The Dallas Mavericks decision to hire Jason Kidd was met with more than a little skepticism by many including this website (Editor’s Note: Hello there). Kidd came with a checkered history that included personal problems and power struggles at his previous stay. But Kidd also came with a fantastic basketball IQ and knowledge that he had gained from those struggles.
One of the primary concerns was that he played an antiquated style that resulted in limiting his own team’s three point attempts while encouraging his opponents to shoot more. That is not an effective strategy in an analytics age where we have learned that threes are more efficient than everything but layups. In his final season with the Milwaukee Bucks, his team was 25th in the league in three point attempts per game.
Those concerns turned out to be unnecessary. The Mavericks finished this season eighth in the league in three point attempts. They allowed the third fewest three point attempts against. They were second to the Utah Jazz in net three point attempts per game during the regular season.
In the playoffs, it has only gotten better. The Mavericks played the Jazz in the first round in a series in matchup of the first two teams in the league in net three point attempts. The Mavericks dominated the battle of three point attempts in that series. The Mavericks attempted 251 threes while limiting the Jazz to 179 attempts. That is an advantage of 12 three point attempts per game which led the playoffs in the first round and it happened against the team that led the league in net three point attempts during the regular season.
That advantage has only increased in the second round. The Mavericks have attempted 234 threes in this series while the Phoenix Suns have only attempted 156. That means the Mavericks are averaging 13 more three point attempts per game than the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns have more talent than the Mavericks. But that talent difference is mitigated when there is such a large gap in the second most efficient shots in basketball. The Mavericks ability to limit the Suns’ number of three point attempts is even more impressive when considering how well the Suns have shot. The Suns are shooting 41.0 percent from three in this series which is absolutely elite but that value is mitigated by the low number of attempts.
The Mavericks have also been able to make adjustments to free Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson from the defense which bothered them at times while the Suns have been unable to do the same for Chris Paul. Both teams are heavily reliant on their elite back courts to create shots. The Mavericks have done a better job of freeing theirs from the constraints of the opponent’s best defenders.
Kidd has also made the unorthodox choice to play Frank Ntilikina. The “French Prince” is a lot of fun but it is always an odd choice to play such a limited offensive player in such important minutes. Ntilikina has always been miscast as a point guard. Kidd has corrected that miscasting by playing him alongside two other point guards allowing him to play as a “three and d” wing rather than a point guard. This has allowed him to exert all of his effort on defense while minimizing the negative effects of his offense.
This series has been close even if the individual games haven’t been. The Mavericks have done a fantastic job of tilting the math and the matchups in their favor. They will have to continue to do so for one more game if they want to advance. Monty Williams was the deserving coach of the year. But so far in this series, Jason Kidd has been the better coach.