"Too many jumpers!"
"Take it to the hole!"
"Why can't this team get easy baskets!"
"As long as Dirk's the franchise player, this team will always be a jumpshooting team!"
If you've been in a drinking establishment during a Maverick's game in the past 10 years, you've probably heard one of those statements. You've also probably valiantly defended Dallas and its success this decade, citing that the Mavs have had one of the more efficient and consistent offenses of any team since the Dirk Nowtizki era began. But the mass public doesn't believe in effective field goal percentage or adjusted plus/minus (or the ones a few drinks in don't).
All that matters to them are wins. And luckily, Dallas was the last team to win by the end of June. But how so? The only major changes in personnel was Tyson Chandler and the only rotation change was DeShawn Stevenson playing a bigger role. Dallas' crunch time lineup of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler was one of more efficient lineups in the NBA, but the only change from last year was swapping Haywood for Chandler. While Chandler certainly can be pinned as the missing link between the two lineups, that would undercut the special nature of the 2011 Mavericks.
So what happened? Very simple, my friends: the Mavericks shot MORE jump shots.
I'll pause for a few moments so the people that have declared the statements at the start of the story can collect themselves.
OK, it's actually more complicated than that. But in 2009-2010, 70 percent of Dallas' shot attempts were jumpers. This past season? 75 percent. While not a huge increase, it's certainly notable. The Mavericks assist percentage on made jumpers also increased from 64 percent to 68 - again there's that "true team" aspect that coach Rick Carlisle harped on after the Mavericks defeated the Heat in the Finals.
But what's important is not that the Mavericks didn't take more jumpers, they took more efficient ones. In 2009-2010, the Mavericks had 61 games in which they took more mid-range shots than three pointers, leaving of course, only 21 shots where they took more threes. (For the sake of this article, mid-range jumpers were of the 16-23 foot range that Hoopdata.com collects). In 2010-2011, the numbers changed dramatically. The Mavs had 53 games where they shot more threes, 26 where they shot more mid-range and three where the number was the same. That's a complete philosophic change on the offensive side, which led to a big adjustment in the Mavericks' spacing, which in turn, led to Tyson Chandler having a standout offensive year despite a weak (at best) assortment of low post moves by having more space in the middle of the floor when he rolled on pick and rolls.
In turn, the Mavericks three-point attempts jumped from 18.3 to 21.6 from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011. Interestingly enough, Dirk was the biggest culprit, increasing his attempts from 1.5 to 2.3 in the regular season and 1.2 to 2.4 in the playoffs. Ironically, Dirk needed to push his game back outside the three point arc to keep defenses spread out and honest.
Dirk's mid-range and low post game is and will always be deadly, but in the 2010 playoffs, Dirk immediately camped from the right wing and free throw line, with little variation to start every possession.. San Antonio's defense predicted Dirk's spots better and double-teams were more frequent. Dirk still squashed the double teams and scored at an exceptional rate, but his teammates failed because of lousy shooting and poor looks. Now picking and popping toward the three point line in the 2011 playoffs, Dirk created more three point attempts for himself and driving lanes for J.J. Barea and openings for Tyson Chandler to rip through. No one can argue the deadly Dirk-Barea pick and roll combination that shredded Los Angeles and Miami. That doesn't happen without Dirk fading away more to the three-point line.
The Mavericks did something few teams do after a failed season: they stayed put and reworked their system internally for improved results. Far too often in this league teams are shredded and spared for parts after failing to meet expectations. Salaries are dumped or picked up, players are cut or signed. While the Mavericks' salary cap limitations certainly played a role in the roster remaining relatively unscathed, there's something awfully rewarding about taking the same group of guys back into the fire and coming out victorious. Don't ever underestimate this teams' owner, coach or star. The fact that they are willing to concede and change their basketball ways should keep everyone in Dallas from spouting obscenities at in the nearest watering hole...at least till the playoffs start again.
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