The Dallas Mavericks are one of the hottest teams in basketball. Not due to the play of Luka Doncic or the high-level offense we've seen in recent seasons, but because of the suffocating defense that the team has been playing under head coach Jason Kidd.
Through the Mavericks' last 12 games, they are 10-2 and have been the best defense in the league. They have also had a defensive rating of 98.5 in this recent stretch of excellence and haven't allowed a team to shoot above 50 percent in a staggering 22 straight games.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the Mavericks defensive emergence is that this is, for the most part, the same core roster as previous years. So how has coach Kidd turned this defense around so drastically in only one year?
Biggest reasons for the Dallas Mavericks improved defense
There is no single reason why the Mavs struggled so much defensively in previous years because, truthfully, the team was terrible everywhere on that side of the ball. The team was horrible in transition, bad at protecting the paint, and most importantly, poor effort. Not to mention how bad Kristaps Porzingis was in the pick and roll, where teams often exploited the Mavericks in the half-court.
The most significant change is that Jason Kidd has gotten the whole team to buy in defensively. Everyone believes, starting from Luka and KP down to the last player on the bench. The team seems to take pride in playing defense, and more than anything Kidd has done schematically, instilling the will to guard every night has impressed me the most.
As important as taking pride on the defensive end is, it takes more than that to excel defensively. One of the most critical things Jason Kidd has done to improve the team's defense is the way he's used the team's big men in the pick and roll.
In previous years, the Mavericks were horrendous defensively in the pick and roll. One of the biggest reasons was that the center, Dwight Powell or Kristaps Porzingis, would back up and let the guard or rolling big get to the rim easily. Now, the Mavericks cut off that drive early, and since that space is being closed, guards take a lot of contested jump shots.
It is also about time that Dorian Finney Smith and Maxi Kleber finally get their respect defensively. Maxi has been one of the most underrated rim protectors in the NBA for the last few years while also extremely versatile as a solid wing defender.
It's nice to see that Jason Kidd has gotten players to buy in, and it looks like there's a culture being built. The camaraderie will go a long way to this team's success, and this defensive effort is something the Dallas Mavericks need to keep up come playoff time.