As of the writing of this, the Mavericks have 15 more games until the end of the regular season. Dallas is in a desperate hunt for one of the final seeds for the playoffs, and is caught in a death match between Memphis and Phoenix that will likely come down to the very last game.
While the Mavs are trying to lock up one of the coveted postseason slots, they're also trying to nail down their exact "post-season form." Teams play differently in the playoffs, where the stakes are obviously much higher, and at right around this time, every team is trying to figure out how, exactly, they're going to be playing when, or if, they get in.
The Mavs are in the middle of that kind of experimenting now. Carlisle has been testing his lineups for the first time since mid-season: he's exchanged Jae Crowder for Wayne Ellington, and back again, and cut superfluous point guards from the rotation, causing Shane Larkin to be sent to the D-League on more than one occasion already. He's been experimenting with the end of game lineups, too, giving Devin Harris some burn to close games.
Some of this rotation change is just spurred on by Devin Harris' return to playing and playing form. Harris already feels like a rotation staple, but his return to the court is still more recent than we Mavs fans might be inclined to think, and -- especially as Harris continues to recover and rediscover his skill set -- Carlisle is just now figuring out what works with this new piece in the system.
Still, "figuring out what works" is exactly what every other coach is trying to do as the playoffs approach. This part of the season is half tinkering and half introspection. Messing with stuff that always should work in theory, and measuring it against how the team has been in more normal conditions, is great; but this part of the season is just as much about taking a hard, long look at the team to see what has worked, what hasn't, and what needs changing.
Fundamentally, then, teams are tinkering because they've hit the point where it's time to trim fat, and they need to figure out what is fat and what isn't.
So, with this week's Statsketball, I intend to help Coach Carlisle with this (because I'm totally qualified) and try to do an end-of-season report on what has been working and what hasn't.
- As of the writing of this piece, following the win in Oklahoma City, the Mavericks have an 84.7% chance to make the playoffs, according to John Hollinger's Playoff Odds; and their magic number to clinch the playoffs (i.e. the number of Mavs wins or Grizzlies or Suns losses needed to make the playoffs) is 15.
- The Mavericks are the 3rd best offense in the league, below only the Heat and Clippers (in that order). Dallas scores at a rate of 108.5 points per 100 possessions.
- The Mavericks outscore opponents by an average of 7 points per 100 possessions when the bench players are on the court.
- Lineup that we've seen more and more often, Harris-Vince-Crowder-Dirk-Wright, has a positive net rating of almost 40 in about 50 minutes, with an offensive efficiency of 128.5 points per 100 possessions and a defensive efficiency of 90.1 points allowed per 100. The four man combo of Harris-Vince-Dirk-Wright that the Mavs have experimented in closing with is a net positive 14 per 100 possessions in 132 minutes, with 108 points scored per 100 and 100.3 points allowed.
- The Mavs have defended at a rate of 105.6 points per 100 possessions, 8th worst in the league, ranked 22nd. Dallas is the only team to have a bottom 10 defense and a positive net rating; no other team with a bottom 10 defense has a net rating better than -2. Only two other teams have positive net ratings with a defense in the bottom half of the league: the Blazers and Suns.
- For the season, the Mavericks are 10th in point differential per 100 possessions (or, the amount the Mavericks have generally outscored other teams by), which is usually the best indicator of long term success, but they're tied with Phoenix for that spot, with the Grizzlies are only 2 spots below. Over the last 15 games -- over which Memphis has been healthy -- the Grizzlies have been an elite squad in point differential, 7th in the league, 6 above the Mavs.
- Over the 4 lineups that the Mavericks have played for more than 100 minutes this season, the Mavs have been outscored by almost three points per 100 possessions - a strikingly large, negative margin for such a large sample size. The Mavs' 5th most used lineup (the Jose Calderon - Monta Ellis - Vince Carter - Shawn Marion - Brandan Wright squad that has logged 83 minutes together) is a shocking 15 point per 100 possession net negative.