time. Of 18 total losses, 11 have been by five points or fewer.
This season offensive production has been far from an issue. The Mavs back-court is clearly their cardinal strength.
The group consists of three of the team’s top five scorers (Luka, Tim, Seth). Combine this with Luka Doncic’s stat-stuffing versatility and producing offensively becomes an expectation, not a luxury.
In the Mavs front-court, offensive production takes a backseat to defensive consistency. With KP being the obvious exception to the rule. He clearly has the green light to shoot from range almost at will. The only caveat is his inability to fortify the paint. This simply hasn’t been a part of his game. NOW! Luka leading the team in rebounding is outstanding individually but ideally, this should be a “big-man”. In a perfect world an elevated focus defensively would morph into more missed shots and turn-overs for opponents. The gap between KP (8.9 RPG) and the team’s third-ranked rebound threat is concerning (5.7 RPG).
The battle to fill the void left by Powell’s injury is key to easing the Mavericks’ defensive worries. Logically WCS was brought here to address this concern. He’ll contest shots at a high clip but fortifying the interior would be asking too much.
Either way to make a significant run in the postseason an elevated focus on shutting teams down is necessary.
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