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On any efficient offense, there has to be good distribution of floor space and likewise weapons that can utilize that area. Everyone will remember how painful it was to watch Kaman and Dirk try to work the offense together. What could have been a lethal big-man pairing crumbled quickly because they both occupied the same spots, neither really changed up their game to better compliment the other, oh and Kaman never passed. Then of course you all will remember how seamless the offense was with Wright at center with Dirk - good rotations, good spacing, and crisp passing. Some of that is obviously chemistry (and a willingness to pass) but I would say the floor spacing plays an even larger role. With that in mind and wanting to stop talking about Kaman and any Dallas offense, I wanted to look at how the pieces on this year's team would fit together from a floor spacing view.
Let's do this in order of probable scoring so we can see how the major shooters are going to mesh and work our way down to the fillers. Dirk is still the main attraction so here is his shot chart from last year:
I'm not going to spend too much time analyzing Dirk cause there's really no need to - he is a known, amazing quantity around here. Despite being injured a good chunk of the season and returning too quickly, Dirk's shooting was as lethal as ever last year. He can quite obviously hit from anywhere on the court or off it. Outside of corner 3s, he spreads his shots pretty evenly throughout the floor: 34.06% from the elbows and foul line, 32.69% long twos, 20.88% wing and straight-on 3s, and 11.68% within 9 ft. Dirk had his third highest 3pt percentage of his career last year, and with more versatile offensive weapons this year, I would bet Dirk sees his share of open threes again. Last year's team played fast to better fit the athletic abilities of Collison and Mayo. While this opened up the trailing 3 more often for Dirk, it also lent itself to rushed offensive sets and limited touches. This year's team should fit more closely to Dirk's desired speed with a more traditional pass first point guard and more dynamic ballhandling 2.
Speaking of which, next up is the enigmatic Monta Ellis whose shot chart looks absolutely nothing like the beauty Dirk put together last year.
Now don't let all the red and yellow get you too far down - there is no question that Ellis has been a pretty inefficient gunner for several years but he has done so on teams without any real weapons. What is important to get from Ellis's shot chart is that he took 39.55% of his shots in the paint or at the rim where he hit an alright 54.23% of them (league average from 9 ft or less was 58.1%). That is not a world-beater skill/result by any means but it is definitely a skill that the Mavericks need.
Darren Collison likewise took a large percentage of his shots from close in (43.92%) and shot a decent percentage (56.60%). But if you look at his earlier years' numbers, you see how much of an effect Dirk had on him last year. 56.60% is his career best from this range and in the 2011-2012 season, Collison hit a very pedestrian 49.75% of these shots. Furthermore, even with Collison hitting a career high, the Mavs as a team only made 54.42% from 9 ft and in. This number dropped further with Dirk on the bench - 53.79%. The Mavs will someone to disrupt the defense and get into the paint - Monta is that person.
With shooters to spread the floor and a major weapon like Dirk trolling the free throw line and out, Ellis should have a lot more room to operate when he gets in the paint. This should boost his percentage of shot attempts within 9 ft as well as his hit percentage. From his rookie season through the 2009-10 season, Ellis took over 40% of his shots from 9 ft or closer (from rookie year 05-06 forward: 48.43%, 49.60%, 51.26%, 41.40%, 42.46%, 34.89%, 35.58%, 39.55%). In every year except for his rookie year, he hit 54% or better on these shots including two seasons of over 60%. If he follows the game plan (a big if for a supposed gunner), he should be able to get into the paint and finish with ease.
Next up is Vince Carter. Our number three scorer last year, Vince is still going to be a major part of this offense off the bench. Here is his shot chart from last year:
As you can see, Vince has adjusted his game well as he's aged. He is not near as explosive on the drive as he used to be but to counterbalance that, he has really upped his outside game. A career 37.6% 3 point shooter, Vince shot 40.6% last year (3rd best of his career). He also attempted the 4th most 3s of his career per game - hitting a higher percentage of them than all but one of those years. That attempt number is really telling given the reduced number of minutes he's been playing compared to earlier on in his career.
To go along with his superb 3 pt shooting (which accounted for 46.67% of his shots), Vince can still get into the paint which he did for 26.90% of his shots. He only finished on 52.61% of these shots though so while it is good to have versatility, Carter's real value to the Mavericks is going to be as an outside shooter. Unfortunately, Vince's chosen 3 spots are all still at the top of the key so we have yet to find someone using last year's shot chart that can space the floor from the corners. That isn't to say that Carter won't be this guy but only that last year's shot chart doesn't indicate it.
On to our defensive specialist, Shawn Marion, whose unorthodox shot is match by his shot chart:
Marion is the definition of a slasher, taking 86.96% of his shots from 16ft or less with 62.03% of that happening within 9ft. His 3 pt shot is a thing of the past but Marion's slashing and in-between game should be in textbooks (weird looking textbooks but textbooks none the less). He bests league averages within 16ft from all spots except for oddly the right side. This is again oddly matched with Dirk hitting a low percentage from the left side (40.00%). Did someone say perfect forward couple?
Marion hit 51.4% of his total shots last year for 4th best in his career. That's the third time in four years with the Mavericks that he's shot over 50% for the season. For a guy that previously played with Nash, besting your career shooting average (48.5%) three out of the four years with Dirk is pretty telling especially at Marion's age.
Marion attempted a whopping 4.0 shots per game at the rim per game last year - 1 full shot greater than the driving Collison. On those rim attempts, Marion completed 75.5% of them, easily beating the league average of 64.6%. From 3-9 ft out, Marion again took the most shots on the team (2.5 per) and bested the league average by 5.7%. They are rarely pretty shots but they fall with uncanny regularity. With improved PG play, Marion's slashing ability should be on full display this year and is the perfect offset to Dirk's midrange game.
Next up is our new point guard, Jose Calderon, whose shot chart bests even Dirk's in pure beauty:
I mean I want to print this out, marry it, and have little shot chart babies. This is so beautiful. Calderon obviously has his limitations as a complete player but there is absolutely nothing he could do to better his shooting. He knows his spots well (which is pretty much anywhere in-bounds) and he chooses his shots well. Despite hitting just about any shot he takes, he is primarily a 3pt shooter with 44.41% of his shots coming from distance. While he can hit the corner 3, he doesn't attempt all that many and tends to prefer the wing 3s (over 2/3 of his attempts are from the wing).
Like Dirk, Calderon also feasts on long twos, beating league averages in most spots. Long twos account for 34.79% of his total attempts. With two such knock down shooters, it is going to be important to have movement to open up the offense which is where Monta and Marion come in.
Despite being billed as slow and unathletic, Calderon still attempts 12.60% of his shots at the rim (more than Dirk's 11.68%) and again makes a very high percentage. Dallas's offense is literally made for a PG exactly like Jose - he is smart, will direct traffic, distribute the ball to get everyone going, hit guys in their spots, and keep the defense honest on the outside.
With the Mavericks top five scorers (Dirk, Ellis, Carter, Marion, and Calderon), the Mavs should have certainly solved the offensive woes they ran into last year. While by per ranking the Mavericks were the 8th best offense in the league (in terms of points per game and field goal percentage, in fact ranking 6th from 3), they also attempted the 8th most shots due to the fast paced nature of the offense. This quick offense tended to fall into lengthy lulls with streaks of scoreless minutes.
In spite of the high team shooting percentage, last year's team didn't seem to get many easy baskets. In fact, the Mavericks were second to last in the league in shot attempts from 5ft or less and in the restricted area, beating only the Wizards. Furthermore, while the Mavericks shot a good percentage from deep, they were middle of the pack (13th) in terms of attempts. More specifically they were 20th in terms of corner 3s which is more and more an important part of a properly spaced offensive set.
In these first five, the Mavericks have 2 excellent midrange shooters (Dirk and Calderon), 2 good penetrators/slashers (Ellis and Marion), and 3 excellent 3pt shooters (Dirk, Calderon, and Carter). What they are lacking in terms of shooting is pretty apparent: an inside presence and a corner specialist. They could also use a backup penetrator/slasher to keep the offense moving when Marion and Ellis head to the bench. Coming up in the second piece on shot charts are hopefully the players to fill these gaps: Wright, Dalembert, Ellington, and Harris. Thanks for reading.