Not Imitating Last Year is Bad for the Mavs

The Mavericks went after Harrison Barnes in free agency because they needed to get younger. But the winless Mavericks are still hampered by their identity: their best player is 38 years old. With the exception of 3-point percentage (16th) and points allowed (19th), the Mavs are near the bottom of every category that matters. They are 24th in pace. 25th in field goal percentage. 28th in free throw attempts. 24th in offensive rebounds. 25th in defensive rebounds. 25th in assists. 21st in steals. 20th in blocks. 27th in field goal defense and next to last in 3-point defense.

How does this compare to last year when they didn’t have Barnes or Andrew Bogut and didn’t start the season 0-4? (Last season they started the year 2-2. Their first 4+ game losing streak was in March).

In 2015-16, the year they went to the playoffs, the Mavericks were 22nd in pace. So even with young Barnes they are worse this year. Their offensive rating was better, 11th. Their defensive rating was better, 17th. They were 20th in shots made, better. They were 21st in free throw attempts, better. They were 26th in offensive rebounds, worse. They were 9th in defensive rebounds, incrementally better. They were 18th in assists, better. They were 26th in steals, significantly worse. They were 29th in blocks, that was worse too.

But here is the killer metric. Last season, the Mavs were 15th in field goal percentage defense and 9th in 3-point percentage defense. Not so this year; they linger at the bottom of the pile, worse than Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets. That is why the Mavericks are losing games. They can’t stop shooters. They have no impact on perimeter play. They are giving wide open looks and are allowing skilled scorers to do what they do. No one is uncomfortable except the Mavs when the game is over and they are losers.

The Mavs scored 121 points in the opener in an exciting overtime game in Indiana and since then they haven’t scored 100 points. At Utah, their anemic 81 points was emblematic of their problems. The Mavs can’t compete offensively if 38 year old Dirk isn’t his usual 17 point self and that was the point of Harrison Barnes, sliding the offensive load away from Nowtizki. A 38 year old cannot be your best player, not in this fast league with the majority of talented players under the age of 30.

The Mavs have only cracked the 20+ assist mark once, in their overtime game. They have given up 52%, 46%, 35% and 48% from the three point line.

Against the Pacers Myles Turner and Paul George had 55 points and shot 71% from three. Against Houston in the home opener, James Harden and Trevor Ariza had 53 points and shot 56% from three. Against Utah, George Hill and Rodney Hood had 47 points and shot 60% from three.

Harrison Barnes was the younger, shinier more misunderstood version of Chandler Parsons. But last season, Parsons defensive rating was 108 and Barnes is 113. Deron Williams defensive rating last year was 109. This year it is 114, the worst on the team. Andrew Bogut and Zaza Pachulia have the identical defensive rating of 104. Dirk’s defensive rating is unchanged.

On offense, Wesley Matthews production is down. He is shooting 31.3% and 23.7 % from three, both career lows. Matthews is playing a career high in minutes, 38.3. But his 3.8 rebounds is a career high.

J.J. Barea is shooting 37%, the second lowest of his career. His 38% from three would be great for your average player but it is the second lowest of his career. Seth Curry is shooting 25% from three which has always been the knock on Steph’s younger brother and why he wasn’t drafted. Could he get his shot off?

Dirk Nowitzki is falling into that Kobe Bryant end of the career territory. He is shooting 36.4% and 28.6% from three, all career lows. He has only played in two games. His assist numbers harken back to his rookie year and that’s not a good thing. Bu his rebounds are steady at 6.5 and his steals are up as are his blocks. If he remains a 15.5 point scorer that will be the lowest of his career since his rookie year.

Half of the Mavs roster is 30 years old or older. Of the players who log 20 minutes or more, Harrison Barnes is the only young one, 24. Age is infecting them. They don’t have the foot speed or the quickness. The league is younger and the Mavs are trying to stay relevant and in the thick of things with a Rick Carlisle defense that has been all imagination and not much substance.

So far, this early in the season, the Mavs are struggling and it gets worse, not better. Tonight, they have to deal with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and a young, quick Blazers team. The Warriors are coming up next week, the second game of a back to back in California (Lakers are first). The Mavs will play the Celtics, Spurs, Clippers, Cavs and Spurs again before December.

This is the NBA. No one feels sorry for the Mavs trying to figure things out. Phil Jackson has a rule. You don’t know what kind of team you have until game 20. Can the Mavs find a way to silence perimeter shooters by then?

There are only two winless teams in the West, the Mavs and Pelicans. The Pelicans have injuries and will get their roster back in December. In December, the Mavs will become a much clearer picture. Last year’s results or a new, dark day?


photo via llananba