The Dallas Mavericks have now played 10 games which is a little more than 12 percent of the season. This is enough time for some statistical trends to become worth watching, even if they have not become predictive yet. As always, the caveat from Mark Twain that “There are lies, damned lies and statistics” applies. Here are some interesting stats from the first 10 games.
30.7: Percentage the Mavericks five starters are shooting from three
This number is almost entirely carried by Tim Hardaway Jr’s 37.3 percent. Luka Doncic is second in the starting lineup in three point shooting at 29.5 percent. It is almost impossible to overstate how poorly the starting lineup has shot the ball so far. They have actually shot even worse when playing together as their three point percentage when playing together is a staggeringly bad 26.1 percent.
-20.6: Net rating of the Mavericks starting lineup
There really isn’t much more to say other than that this lineup isn’t working. The shooting should improve, as Kristaps Porzingis, Luka Doncic and Dorian Finney-Smith are all shooting well below their true talent level. That being said, this lineup still has major issues. No one other than Luka is a capable ball handler and this lineup is not exactly a defensive stopper. Fortunately the Mavericks have better options.
3: Number of minutes Luka, Hardaway, Bullock, Kleber and Porzingis have played together
Kleber and Porzingis have faced injuries but this lineup needs to play together more. This lineup should end up as the primary starting lineups if Jalen Brunson remains on the bench. Kleber is a moderate volume, elite percentage shooter in place of Powell who is a non shooter. Bullock is a more talented shooter than Finney-Smith and both provide better defense than the player they would be replacing.
36.6: Points per 100 possessions Porzingis is averaging when not sharing the floor with Finney-Smith
One of the primary goals for coach Jason Kidd has been to unleash Porzingis. One of the best ways to do that is to allow Porzingis to play in space. Teams have been ignoring Finney-Smith with good reason. he is shooting 27.5 percent on wide open threes and 25 percent on open threes per NBA.com.
Porzingis’ points per 100 possessions falls to 20.2 when paired with Finney-Smith. One of the best ways to unleash Porzingis could be to replace Finney-Smith with Bullock.
2.5: Deflections per game for Finney-Smith
Not everything is bad for Finney-Smith. He has been better defensively this season than in the past. More importantly, he has been a much more active defender. One of the primary issues with the Mavericks defense over the last couple of years has been how comfortable they allow opposing offenses to be. Finney Smith leads the team in deflections but as a whole everyone has been more aggressive. Luka is averaging 2.1 deflections which would have led the team last season.
12.5: Percentile Luka Doncic is in as a post scorer this season
Much of the focus has been on how poorly Porzingis has played in the post (and he isn’t much better being in the 14.6 percentile himself). Luka playing in the post was an important part of the Mavericks plans this season, but it has not worked thus far. One of the primary issues causing this is just how poorly the team has spaced the floor around his post ups. Not only has the team shot poorly, but players have cut to less than ideal places at less than ideal times while he is posting. This has brought extra defenders to him left him with no effective outlets. This is still an important weapon for the Mavericks to exploit but it has not worked thus far.
0.89: Points per possession Luka is scoring as pick and roll ball handler
Luka is actually running virtually the same amount of pick and rolls as last season (13.0 per game this season, 13.2 last season.) He is just doing so much less efficiently. He has fallen from the 82.7 percentile with 1.01 points per possession as a pick and roll ball handler last year to the 61.9 percentile with his 0.89 points per possession this year. A lot of this is shooting variance but it is worth watching.
9.4: Luka’s league leading time of possession per game
One of the primary goals for this season was to get the ball out of Luka’s hands. That has not worked as he has actually added half a minute of touch time to last season’s 8.9.
115.6: Points per 100 possessions with Brunson on the court
Brunson has become an incredibly important part of the Mavericks offense. He is the only credible ball handler and playmaker other than Luka. The Mavericks are only averaging 90.9 points per 100 possessions with Brunson off the court. This is not to discredit Brunson but the Mavericks really need another player that can handle and pass. In related news, Goran Dragic remains available.
100.4: Points per 100 possessions allowed with Maxi Kleber on the court
Kleber has been injured recently but that should not obscure the fantastic defensive job he was doing prior to the injury. The team defense was 9.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and his defense was fantastic.
He is averaging a career high in blocks, steals and rebounds per 36 minutes to go with his lights out shooting of 47.8 percent on 7.3 3 point attempts per 36 minutes. He has played far fewer minutes (26.8 per game to 18.8 per game this season) and the lighter load has truly unleashed him.
These are just a few interesting stats to begin the season. Given the small sample size, they should be taken with a grain of salt. However, we are continually getting closer to a meaningful sample size. There is one final bonus stat and it is perhaps the most important of all. The Mavericks are 7-3 and on pace for 57 wins.