Mavericks need Jameer Nelson to find his groove


(NOTE: Stats and charts do NOT include Nelson’s 0-6, two point performance against 76ers)

Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons headlined the Dallas Mavericks’ offseason and drew the most frenzy. But it was the signing of Jameer Nelson that was thought to be the final piece to the puzzle.

I, for one, thought the transition for Nelson would be effortless. He’s surrounded by Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Parsons, and Tyson. He’d be the last focus of the defense. He’d be able to spot up, pick and choose his spots, and knock down shots.

Seems easy, especially for a 32-year old point who holds career averages of 12.5 points, 5.4 assists, 44.1% fg, and 37.4% 3-pt.

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This should be a situation he’d strive in and excel at. Well that hasn’t been the case.

Nelson, like many other new Mavericks’ additions, has struggled early on. He’s averaging 7.5 points on 37.3% shooting; both happen to be career lows. He’s also dishing out just 3.5 assists; his lowest since his rookie season of 3.0 per game.

It’s been only eight games so early season struggles shouldn’t be too alarming but still should garner some of our attention. Also, the way Nelson has been used seems to be drawing the most fire.

Last season the Mavs excelled on the offensive end with Jose Calderon. Calderon averaged 11.4 points and shot a remarkable 44.9% from three; he even upped it to 47.8% during the Mavs seven game series with the San Antonio Spurs. He was also able to dish out 4.7 assists per game while only committing 1.3 turnovers.

Calderon was EVERYTHING Dallas needed on the offensive end next to Nowitzki and Ellis.

He was selfless. How many starting point guards would accept having the ball out of their hands?

He played to his strengths and stuck to his role. We RARELY, if ever, saw Calderon try to do too much or play out of the flow of the offense.

The Mavs need Nelson to be what Calderon was for them last season. A smart, savvy, knock down shooter who’ll pick and choose his spots. Nothing more and nothing less.

Below are images of how each have been used in a Mavericks uniform so far.

***Images created by Seth Partnow of Nylon Calculus (Follow him on Twitter). You can read up more in Partnow’s PGPT Post.

The comparisons in style aren’t too drastic. You can see that both have mostly been floor spacers and not so much on the ball. To back that up, Calderon had a Usage Rating of 16.2 last season and Nelson’s rating has been 16.1 through these first eight games. Both Devin Harris (16.3) and J.J. Barea (23.8) have higher rates than Nelson.

Nelson has shown more of a tendency to drive to the basket than Calderon. Issue is that he’s finishing at an even slightly lower rate than Calderon did last season.

Below are shot charts with distributions of Nelson (left) and Calderon’s 2013-2014 season (right)

Jameer Nelson Shot Chart

Jose Calderon Shot Chart (2013-2014)

Due to a small sample size, Nelson hasn’t had a chance to fill up the court yet. But as you can see the distributions aren’t too different from him and Calderon.

While they’re taking shots in the same area for the most part, they aren’t taking the same types of shots. Which has been Nelson’s biggest drawback to this point.

48.4% of Calderon’s shots came in catch and shoot situations last season with 39.8% coming off of pull-ups. Majority of Nelson’s shots have come off of the pull-up (54.2%) and only 32.2% of his shots have been due to catch and shoot.

Another big difference between these two  is the amount of dribbles taken prior to taking a shot.

Most of Calderon’s shots came off of ZERO dribbles (51.7%). In comparison, only 33.9% of Nelson’s shots have been in that situation. Actually, most of Nelson’s shots have come off of 7 or more dribbles (37.3%). Only 15.9% of Calderon’s shots were with the use of 7+ dribbles.

To Nelson’s defense, 76.2% of his shots have been considered open (closest defender is 4-6ft) and wide open (6+feet). Only 55% of Calderon’s shots came in open and wide open situations.

You can easily make the case that Nelson is getting great looks and taking the rights shots, but his shot just isn’t falling. Or you can argue that he’s dominating the ball, the times he has it, and hindering the Mavericks’ flow offense.

Let’s also keep expectations reasonable. Nelson won’t be the shooter Calderon was and is. So if his percentages are lower that shouldn’t be an issue.

No matter how you look at it….The Mavericks need Nelson to find his groove and start hitting shots and making plays, whether it’s in Calderon fashion or his. The team’s success and rotation depends on him being a consistent and reliable factor.

Once Nelson gets rolling and comfortable, we can hope the rest of the parts settle in as well.

**Usage Rates obtained via**

**Other stats/charts obtained via that do NOT belong to Seth Partnow