The Mavericks have some valuable strengths, which present a path to success for them in the Orlando bubble regular season and playoffs. Yet they are seventh in the Western Conference for some key reasons, and it’s important to acknowledge what they are as the season ramps back up.
Clutch offense woes
In one of the more incredible statistics from the 2019 season is that while the Dallas Mavericks boast the best offense in league history, they’re also home to one of the worst offenses in clutch time.
NBA.com has the Mavericks with an offensive rating of 115.8 (different calculation than Basketball Reference) over all, but that number utterly collapses to 93.9 in clutch minutes, which are defined as the in the last five minutes of the game if the point differential is within five.
That partially has to do with their three point shooting. Over 50% of their clutch time shot attempt are threes, which is the most in the league, and they’ve hit just 22% of those attempts, which is the worst in the league.
This is concerning to say the least. But it’s also a small sample of minutes (128) spread out over 35 games, which is just under three minutes per game. The Mavericks understand they’v had moments where they just stand around waiting for Luka Doncic to make things happen and corrected that as the year moved along.
Of the opening day roster, only 11 players remain healthy and on the Orlando restart roster. Injuries to Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Courtney Lee along with cutting Ryan Broekhoff for Willie Cauley-Stein (who opted out of playing due to the birth of a child) leaves the Mavericks much thinner than they might like.
The Maverick starters are good and functional. But foul trouble or an injury results in a Dallas team that cannot paper over any problems. The team is more than the sum of the parts but those parts do not have reliable back ups past the top seven to eight players on the roster. Two G-League players, one guy who wasn’t on the team at all until recently, and a former lottery pick signed after buy outs who has hit one basket during is time with the Mavericks.
Ideally, these final roster spots won’t matter as the Mavericks can hopefully mow through everyone on the way to a title. But that’s rarely how it works and it’s a valid concern that the lack of depth could expose Dallas at the worst time.
Ball stopping defense
By the time of the break, the Dallas Mavericks posted a team defensive rating of 110.0, good for 17th in the league and a mere two tenths of a point away from being exactly league average.
It’s not good enough, but the team has a reasonable blueprint to keep things functional on defense. With Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber playing strong defense at the rim and Delon Wright and Dorian Finney-Smith acting as agents of chaos on that end of the floor, the Mavericks can cause problems for opposing teams.
What they lack is anyone on the roster capable of being a ball hawk. It’s harder to do in today’s NBA, but Dallas has a roster full of players who get beaten off of a single dribble. Kleber’s arguably the best at this and he’s spent plenty of time guarding the best wing and big of a team in the same game. It’s a concern for Dallas, as Doncic, Finney-Smith, and Justin Jackson are all large men, they are not adept at staying in front of their man on the dribble.
Very little playoff experience
Neither Luka Doncic nor Kristaps Porzingis has made the NBA post season. In fact, of the 17 Mavericks in Orlando (or scheduled to be in Orlando), only 8 guys have playoff experience. Of the active players available, only J.J. Barea, Seth Curry, and Delon Wright have more than 300 minutes in the post season in their careers.
Considering this isn’t a traditional playoff experience, it’s fair to question if this matters at all. Luka Doncic is a seasoned professional, having won overseas in fan-packed, pressure laden environments. Porzingis tends to play the same way regardless of what’s going on around him, which can work both for or against him. The Mavericks seem ready, having said all the right things two weeks ago. But those concerns exist all the same. It’s very much the embodiment of this video:
The Mavericks are working towards their first post-Dirk Nowitzki post-season since George H.W. Bush was in office. There’s much to be confident about, but concerns exist all the same. Check back in later today to see what the Dallas strengths are heading into the eight game regular season restart.