Forget Rebounding. Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle Might Have a Bigger Problem on His Hands.
Your Dallas Mavericks have only won two of their last seven games.
No, that's not exactly great.
But there is this: Only two of the team's losses over that span have come by a double-digit margin. And Dallas was in each of these games. Aside from being blown out by the Pacers and losing by 10 to the Knicks, the Mavericks have played competitive, albeit sloppy, basketball. And they largely did so with Shawn Marion sidelined due to injury.
Want more positive news? Offense hasn't been the issue for these Mavericks. The team boasts an offensive rating of 105.7 (that's the average number of points the team scores in 100 possessions; good for 10th in the league), scores an average of 100.8 points per game, has an offensive pace of 93.7 (the projected number of possessions the team has over the course of a 48-minute game) and can claim an effective field goal percentage of 50.9.
So make no mistake: This team has no problem scoring the basketball.
This is most clearly evidenced by the scoring spectacle that O.J. Mayo has been putting on since coming aboard the roster. He's been averaging 21.8 points per game — good enough to lead the Mavs — while playing just 34.9 minutes per game. Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and Vince Carter, meanwhile, round out the team's top four scoring threats. And, let's not forget, Dirk Nowitzki still isn't active.
One of the main reasons that the Mavericks have found offensive success this season is because their low percentage shots have continuously fallen into the basket. In fact, 23.8 percent of Dallas' shots this season have come from the 16- to 22-foot range — or, if you prefer, The Carter Zone. They're making 42.9 percent of these shots.
This average, however, cannot maintain. It will fall, just as their three-point shooting percentage — currently at 60.6 percent — will as the season progresses.
But, remember, the three-ball (farther out and therefore an even lower percentage shot) holds more weight because of its extra-point value. A long two counts the same as a dunk, despite the fact that it is inherently less efficient and generally less effective.
Nonetheless, this Dallas team is indeed made up of jump shooters. And a team that takes mostly jumpers is going to struggle when their shots aren't falling.
Long story short: The Mavericks need to up their getting-to-the-rim game.
At present, Mayo seems to be the only player regularly getting to the rim — this despite his penchant for hoisting threes. Speedy floor general Collison is obviously fast enough to get by his defender en route to the basket, but, more often than not, he looks to draw contact and hopefully a foul before he gets there. Kaman, a center, does much of his scoring at the rim, as you'd expect. But even he drifts away — along the baseline, usually — to take jumpers.
Veteran swingman Carter is one of the main culprits here, too. Although he's currently connecting on 43 percent of his long twos, his penchant for hoisting jumpers creates a model that will likely trend throughout the whole team. During the first half of each game this season, Carter is shooting 47.1 percent. That number declines dramatically in the second half and in overtime. Here, he shoots 30 percent.
Anyway, the moral here? Jumpers don't mix well with tired legs.
The folks at Grantland ran an article about the shooting efficiency of new Houston Rockets star guard James Harden not long ago. The takeaway of that piece was a graphic detailing Hardenâ€™s shot selection. It showed off the fact that the vast majority of Harden's shots either come from in or around the restricted area or from behind the three-point arc.
Few, if any, of his shots come from The Carter Zone.
So, yes, it would behoove the Mavs to adopt a similar style of scoring within their free-flowing offense. They already take plenty of threes — and make a lot of them, as mentioned above — but they must begin to eliminate the long two from their arsenal. Often times, these are shots that are settled for and highly contested. That's not a scenario that benefits the team much, even if the shot goes in.
Still, so long as those shots keep falling, the team will gloss over the danger that these field goal attempts possess.
And yet that's not the only problem facing the Mavericks. The team's continued poor rebounding is, as we've said before, a major problem. And, listen, we're going to continue to discuss it until the problem goes away.
The fact is, the Mavericks are simply not a good rebounding team. Custodian 2.0 (Troy Murphy) was brought in to help alleviate their rebounding issues, but in the 10 games he's played, his average of four rebounds per game has been less than spectacular. This is true for every Mav not named Kaman or Marion, though. And, because of it, Dallas has an offensive rebounding percentage of 21.4, which places them 29th in the league, and a defensive rebounding percentage of 69.8, which ranks the team 28th.
There are only 30 teams in the NBA.
These deficiencies were plainly on display in the team's recent loss to Golden State. The Warriors collected 59.1 percent of the available rebounds — including 34.6 percent of the rebounds resulting from their own missed shots. Dallas shot the ball better during that game, but when an opponent keeps getting second-chance opportunities, they're difficult to beat. It's simple math.
The really frustrating thing? The Mavericks are excelling in opponent field goal percentage. Teams are shooting an effective field goal percentage of just 46.7 against Dallas — the sixth best mark in the NBA. But even though teams are shooting poorly against the Mavericks, they're rewarded with more scoring opportunities because they continually beat the Mavs on the glass.
Yes, the Mavericks have problems — one glaring and the other festering beneath the surface.
And it seems as though Rick Carlisle has done almost everything in his power to address the rebounding concerns, albeit to no avail.
But the long jumpers present another problem. Call them the fiscal cliff or the mortgage bubble, if you like. When these shots stop falling, the wheels might come off. Thankfully, it's the easier of the two issues to solve. Tweaks in the offense and better movement — both by players and of the ball — should lead to better looks.
If nothing else, it sure is nice to know that the team's management hasn't overacted at this point like some other teams have. A record of 6-6 is nothing spectacular. But it isn't so bad considering the injuries the Mavs have endured thus far.
Plus, hey, we still have the same coach we had when we started the season. And that's a good thing, without a doubt.
Rick Carlisle photo via WikiCommons.