Against the Bobcats on Saturday, the Mavericks reached offensive nirvana.
It's no secret that top analysts and all coaches will tell you how the NBA's offense has evolved: shots at the rim and three-pointers. They are the two most efficient shots in basketball, with shots near the rim being a cinch or getting free throws and the three-pointer being...well...a three-pointer. IT'S WORTH MORE THAN TWO-POINTERS! SCIENCE! MATH!
The Mavericks offense has stalled in the past because while Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were masterminds of the mid-range game, those two weren't surrounded by those who could take advantage of Terry and Nowitzki's play. They were instead surrounded by stone-handed centers who couldn't finish (Erick Dampier, DeSegana Diop, Brendan Haywood) or ineffective floor-spacers (Josh Howard, Antoine Wright, Devean George).
Dallas captured a 2011 title because of an amazing team-defense but also because Terry and Nowitzki were surrounded by the most capable offensive players in the duo's time in Dallas. And against the Bobcats on Saturday, the formula from the offense returned.
According to Hoopdata.com, the Mavericks attempted 80 field goals in the win. Of those, 50 (50!) were either at the rim or from three. Dallas only attempted 25 shots between three and 23 feet, a fantastic number given the type of players Dallas has.
Chris Kaman's presence definitely helped as well. Kaman went 6 for 6 at the rim against the Bobcats, with five of those shots being assisted. Kaman brings what the Mavericks sorely missed when Tyson Chandler left: a good-catching and capable-finishing center who can also shoot free throws.
It's unlikely that sort of rate will continue. Nowitzki will return, and the offense will change. The Mavericks also won't be able to feast on teams like the Bobcats all season long. But it's still a welcome change and it's clear that Rick Carlisle and the coaching staff are addressing the Mavericks offensive woes from the previous season.
Also, the team tied for the second-quickest pace this season? The Dallas Mavericks, averaging 98 possessions a game, a tick below league-leading Clippers, Bucks and Grizzlies (small sample size theater!)
Again, these nice offensive numbers might not mean much in two or three weeks. Nowitzki's return will see a boost in mid-range shots (and threes), and Dallas most likely won't keep this kind of pace up as long as both Chris Kaman and Nowitzki share the court along with Elton Brand, while Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder see less minutes.
But why can't Kaman's production continue? Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo have shown to be willing passers in the paint throughout the pre- and regular seasons. The return of Nowitzki should open up driving/passing lanes as well. As long as Kaman is healthy, he should continue to thrive on drop-off passes as teams focus their coverages on Collison, Mayo and Nowitzki.
In 2011, the Mavericks shot less long-twos and more threes. That plan sputtered in 2012 because Jason Kidd regressed, Nowitzki had an off-year and Lamar Odom gave the Mavericks absolutely nothing, not even mentioning the offensive drop-off from Tyson Chandler to Haywood.
It's been three games. We aren't even close to calling the Mavericks offense "fixed" from a year ago. But they're taking the steps necessary to get better and the coaching staff has zeroed in on solutions with a unique roster. That's all we can really ask for at this point.