The Dallas Mavericks have been searching for an ideal “three and D” wing to pair with Luka Doncic since acquiring him. This season’s attempt to fill this need is Reggie Bullock. Bullock got off to an incredibly slow start and appeared to be the next in the line of players who struggled to adjust to Luka’s heliocentric offense.
Coach Jason Kidd has made a concerted effort to empower the Mavericks outside of Luka to play more freely and create on their own. But Luka still commands the lion’s share of the offense. Luka’s average time of possession, total touches and front court touches are all actually up from last season. Luka is a fantastic talent but playing with this style of player can be a difficult adjustment. Delon Wright and Josh Richardson were unable to make it and have moved on to other NBA homes.
Reggie Bullock appears to have made that adjustment though. He has a history of starting slowly but this season, he was even worse. In addition he was playing his fewest minutes per game since 2016-2017. Bullock’s history as a slow starter has been well chronicled here, with Jason Kidd even mentioning this article in a pregame press conference. A lesser known version of his splits is how much better he shoots with more minutes. For his career, Bullock shoots 41.9 percent on threes in games in which he plays between 30 and 39 minutes and 46.3 percent on threes in games in which he plays more than 40 minutes. This season he has shot 44.3 percent on threes in games in which he has played at least 30 minutes.
There is a bit of a causal loop with Bullock shooting better when he plays more minutes. Playing more minutes allows him to get in a better rhythm which results in better shooting. But better shooting also means he is providing more value which allows him to play more minutes.
Over his first 40 games of the season, Bullock averaged 23.6 minutes per game and struggled shooting 38.0 percent from the floor and 30.9 percent from three. He only averaged 6.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Over his last 6 games, Bullock has played 32.1 minutes per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and 49.1 percent from three. He has averaged 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds per game and .7 assists per game.
The injury to Tim Hardaway Jr was incredibly unfortunate for Hardaway Jr who is an incredibly hard worker and fantastic person. However, it actually clarifies the Mavericks rotation. Hardaway Jr had struggled with the newfound freedom instilled by Coach Kidd. Hardaway Jr thrived under the discipline instilled by Rick Carlisle as it eliminated many of the poor qualities of his game which made him an albatross in New York. With the renewed freedom under Coach Kidd, the problematic parts of his game were given more free reign resulting in a much less efficient player. With Hardaway gone, Bullock takes his ideal role as a high volume sniper. There is no coincidence that Bullock’s success these last six games began immediately once Hardaway Jr was gone.
Bullock is freed from any necessity to create as he now spends more time playing with one or both of Luka or Jalen Brunson. Bullock is purely a play finisher at this point, totaling only 4 assists and 4 turnovers total in these six games. Giving Bullock a large portion of Hardaway Jr’s role also results in an improved defense. The Mavericks no longer have to choose between shooting and defense in this role because Bullock provides both.
Bullock’s success in these games has also correlated with team success. The Mavericks are 4-2 over these six games with an average point differential of +9.5 points per game. They are an average of +9.1 points per game with Bullock on the court. The Mavericks and Bullock appear to have found the best ways to help each other. That is a fantastic sign for the Mavericks chances going forward.
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