Players come and players go, but Rick Carlisle is forever. At least in NBA years, that is. Carlisle has helmed the Mavericks since 2008, making him the third-longest tenured coach in the NBA. (Technically, he’s tied for second with Eric Spoelstra, hired a month before him.) In an industry defined by change, Carlisle has remained constant in Dallas.
Due to his long stretch as the Mavericks’ head coach, certain statistical trends stand out, year after year. No matter the roster assembled by Donnie Nelson, Dallas always seems to rank high in these categories. Carlisle is notoriously tightlipped, so delving into the statistics is the best way to gain insight into how he sees the game.
Under Carlisle’s guidance, the Mavericks have consistently ranked at the top of the NBA in the stats below. By focusing on these two aspects of the game, Carlisle has been able make the most of whatever group of players he’s given.
One of the quickest ways to end up in Carlisle’s doghouse is committing turnovers. Many a young point guard has found themselves banished to the far end of the bench for giving the ball to the other team too many times. Since 2008, when Carlisle took over as coach, the Mavericks have averaged sixth in the league in turnovers, only finishing out of the top ten twice. Last season they had the fewest turnovers in the league.
The only time the Mavericks have been in the bottom half of the league in giveaways was Luka Doncic’s rookie season. The typically controlling Carlisle gave the reigns to his young point guard, and the Mavericks finished 18th in turnovers. Essentially, the only time Carlisle will tolerate turnovers is when they’re committed by the best 20 year-old to play the game.
The basketball world has given teams like the Rockets and Warriors all the credit when it comes to the 3-point revolution in the NBA. But under Carlisle, the Mavericks have consistently embraced shooting from beyond the arc. The 2011 championship team used the defense-warping gravity of Dirk Nowitzki in the mid-post to manufacture a high volume of 3-pointers, and it worked.
Over the 12 years Carlisle’s been with Dallas, the Mavericks have averaged the seventh most 3-pointers in the league. The Mavericks have never finished lower than fourteenth in shots from deep, and have usually finished in the top five. Though they haven’t had the same fanfare, Carlisle clearly adopted the strategy of a heavy diet of 3-pointers early on in his time in Dallas.
The combination of ball security and high volume of 3-pointers has led to overachievement. When equipped with a talented roster, it’s resulted in some incredible success.
So far this season, despite some sloppy play from the Mavericks in the first two games, they’ve only committed 8.7 turnovers per game. They are 12th in 3-pointers attempted, though that will certainly increase with time. Dallas is currently shooting 32.7 percent from behind the arc, a significant drop from the 36 percent they shot last season. If they can return to league average from three and increase the volume of shots from deep, the Mavericks’ offense should soon return to its record-breaking form of 2019-20.