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Looking back at the Mavericks’ bench play this season—and going forward

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Though they fell from their early season heights, the bench was—and will be—an important part of the Mavericks’ success

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

As there is nothing at all going on in the world right now, ol’ Kev here is just going to talk about basketball. Everything is cool and normal and good. So here’s some basketball talk.

Early this season (very early) I checked in on the Mavericks bench. At the time the reserves were averaging an absurd 46.5 points per game—a number that would’ve been second best in the league over the past 15 years. Could they keep it up? Probably not, but the injury of Dwight Powell (not to mention Doncic and Porzingis) undercut that idea before it ever really got out of the hangar. The early season tinkering of Coach Carlisle likely didn’t help with continuity between the bench and starting units either.

Tim Hardaway, Jr., once thought to be a spark plug sixth man, became an important piece of the starting lineup (and nearly a 41 percent three-point shooter) thus sapping the bench of some of its would-be firepower. Justin Jackson, talked up as a potential starter on this team, was relegated to the bench and was mostly invisible even while playing against reserves. Jalen Brunson remained a solid third guard, but the leap we were hoping for never materialized.

This sounds bad? Am I making this sound too bad? Overall, the bench was good! Maxi Kleber put up very nice numbers, mostly off the bench, in about 26 minutes per game; Delon Wright has not been the player we hoped he might be, but has still been solid-yet-extremely-unspectacular in his role; Seth Curry, an early season starter and spot-starter throughout, has come off the bench for two thirds of his games and has really solidified his role on this team—and looking like a potential star in the last six weeks of the season.

I mentioned in my piece earlier this season that beginning with the 2008-2009 season, the Mavericks finished 1st, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 1st, and 6th through 2013-2014, averaging 38.6 bench points per game over that stretch.

This season the bench is sitting at 39.1 points per game, a number that seems to belie a return to the top of the league. But, with scoring up over the last several seasons, 39.1 points per game is only good for 11th in the league. Not elite. But very much not bad! 11th is good! The last two seasons that the Mavericks made the playoffs they were 11th and 12th in bench scoring. This season looked to be the return of the Mavericks to the playoffs due, at least in part, to the solid play of their bench.

Upon their return to the court, whenever that may be, the bench will play an important role in the success of this team. Rick Carlisle has made one-year-contract chicken salad out of one-year-contract chicken shit for basically a decade now. Next year’s Mavericks should return a team that is familiar with each other, Luka Doncic with another year under his belt, Kristaps Porzingis feeling fully healed, and a bench that is ready to light up the league. See you soon, benches.