When the Dallas Mavericks signed Reggie Bullock to a 3-year, $30 million deal in free agency, it made him the Mavs’ biggest offseason acquisition. That means he was thrown into this season as the guy who was supposed to help transform this team into a legitimate playoff threat.
That says more about the Mavericks and their recent acquisition history than it does about Bullock, though. Reggie should never be the biggest fish in the free agency pond for Dallas. He’s a fantastic guy to have on your team, but he’s not an All-Star. He’s not that acquisition.
Oftentimes, though, people go too far in the other direction with Bullock. They think of him as a simple and classic “3-and-D guy”. Someone who can stand in the corner and space the floor while guarding quality wings on the other end of the court.
Bullock can be that guy, but he’s way more than that. To label him as a 3-and-D guy is to discredit a lot of what he brings to the table.
Last night, in a 104-96 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Bullock played his best game as a Dallas Maverick. He scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from deep to go along with four assists, two rebounds, one steal, one block, and zero turnovers. This game was a breath of fresh air for Mavs fans, as Bullock’s season so far has largely been one giant shooting slump.
The thing that I love most about Bullock is how he gets his looks. He isn’t one of those 3-and-D guys that needs to stay spotted up in the corner in order to be useful on offense. He can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways.
Check out this play from:
Reggie initially stays in the corner to space the floor as Boban Marjanovic and Luka work their pick-and-roll. When Luka hits him with the ball, he gives a little shoulder fake to the defender closing out, beats him off the dribble and converts on an extremely tough floater over Nikola Jokic. We know Reggie operates as a safety valve for Luka when Luka’s working with the ball, but Reggie’s underrated ability to make plays off the dribble makes him an even more dangerous safety valve.
My favorite thing Reggie does, though, is score in a variety of ways without dribbling.
Reggie isn’t an off-ball menace like Steph Curry or JJ Redick. He’s not going to constantly run you around screen after screen. But Reggie is one of the more creative off-ball players I’ve seen in a Mavs uniform in a while. He has a knack for finding the cracks in the defense and exploiting them, no matter where they are.
Here’s Bullock scoring on an out-of-bounds play using a screen and some creative footwork:
Here he is curling off a Boban handoff and knocking down a three:
Even better is when Reggie finds ways to get to the rim without the ball. He’s sneaky, and uses his 3-point shooting ability to trick the defenses into thinking that’s the only place they need to worry about him going.
Here’s Luka using his natural gravity to draw the attention of every defender, and Reggie sneaking to the hoop for an easy bucket, knowing Luka is guaranteed to find him.
Here’s a similar play from last night’s game against the Grizzlies, but this time, it was in a clutch moment where the Mavs really needed a bucket.
Everyone on the Grizzlies assumes Luka is going to shoot the ball here. Reggie knows that and sneaks behind the backline of the defense where Luka hits him with a slip pass.
This is what more Mavs need to do. It’s easy to hang out on the perimeter and wait for Luka to find you. That works sometimes and isn’t a horrible strategy. But Luka is truly unstoppable when defenses also have to worry about him hitting capable cutters. It’s basically a version of the secondary playmaking that Mavs fans are clamoring for, it’s just off-the-ball playmaking.
After last night’s game, I asked Jason Kidd about how Reggie helps on offense outside of just simple spot-up shooting.
“With Luka handling 90 percent of the time, it can get where we stand around waiting for Luka to cause a problem,” said Kidd. “So I thought today’s reads of being able to slide cut or being able to baseline cut were great.”
Kidd hit the nail right on the head. Having a guy like Luka is one of the luckiest things that can happen to a basketball team. He’s a generational talent that gives you a chance to build an NBA Finals contender. But you have to have guys that aren’t just going to stand around and watch Luka dribble. In order for Luka to fully thrive, he needs guys moving around him.
After the Grizzlies game, I also asked Luka how much it helps him as the primary ball-handler to have someone like Reggie Bullock out on the court with him. Here’s what he said:
“I mean, yeah, it’s really important. He got a couple cuts. He got open shots. We know he’s going to knock them down. We trust him, you know, the whole team trusts him.”
Bullock has had a miserable start to the season in terms of shooting efficiency, but that’s likely going to balance out at some point. He’s been a great shooter for his entire career, and he’s getting good looks. Eventually, they’re going to fall, and the Grizzlies game looked like it might have been the start of that.
Even when Bullock is missing, though, the threat he brings to the court is still incredibly important. The Mavericks need him on the floor.