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Grading the Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd is not putting this team in a position to win

The Mavericks need some changes.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks remain with an even record after going 2-2 this past week. An overtime win against the Nets came sandwiched between two embarrassing losses to the Pelicans and the Thunder. Dallas followed up the loss to Oklahoma City with a win against Orlando, which prevented Mavericks twitter from completely melting down. Facundo Compazzo made his Mavericks debut against New Orleans. Luka Doncic is now averaging 36.7 points per game, and became the first player since Michael Jordan to score 30 in their team’s first six games.

Team grade: C+

This week’s performance was a complete 180 from last week. It’s almost incredible that Doncic has had the season he’s had through two weeks and the Mavericks sit at an even .500 record. A case could be made that Dallas should be undefeated, but certainly they should have at least one more win. Relinquishing a 16 point lead with less than four minutes to go against an Oklahoma City team that is in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes is an inexcusable act. Giving up 40 points in the opening period to a Pelicans team without Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram is embarrassing.

There were some bright spots in the wins, particularly in that the role players hit shots. Josh Green hit all three of his threes against Brooklyn, and Tim Hardaway Jr. made shots down the stretch against the Nets and Magic.

The Mavericks are still a good team, and they will figure it out. That they have gone six games, when the change was clear after three, without an adjustment is incredibly frustrating.

Straight A’s: Luka Doncic

There are few words these days that can be used to describe Luka Doncic. Historic, prolific, and prepotent come to mind, but even they cannot provide the full context of what we are watching. What makes Doncic so great (well, any great player, really) is his consistency. Any player could be great for a night, but it is rare that players are great for weeks, much less months and, seldom years. Doncic has been great every year of his career, but the level at which he has been great has seemed to take a leap this season.

He is visibly in excellent shape, and this has translated into nearly 22 drives per game, shooting a hair under 70 percent on shots within 10 feet. For reference, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drives the most in the league (27 drives per game) and only shoots 58 percent on shots within 10 feet.

Doncic’s uptick in points is largely due to a career-best 78.3 percent from the free throw line on an also-career-best 11.5 attempts per game. He carried the Mavericks on his back the first six games, and even scored half of Dallas’ 60 points in the first half on Sunday against Orlando. Even more, he’s doing it with a career low turnover rate (three a game) and a career high field goal percentage (50.3).

Failing miserably: Jason Kidd

The Mavericks issues, and subsequently their three losses, stem from the same problem: coaching. Whether the job has been poor or stubborn, Jason Kidd’s handling of this team through the first six games has been questionable, at best. Not calling timeouts, poor rotations, and repeatedly saying he will not change the lineup until eight or ten games in have been focal points of the befuddlement with his approach. Specifically regarding late-game scenarios, there is no longer a question; he has been bad.

The simple fact is that you need to have your best players on the floor in “winning time”, which now seems to be when the game is within 15 points during the final 5 minutes. Kidd has intentionally not done this, and cites “not overreacting” as his motive. Christian Wood has been the second-best (or third-best) player on the team thus far, and why Maxi Kleber plays down the stretch instead of him is beyond me.

Kidd will argue that one of the reasons is because they need to favor defense. Doncic and Kleber have played 112 minutes together this year, and have a defensive rating of 111.8 together. Doncic and Wood have played 93 minutes together and have a defensive rating of 106.3 when on the floor together. The Mavericks have the sixth-worst net rating (-26.7) in clutch time (game within 5 points and less than 5 minutes remaining) currently, while playing in the most clutch games (5). They have given up 50 points in 22 clutch minutes. A small sample size, yes, but sometimes it is not hard to see a deficiency after a few games.

If the Mavericks are not really defending any better with Wood off the floor, it is time to put him in the game when it matters most. Not only is Wood capable on defense, he has been a standout on offense, and adds creation that is crucial when closing games. Kidd takes all the blame for this, and needs to stop ignoring what Wood has done on the floor, despite what trust Kidd wants him to earn.

Extra credit: Dwight Powell

Dwight Powell catches a lot of flack on social media for his play, and while some of it is warranted, a lot of it is misguided. He was never a bad player. Okay, for stretches he might have been bad. But more than he lacked talent, he always lacked the correct role. He was never a starting-level center, and thus the Mavericks went and got one in the offseason.

Javale McGee started the season well, but about three games in started accumulating negative “+/-”’s in the box score and when Dwight Powell got the call to return to the lineup, he played very well. Over the last two games he has played 30 minutes, scored 18 points, and shot 70 percent from the field. Losing your starting job to a guy who the team went out and got, only to realize that he might not be better than you is a tough thing to go through. Props to Dwight Powell for continuing to be a pro’s pro, and for giving the Mavericks energy whenever his number is called.