Something quirky happened in the Dallas Mavericks’ 118-108 loss to the Chicago Bulls Sunday night. With 6:33 left in the second quarter, Maxi Kleber received the ball at the elbow from Jalen Brunson and shot it. The ball found nylon and cut the Bulls’ lead to 47-44.
Normally, this play wouldn’t warrant much consideration. NBA players make hundreds of elbow jump shots nightly. For Kleber, though, the shot was significant. It was his first made two-point shot of the season.
“You know, I take the shots that I get,” Kleber said, “and a lot of shots that I get are three-pointers just because of the way we play. But I’m not against two-point shots.”
Kleber has kind of established himself as a three-point specialist in the Mavericks’ four- or five-out offense. Through six games, he’s shooting at an astounding 48 percent from long range. He’s a 3-and-D player, but unlike the many wings who fill that role league-wide, he plays the four and five. In that role, when he isn’t taking outside shots, he’s actively looking to get his teammates open on the perimeter.
“A lot of times when you roll as a five guy—or when I’m playing the five or four—even the slip-outs, I try to like drag another person so we have an open look either outside or for the guard who’s handling the ball.”
Still, because he’s a big man, it is somewhat surprising that the hasn’t taken many two-point shots. In fact, coming into the game, Kleber only attempted one other two-point shot all season.
It came all the way back in the first quarter of the season opener against the Phoenix Suns. With 4:21 on the clock, Kleber took a 22-foot jumper. It missed and he didn’t take another two-point attempt until Sunday night.
Against the Bulls, he actually doubled his previous two-point shot attempts, taking—and making—two. Kleber’s second make of the evening came with 9:32 to play in the fourth quarter when he tipped in an alley-oop pass from Tim Hardaway Jr. with one hand. It cut Chicago’s lead to 92-87.
So far, Kleber has taken just three shots from inside the arc. It’s still early in the season, so it’s safe to assume that more two-point shot attempts are coming for Kleber. His goal, though, is to get even better at shooting the ball from outside.
“I want to improve my three-point shooting,” Kleber said. “I want to keep doing that and just take the shots that I get. I know a lot of those will be three-pointers, so I have to keep working on it.”