The Dallas Mavericks were not a good clutch team in the 2022-2023 season. The Mavericks led the NBA in clutch games played with 55. They were 26-29 in those games and had a net rating of -1.0 points per 100 possessions. Those are not dismal clutch numbers, but when compared with teams like the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers it is reasonable to say that those numbers were the difference between the Mavericks limping into the playoffs and securing the draft pick that ultimately became Dereck Lively.
The biggest culprit in the Mavericks clutch struggles last season was the vaunted offense. Luka Doncic is an offensive savant and pairing him with an elite late-game shot-making talent such as Kyrie Irving should have led to a sublime clutch offense. It did not. The Mavericks averaged only 106.2 points per 100 clutch possessions of offense. This was the 22nd-best clutch offense in the NBA and would have been the worst offense in the league over the entire regular season.
It is understandable for a clutch offense to be worse than a regular offense. The opposing team is generally playing harder, and there are no garbage minutes or bench players on which to feast. But the Mavericks were the sixth-best offense in the NBA last season at 115.9 points per 100 possessions. That number would have been even better excluding clutch time.
This season the Mavericks are still playing a ton of clutch games, but the results are remarkably different. The Mavericks are 6-1 on the season with all six of their wins being clutch games. It is important to remember to take rate stats with incredibly large amounts of salt so early in the season with so few possessions, but the Mavericks have done a complete about face. The Mavericks are averaging 142.9 points per 100 possessions in the clutch so far.
The biggest difference in the two clutch offenses is the pace at which they are playing. The Mavericks are playing at a pace rating of 99.12 in the clutch this season which is only a slight drop off from their normal pace of 100.93. Last season, the Mavericks played at a pace of 97.21 overall but that fell to 94.19 in the clutch which was last in the league.
The Mavericks are still a deliberate offense in the clutch. It is incredibly likely that every team with Doncic on it will be throughout his career. The biggest difference in these two paces is how often the Mavericks are milking the shot clock to the very end. The Mavericks took 30.3 percent of their clutch shots in the final four seconds of the shot clock last season. This season that number has fallen to 20.8 percent. The shot clock is an extra defender when it reaches that level, resulting in bad looks more often than not. By taking their time, but not literally all of their time, the Mavericks have given themselves more options. Those options have resulted in better shots that have gone in at an absurd frequency so far this season.
The Mavericks will not maintain a true shooting percentage above 70 percent in the clutch for the entire season. But the process is materially improved and that should lead the results to continue to be impressive.