Three Statistics the Mavericks Need to Improve on Next Year
By Ben Zajdel
With a 24-58 record this season, the Mavericks aren’t short on problems that need fixing. But there are three statistics that need to improve if Dallas plans on making a playoff push next year. If the Mavericks know where they have weaknesses, they can target players that will help them get better in that area.
Mavericks fans will have to be patient. Barring some blockbuster trade that comes out of nowhere, these issues aren’t going to be resolved with one off-season. But Dallas finally has some ammunition to address their shortcomings.
The Mavericks have three draft picks and significant cap space. If they play their cards right, they can set a foundation for a perennial playoff contender. But in order to do that, they have to make sure they know exactly what needs to be improved on their roster. Here are three statistics that Dallas has to address in order to get back to being a contender in the Western Conference:
Points Off Turnovers
The Mavericks ranked 28th in the NBA in percentage of points off of turnovers, per NBA.com. Only 14.3 percent of their points came after an opponents’ turnover. This in itself isn’t the sign of a bad team. The Trailblazers ranked 29th in this statistic, with only 13.2 percent of their points coming off of turnovers.
They made the playoffs. But they have an experienced backcourt that can run an efficient offense in the halfcourt. The Mavericks don’t have that luxury with Dennis Smith Jr. learning the point guard position on the job.
What I think it shows is a team that failed to get stops and then get out in transition. Some other stats back this up. The Mavericks were only 25th in steals per game, and only 24th in percentage of points from fast breaks. Dallas didn’t play fast, partly because they had the sixth oldest roster in the league. It’s hard to play fast when you’ve got Dirk playing center, even though he’s perfect at trailing 3’s.
The Mavericks have to get more defensive stops and get out in transition. They have a young point guard who will benefit more from using his athleticism and energy in the open court.
I’m not a follower of Daryl Morey, but in my opinion the Mavericks settled for too many mid-range jumpers last season. 13.6 percent of their points came from mid-range fields goals, which was tenth in the NBA. Part of that is having the greatest mid-range shooter in NBA history in the starting lineup. But the Mavericks (and especially Harrison Barnes) need to be more aggressive going to the basket.
Free throws can help a team stay in a game when 3-point shots aren’t falling. As a team, the Mavericks were middle of the pack in 3-point percentage, hitting 36 percent of their shots from behind the arc. They only shot 18.7 free throws per game, 29th in the NBA. Unless you’re going to be elite at 3-pointers like Golden State, eighteen free throws a game isn’t going to cut it.
To be a steady, consistent team, the Mavericks need to get to the line more often. As they transition to a younger roster over the next few years, it’ll be important to take advantage of the athleticism of players like Smith, who can seemingly get to the rim whenever he wants.
Opponent Field Goal Percentage
The Mavericks allowed opponents to shoot 46.9 percent last season, which was 23rd in the NBA. Part of the reason is size. Rick Carlisle played a lineup featuring J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrell, and Devin Harris 228 minutes last season. Only one other combo of players had more minutes.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that playing three guards–two of which are undersized–significant minutes had an effect on the defense. I understand why Carlisle did it–their offensive execution more than made up for their shortcomings on defense. But a bigger, more athletic team would definitely make life harder on opponents.
Dallas also suffered from a lack of a true rim protector. Nerlens Noel was acquired to fill that role, but the results have been…mixed. Noel didn’t play a lot this year due to injury and Carlisle’s displeasure (though he did eat well in Dallas), but he did finish the season strong. Perhaps there’s a chance that Noel and the Mavericks figure things out and he fulfills the potential they saw in him when they traded for him.
Next: The Mavericks Should Target Theo Pinson in Draft
Any team with a record as bad as the Mavericks’ has a lot of room for improvement. These are just a few areas that need fixing. It’s important for Dallas to identify exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are as they head into the draft and free agency. With that information in hand, they can truly address all their team needs.