We may only be a few games into the NBA season but some rather interesting trends have begun to emerge and could define the early stages of the 2018-19 Dallas Mavericks campaign. These aren’t the only numbers, of course, but they are perhaps the most interesting thus far. Given the team -and really the league as a whole- hasn’t really figured out the whole “defense” thing, it should come as no surprise that all of them are on the offensive side of the equation.
The Mavericks have clearly found a fascination with the three-ball.
Not only did the Mavericks set a new franchise record for three point attempts against the Minnesota Timberwolves with 50 in their home opener, they’ve essentially made it an integral part of their identity, taking 45 attempts per game. For context, the previous Mavs record was 49, set way back in the 90s. What’s more, Dallas has almost entirely abandoned the mid-range game as north of 80% of their field goal attempts have occurred either from beyond the arc or in the restricted area. This is a growing trend in the NBA and has been largely popularized by the Houston Rockets. Given Dallas’ best three players this season have been Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr, and DeAndre Jordan, it makes sense that most everything would come either right at the rim or from behind the three point line. While Dallas is hitting 36% of its attempts, it’s getting plenty of good looks each night, suggesting that number could very well rise. as shooters find their rhythm and additional firepower returns from injury.
DeAndre Jordan has been close to perfect from the charity stripe. Seriously.
When the Dallas Mavericks signed DeAndre Jordan this past Summer, the expectation was that the Houston native would provide some solid rim protection while grabbing somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 boards a night. It was understood, however, that while Jordan would help in these areas, the flaws in aspects of his game would have to be accepted as part of the package -chief among these being his free throw shooting. For his career, DeAndre Jordan has converted just 44.7% of his attempts. Through three games, however, the polar opposite has been the case. Jordan has knocked down 90% of his free throw attempts this season, missing only once along the way. Sure, that’s an awfully small sample size but if the big man really can continue to improve on his foul shooting, as he started to do last season while still in Los Angeles, it will go a long way to masking one of his greatest weaknesses. For Dallas, being able to keep your top rim protector and rebounder on the floor in late game situations (before the 2:00 mark) would be a huge advantage, dispelling fears of the “hack-a-Jordan” from years’ past.
Even Without Harrison Barnes and Dirk, the Offense Has Been on Fire
Despite the fact that the Mavs’ leading scorer the past two seasons, Harrison Barnes, and the franchise’s legendary cornerstone, Dirk Nowitzki have yet to take the floor due to injury, the offense hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, Dallas is averaging 117.2 points per 100 possessions, good for second in the league. This is helped in large part by rookie sensation, Luka Doncic, who has routinely flashed tremendous vision and play-making ability and found teammates for clean looks and easy dunks. Dennis Smith Jr, meanwhile, despite some struggles, has also come through in some big moments, hitting the dagger in a 140-136 victory against the Timberwolves last Saturday night. Making things even easier for the young duo is DeAndre Jordan whose presence in the pick and roll and around the glass has allowed a high conversion rate and some in the restricted area. Sprinkle in a little JJ Barea, one of the league’s assist leaders thus far despite coming off the bench, and it’s clear a lot is working in the Mavs’ favor early on.
While three or four games is obviously too small of a sample size to truly measure a team’s identity, it can still offer a glimpse of what it could ultimately become. With Doncic and Smith Jr creating for this offense, and two key weapons set to return in Barnes and Nowitzki, the three-point shooting and overall offensive potency should remain strong. Meanwhile, if DeAndre Jordan can continue to knock down his free throws, perhaps even just hovering somewhere around the upper 60s or mid-70s in percentage, Dallas could very well find itself in the thick of the playoff race in the final month of the season.