As Kirk mentioned in his recap of the Mavericks/Nuggets game, the bench showed the hell up and took care of business.
61 points on 59.5 percent shooting is something to enjoy in the moment, but likely not something to get used to (although through four games this season the Clippers bench is averaging 61 points on 57 percent shooting). Qualifiers out of the way, if the early season returns are any indication of what lies ahead this season, it appears as though the Mavericks could be returning to bench glory.
The Mavericks, even now, seem to have a reputation around the league as a team that hits you hard from the bench. I guess years of getting shellacked by Jason Terry and J.J. Barea seem to stick in the memory of opposing teams, even when the guys on the court have turned into Justin Anderson and a much-older J.J. Barea.
In the past 15 seasons, 2005-2006 to present, the Mavericks have led the league in bench scoring three times: 2008-2009, 2010-2011, 2012-2013. Jason Terry won the above-pictured trophy during one of those seasons, and the Mavericks, if you’ll recall, won the Championship during another of them.
Those three seasons were part of a stretch of really impressive bench play from the Mavericks. Beginning with the 2008-2009 season, the Mavericks finished first, fifth, first, third, first, and sixth, averaging 38.6 bench points per game over those six seasons.
Dallas averaged exactly 36.1 bench points per game in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, finishing those seasons 11th and 12th, respectively, in bench scoring. Another fact that you will likely not need to be reminded of is that the 2015-2016 season was the last time we have seen the Mavericks in the playoffs. COINCIDENCE? Maybe, maybe not.
(The one large outlier to the hypothesis that Mavericks teams fare better when they have high-scoring benches is the 2006-2007 season, wherein the Mavericks had only the 25th-highest scoring bench and finished the season with 67 wins. Dirk at the peak of his powers, baby.)
In the most recent data we have available to us, once the Mavericks bench lost its punch, the Mavericks stopped making the playoffs. The Mavericks have finished 24th, 15th, and 14th in bench scoring during the past three seasons. Those numbers honestly seem a little high when you consider the desolation of some of those rosters.
But that brings us to the bench of today. The Mavericks may not have landed their coveted big fish in the offseason, but they did fill out the roster with smart, complementary players which gave them a significant talent upgrade over the Mavericks teams of the past three seasons. Through four games, an admittedly very small sample size, the Mavericks bench is averaging 46.5 points per game, a figure that would be the second highest in the league over the last 15 years, only behind the 2018-2019 Clippers who averaged an absurd 53.2 points from their reserves.
The Mavericks have at least two starters who can fill it up on offense. Having a bench that can complement them by keeping them in games, or even increasing leads, would do wonders for a young team hoping to fight for a playoff spot this season. If the Mavericks can return to their glory days of hammering opposing teams with their bench, those elusive playoff appearances won’t be far behind.