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Do The Mavs Play Faster With Kidd?

Thanks again to the great NBA Stuffer site, I was able to take a look at how the Mavs pace-of-play has changed over the year from game-to-game. Many of us assume that Kidd has increased the Mavs pace and that the team plays faster with Kidd at the point. Is this true, however? The short answer is "Yes," but there is an interesting complication.

For the season up until Devin Harris was traded, the Mavs averaged a pace of 88.6 (an average of a team's offensive and defensive possessions per game). This ranked them as roughly the fifth slowest team in the league. Since Kidd arrived, the Mavs pace is 90.9, which is about twelfth FASTEST in the league. The Mavs still aren't a fast team, but they aren't slow either. However, take a look at the graph below, which shows the Mavs pace game-by-game:

One of the amazing things about this graph is that the Mavs actually played at a decent clip for the first 20 games or so of the season--about the same pace they play now with Kidd--before things changed radically. Notice the drop after the loss against Denver. This begins an extended period of the Mavs embracing a very deliberate half court-driven and slow offense. I labeled this the "valley of death," but that doesn't mean it was unsuccessful, just painfully s-l-o-w.

What triggered this change? Was it the Denver loss, where the Mavs played an incredibly fast-paced game and lost? That could be it, but one game wouldn't necessarily dictate such a huge drop. My best guess is that it was the inconsistency. The Mavs offense for the first twenty games of the season was a schizophrenic blend of fast- and slow-paced games. There was very little consistency. Note the up and down sawtooth pattern. Having an offense without an identity is counterproductive, and it looks like Avery lowered the boom and gave the offense an identity--a slow methodical one.

This changed when Kidd arrived, and the change is immediate. Two of the three fastest games of the season occurred with Kidd on the team. Also note the impact of Kidd on the pace game-to-game: The faster pace is much more consistent and the graph is "smoother." Whereas Devin Harris simply couldn't control the pace of a game on his own, Kidd is much more adept at running a consistent offensive pace.

It is hard to make any conclusions on what this means. The obvious assumption is that Kidd controls the game, while Harris let the game control him, but we can't definitively say that. One thing is certain: Avery Johnson seems to be much more comfortable with Kidd controlling the pace of the game than he was with Devin Harris--at least after the Denver loss in the first quarter of the season.