Why the Mavs So Desperately Need Shooters

The NBA is absolutely three crazy these days. Guards, big guys, nearly anyone with a pulse is jacking up at least 1 or 2 three pointers each game. Advanced analytics combined with some of the best three point shooters the NBA has ever seen have combined to cause an explosion of long range shooting league wide.   The 5.1 threes that Steph Curry made per game this season is more entire teams could muster back in the 2000-2001 season. The Dallas Mavericks are no exception to this evolution, but in order to return to the Playoffs and start competing in the West, they are going to have to get the players to fit their style of play.

Each of the past 8 seasons the NBA average of three pointers attempted per game has increased.  Teams have gone from shooting 18.4 threes per game in the 2011-2012 season to 32 per game in 2018-2019.  While the amount of attempts have skyrocketed in recent years, efficiency has stayed consistently in the 34.9% – 36.2% range.

The Dallas Mavericks are certainly no exception to this rule.  Head Coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks have set a franchise records for three pointers both made and attempted each of the past 4 seasons.  Take a look at the top 5 seasons of three point attempts in Mavericks franchise history.  Not only have the Mavs followed the trend of hoisting a ton of long range shots, they have been among the league leaders each of the past 4 seasons as well.

Most Three Point Attempts per game in Mavs Franchise History
Mavs Rank NBA Rank Season 3P 3PA Per Game 3P%
1 4 2018-19 1022 3002 36.6 34.0%
2 4 2017-18 967 2688 32.8 36.0%
3 6 2016-17 878 2473 30.2 35.5%
4 5 2015-16 806 2342 28.6 34.4%
5 1 1995-96 735 2039 24.9 36.0%
Average 439 1241 15.1 34.0%

The only problem is that the Mavs have only made the Playoffs once in these last 4 years which was the 2015-2016 season when they were sent home by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games.  Just jacking up a whole bunch of threes doesn’t win games, you also need to make them…

If you look at the top 10 teams in three point attempts per game for the 2018-2019 season, only 3 teams did not make the Playoffs.  That was the Hawks, Mavericks, and Hornets.

2018-2019 Three Point Attempts Per Game Rank
Team 3PA 3PA Rank 3P 3P Rank 3P% 3P% Rank
Rockets 45.4 1 16.1 1 35.6% 10
Bucks 38.2 2 13.5 2 35.3% 14
Hawks 37 3 13 4 35.2% 16
Mavericks 36.6 4 12.5 7 34.0% 27
Nets 36.2 5 12.8 5 35.3% 15
Pistons 34.8 6 12.1 9 34.8% 22
Celtics 34.5 7 12.6 6 36.5% 7
Warriors 34.4 8 13.3 8 38.5% 3
Jazz 34 9 12.1 10 35.6% 11
Hornets 33.9 10 11.9 11 35.1% 17

Of the teams on this list that made the Playoffs the only team that did not shoot league average or better from three point range was the Detroit Pistons who were 22nd ranked in 3P%.  Unfortunately the Mavericks do not have the benefit of being in the Eastern Conference so in order to get to the playoffs, playing the style of basketball they have shown they are committed to, is to at least shoot league average from deep.

The Dallas Mavericks currently have 10 players that are either under contract, restricted free agents, or have player options.  If you combine the long range shooting of all of these players last season, they would average 35% three point shooting on 36 attempts per game while the league average for the 2018-2019 season was 35.5%.  This would put us close to the league average level, but not quite.  If the Mavs shot 35% they still would have been only the 21st best three point shooting team this season.

Mavericks under contract, restricted free agents, and player option.
Player Age 3PA 3P 3P%
Tim Hardaway 26 7.3 2.5 34.2%
Luka Doncic 19 7.1 2.3 32.4%
Kristaps Porzingis (2017-2018) 22 4.8 1.9 39.6%
Maxi Kleber 27 3.1 1.1 35.5%
D. Finney-Smith 25 3.1 1 32.3%
Justin Jackson 23 3 1.1 36.7%
Jalen Brunson 22 2.5 0.9 36.0%
Ryan Broekhoff 28 2.2 0.9 40.9%
Courtney Lee 33 1.6 0.5 31.3%
Dwight Powell 27 1.6 0.5 31.3%
Totals 36 13 35.0%

Looking at this list, the main culprit of dragging down the team’s three point percentage is Luka Doncic who shot 32.4% on 7.1 attempts per game. Now this is a bit unfair to Luka for several reasons. First, Luka is not afraid to launch a full or half shot at the end of a quarter.  He is one of the few NBA players who will risk hurting their shooting percentage to try to get a few extra points for their team.  Just about every game you will see a player take an extra dribble or launch long shot just after the buzzer to make it look like they are trying, IT DRIVES ME CRAZY! It is a cheap trick that shows a player cares more about their own stats than winning. I don’t want to see any Mavs doing this phantom half court heave, if you have an opportunity to get some points just take the shot!

Also, Being the best player on a not very talented team led to Luka having to try to do it all in many situations, leading to some low percentage shots.  But for a 19 year old Rookie who had the responsibility of creating his own shot in late clock situations, I think Luka did an exceptional job.  It is very rare for a 19 year old Rookie to shoot a good percentage from three point land.  There are some exceptions like Jayson Tatum (43.4%), Kyrie Irving (39.9%), Jrue Holiday (39.0%), Bradley Beal (38.6%) but there are also some great three point shooters that fared worse than Luka such as Carmelo Anthony (32.2%), Brandon Ingram (29.4%), JR Smith (28.8%), and Kevin Durant (28.8%).

The eye test tells you that Luka is a lethal shooter from deep, but I think it is fair to say he can be a bit more selective of the threes that he does take. Regardless, players tend to improve their three point shooting over their first several years in the league so I expect his efficiency to jump with simply more experience and practice.

Along with Luka, the Mavs have a lot of young guys and those that are just beginning to come into their prime such as Tim Hardaway Jr, Kristaps Porzingis, and Justin Jackson.  If these 4 core players can become more efficient with age then the Mavericks are on the fast track of returning to the Playoffs.

Rather than just hoping current players can improve their shooting, the Mavs have the ability to use some of their $30+ million in cap space to bring in proven deadly three point assassins.

Of course there are top level free agents that would drastically improve the Mavs sniping ability like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, Kemba Walker, Malcolm Brodgon, and DeAngelo Russell.

There are also some second tier free agents that may not have the all around game of the elite group but can really knock it down efficiently from deep.  This includes JJ Redick, Bojan Bogdanovic, Patrick Beverley, Danny Green, Thomas Satoransky, Wesley Matthews, and Seth Curry.

If that wasn’t enough there are also several big guys that have developed efficient floor spacing ability like Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Nikola Vucevic, Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Noah Vonleh, DeMarcus Cousins, and Dewayne Dedmon.

With such a plethora of shooting options available, a bunch of cap space, and team concept of being among the league leaders in threes per game I expect the Mavericks to be in play for several of these players. With Luka Doncic’s vision and skill to beam a pass anywhere on the court as the Mavs primary ball handler, surrounding him with shooters would give the Mavs a chance to have one of the most lethal offenses in the league.

Regardless, the idea of pairing the the playmaking and passing of Luka Doncic with the effortless stroke of Kristaps Porzingis has me giddy for next season to start.

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