After an apparent blissful start to the NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks quickly became one of the first teams in the league to deal with COVID-19 related issues.
Their 4-4 start was less than ideal, but the Mavericks still looked like an improved team in some areas, even with the absence of Kristaps Porzingis. Then, the rug was pulled out from under their feet, and Dallas was suddenly without five of their most important rotation players.
The Mavericks now have an unflattering record of 8-9 on the season, but to reiterate the words of Josh, one of the site's editors, we still don’t know who these Mavericks really are. To put it simply, things are weird and abnormal right now. The rotation is not what it will look like in two weeks. Luka Doncic’s averages may not finish anywhere near what they are right now. James Johnson probably won’t finish fourth in minutes played, like he is right now.
The Mavericks abnormality will be over soon, but as things stand right now, this is the boat they are in. As a result of all the shuffling and rearranging, some very interesting things have shown up on the stat sheet. Let’s look at five of them.
James Johnson and Wes Iwundu are ice-cold from deep
It would’ve been fair to assume Johnson and Iwundu would play a limited role if the Mavericks roster remained healthy. But as players quickly showed up on the injury report, they became vital pieces of the rotation. To specifically fill the holes left by Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith, their most important offensive responsibility would be to make shots. So far, that has not worked out.
Iwundu is just 3-of-21 on three-point attempts this season. That 14.3 percent efficiency is dead-last in the NBA among players who have attempted at least 20 threes. Johnson has improved but is still only 14-of-45 (31.1%) from range. The staple corner three off a Doncic kick out has disappeared, as Johnson is just 2-of-11 from the right corner this season.
Trey Burke’s polarizing ball-handling
Burke has always been a score-first guard. He’s never been someone who can facilitate the offense on his own, but his numbers this season show something difficult to comprehend. According to Cleaning the Glass, Burke has a turnover percentage of 5.8, which places him in the 100th percentile of point guards. In other words, no other point guard has protected the ball as well as him. However, Burke’s assist percentage of 10.4 places him in the zero percentile of point guards. No other point guard has generated assists at a lower rate than Burke. The possessions from him this season have almost always ended with a shot or an insignificant pass.
Dallas can’t grab a rebound
The Mavericks are currently 23rd in rebounds per game and 27th in rebounding rate. Despite often running a jumbo lineup where Porzingis and Willie Cauley-Stein play together, the Mavericks cannot seem to win battles on the glass.
Right now, Luka Doncic (13.6%) has a higher rebounding rate than Porzingis (12.7%) and Cauley-Stein (13.3%). Doncic’s 13.6 percentage is the highest rebounding rate on the Mavericks, excluding Boban Marjanovic’s 19.4 percent. Having zero major-rotation players collect more than 15 percent of rebounds when they’re on the court is a problem. Take an above-average rebounding team like the Sixers, and you’ll see they have three players with a rebounding rate over 18 percent.
Cauley-Stein’s offensive blackhole
If you’ve watched a Mavericks game this season, you’ve probably watched Cauley-Stein miss a dunk. The seven-footer is now 21-of-30 (70%) on dunk attempts this season, which is about 18 percent below the league average field-goal percentage. It doesn’t end there. Cauley-Stein is currently in the league’s 33rd percentile in around-the-rim offense, according to Synergy data. He’s also shooting just 60.7 percent in the restricted area this season. He’s even averaging just 1.00 points per possession as a pick-and-roll roll man, placing him in the 36th percentile of that play type (NBA.com/Stats).
Doncic may need to do it all — for now
Expecting the MVP-favorite to lead your team to victory every night may seem like common sense. But with the Mavericks shorthanded, it’s almost difficult to fathom how much weight Doncic is carrying. Doncic currently has a usage percentage of 35.4, the second-highest in the league according to NBA.com/Stats. The only player with a higher usage rate than Doncic is Bradley Beal, who scored 60 points in a game this season that the Wizards still managed to lose.
A drop off in production can be expected when Doncic leaves the floor, but the Mavericks haven’t been able to afford that this season. This season, the Mavericks’ offensive rating falls 14.2 points per 100 possessions when Doncic leaves the floor, according to NBA.com/Stats. Last season, it fell just four points per 100 possessions when he was off the court.
Things will get better soon. These numbers may look somber, but remember, we still don’t know who these Mavericks really are. Dallas has yet to play a game at full strength this season. When they do, a lot of these numbers should look a lot different than they do now. If they don’t, I’ll be sure to fill you in on what’s still going wrong.