The Dallas Mavericks are struggling to replicate the immaculate vibes they had on offense last season. Through eleven games, their offensive rating is 113.7 points per 100 possessions, 11th in the NBA. But that number is a bit deceiving due to their absolute throttling of the Memphis Grizzlies in the second game of the season.
Through the last nine games, the Mavericks are sporting an offensive rating of 110.6, 18th in the NBA. That matches the eye test when you watch them play. The offense looks disjointed and out of sync. It’s obvious to everyone that Luka Doncic is having to do it all to create scoring opportunities for Dallas. Even more concerning, the Mavericks’ opponents seem to see that as well.
“You let the other guys play, they don’t really know how to dribble or create for themselves,” Kevin Durant said after the Mavericks defeated the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. “I felt like that slowed the game down for them as well.”
More and more it seems that opponents are focusing on making life miserable for Doncic and daring the rest of the Mavericks to beat them. So far this season it’s working.
“We know their team is very limited outside of [Doncic],” Kyle Kuzma said after the Washington Wizards defeated the Mavericks on Thursday night. “With Christian Wood out, a big time player, the ball was going to be in his [Doncic’s] hands the whole time.”
Spencer Dinwiddie stepped up in the loss, scoring 33 points on 7-of-12 shooting from deep. Tim Hardaway Jr. contributed 16 points from the bench, shooting 5-of-11 from behind the arc. Beyond that, Doncic didn’t get much help. Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combined for only 11 points. Maxi Kleber scored only two.
More concerning, Bullock, Finney-Smith, and Kleber combined for only 12 attempts from deep. Defenses know these players can’t make plays off the dribble, so they’re closing out hard without fear of the Mavericks role players making them pay with penetration. Instead, opponents can focus completely on Doncic, making him inefficient and tired by the end of games.
Jason Kidd and the coaching staff have to figure out ways to turn the Mavericks role players into threats defenses have to respect. That might mean using Doncic to screen more, or increasing the amount of off-ball movement and screens. Whatever it takes to get the offense going.
There are no trades coming to fix the problem. Due to the pick they owe the New York Knicks and the protections on it, Dallas doesn’t have the draft ammunition to pull off the type of trade that can fix an offense overnight. The solution will have to come from the coaching staff alone. If they can’t figure out a way to make the limited players on the roster a bigger threat, the offense will continue to deteriorate, and with it, the Mavericks’ season.