The Mavericks are starting to string together some wins. In this week’s PR Watch two things jump out: the advanced numbers on the Mavericks are still a little murky, and the team is imposing their style of play on each game.
Those advanced numbers, the ones that give the Mavericks the best offense in the league and a decent point-differential? Probably still skewed by the gigantic win against the Memphis Grizzlies in week one. Especially when you consider the team is holding on for dear life late in most games with a big lead. But better than that, the team’s style of play — that is, a Luka-centric methodical carving of opponents — hasn’t slowed this team down. Even with how slow they play (30th in pace).
Here is where the Mavericks sit this week in a landscape of power rankings.
Rank: 7 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)
Last week: 11
Transition offense: 115.9 points per 100 possessions (10th) | 14.5 percent of possessions (26th)
Transition defense: 116.7 points per 100 possessions (22nd) | 16.4 percent of possessions (tied-13th)
The effect: We’ve seen an early defensive dip compared to what we saw from the Mavericks in their first campaign under Jason Kidd. The personnel has changed a little bit, but nothing too drastic. We’ve seen their transition defense be a part of that dip in overall defensive rating, and it mostly evens out with how good their transition offense is. The reason the Mavs don’t have more opportunities with their transition offense is because of how methodical they are, even after stops. The Mavs play at the slowest pace in the NBA because when you have Luka Dončić carving everybody up at a historic rate, why do you need to push or rush anything? With the run he’s on and the way he has them playing on offense, there’s no need to make a drastic change.
Last week: 10
In Week 1, the Mavs beat the Grizzlies by 41 points. But each of the Mavs’ other seven games have been within five in the last five minutes. Their opponents have scored much more efficiently on clutch possessions than the Mavs have, but they’ve won four of those seven (including each of the last three), because they’ve more often entered clutch time with the lead. Witness their win over Toronto on Friday, when the Mavs held on down the stretch after losing almost all of a 19-point cushion.
Coach Jason Kidd made a starting lineup change for that game, replacing JaVale McGee with Dwight Powell, with the initial starting lineup having been outscored by 15.6 points per 100 possessions in its 56 minutes. The Powell lineup is a plus-34.9 per 100 in 48 minutes, but the Mavs have also been much better, especially offensively, with only one of Luka Doncic or Spencer Dinwiddie on the floor (plus-17.6 per 100 in 220 total minutes) than they’ve been with the two ball-handlers on the floor together (minus-8.0 in 167). We’ll see if the Doncic-Dinwiddie minutes trend differently with the change at center, but for now, the Mavs have the league’s top-ranked bench in regard to aggregate point differential per 100. Christian Wood ranks second in effective field goal percentage (66.7%) and third in true shooting percentage (68.3%) among 85 players who’ve averaged at least 15 points per game.
The Mavs’ five-game homestand concludes on Monday with a visit from the Nets, but another five-game homestand begins Saturday and includes games against the Blazers, Clippers and Nuggets (x 2).
Last week: 10
The Mavericks scored a pair of close wins over quality opponents to get above .500 for the first time. Luka Dončić, whose 36 PPG leads the league, continued his streak of 30-plus point games to start the season with 33 in a three-point win against the Jazz and 35 more in a one-point win against the Raptors. Dallas, which operates at the second-slowest pace, owns the No. 1 offensive rating and ranks in the top-five in most shooting efficiency metrics. That all boils down to Dončić, the one-man wonder with the near-40% usage rate.
Last week: 8
The Dallas Mavericks’ net rating may be a bit of a mirage. With only seven games on the books, a 41-point win like the one Dallas had over the Memphis Grizzlies can really skew things. In the other six outings, their total point differential is just six.
And the generally average performance may be the result of early-season lineup folly.
When soon-to-be-35-year-old JaVale McGee signed with the Mavs this summer, he indicated that coach Jason Kidd told him he’d be the starting 5. The team already had both Christian Wood and Dwight Powell, both of whom are younger and exceeded McGee’s 2021-22 box plus/minus.
It’s early, but Dallas is minus-25 when Luka Dončić is sharing the floor with McGee, plus-18 when the star is with Wood and plus-43 in just 40 minutes with Powell.
With 9.0 assists, 8.9 rebounds and a league-leading 36.1 points per game, Luka is off to an absurd start. There’s no reason to burn his first few minutes of each half with a 5 who doesn’t elevate him.