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Reggie Bullock wasn’t a big enough bandaid for Dallas’ defense

Reggie Bullock, along with the rest of the Mavericks, took a step back on defense, and that was before he lost Dorian Finney-Smith.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Season in review

After a Western Conference Finals run that saw the team ride Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith into the ground, playing them nearly entire games out of defensive necessity, the thought was, “wow, those guys can really play in the postseason, but we can’t rely on them to play that kind of minutes.” Fast forward to this season, the “defensive help” came in the form of JaVale McGee who couldn’t get off the bench, and then moving half of that dup, Finney-Smith, in the Kyrie Irving trade.

After an inaugural season with Jason Kidd at the helm saw Dallas jump to seventh in team defense, the house of cards came crashing down as Dallas landed in the basement as the league’s 25th-rated defense. That’s not something you can blame on a single player, but if you find yourself pinning your hopes and dreams of a top-10 defense on Reggie Bullock, things have gone wrong.

Bullock did his level best on the defensive side of things, but that’s not enough to paper over Dallas's defensive deficiencies. He actually finished the season with a defensive win-share number on par with Dwight Powell. Not anyone’s idea of a defensive stalwart. His shooting numbers taken as a whole look good, but it came by way of his patented consistent inconsistency. The six games in October that saw him shooting over 41 percent from deep had people thinking maybe this was the year Bullock’s shot wouldn’t be MIA until the new year. Alas. In November and December, his shooting from the arc plummeted to below 25 percent. He finished strong, with each month from January onward topping 40 percent, but his slow start contributed to some early Dallas losses to some pretty beatable teams. Those were wins the squad could’ve really used at the end of the season

Best Game

Bullock’s best game this year came, of course, post-New Year. A January 20th matchup against the Buck-slaying Miami Heat in Dallas. He had games with more points, but his 15 that night came on an efficient 5-of-6 from three that signaled the return of his shooting touch. In addition, his effort on defense contributed to holding Miami to just 90 points on 4-of-20 beyond the arc, and he was a team-high +33 in Dallas’ 125-90 victory.

It moved Dallas to a 25-22 record after flip-slopping on or around .500 all season, the defense looked like it was rounding into shape, and Dallas seemed primed to make a push through the back half of the season as they did the year prior. That’s not how things worked out, but on that night, Bullock let us think it could.

Contract Status

Reggie Bullock is due $10.5 million as he enters the final year of his 3-year contract signed in 2021.

Looking Ahead

He’s shown he can be a part of a solid playoff rotation, but with Dallas perhaps looking shake things up in a big way after the disappointment of the past season. Bullock, an expiring contract who is a proven NBA contributor, might be just the kind of trade sweetener needed if Dallas is serious about turning the page on this core.

Grade: B

Bullock put together a solid season but didn’t get the chance to elevate it in the playoffs as he did in 2022.