Image Credit: @MavsPR
The 2020-2021 Dallas Maverick’s season is underway and I for one could not be more excited! Luka Doncic & Company have begun their march to the 2021 Postseason with hopes of advancing to the 2nd round for the first time since the Championship season in 2011. It has been a long drought for Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks and in order for them to ultimately be one of the final four teams in a strong Western Conference we are going to need some good luck and positive vibes to get there. That’s where I come in, I am going to dig up at least one positive statistic for every current Dallas Mavericks player. While it can be easy to point fingers and criticize, especially when we start 0-2 on the season, I want to point out some of the strengths of these players and where the excel.
Coming off of a Sophmore season of averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game it is easy to find stats across the board to make Luka Doncic look unique and amazing because, well, he just is. I don’t want to highlight anything relative to his age because he is already to good for that. I don’t want to compare his overall stat lines to historical greats because that’s too generic. Instead I want to focus on a slightly surprising detail that highlights one of the best, if not THE best, skill that Luka has: his ability to get to the rim and finish.
Luka Doncic is a deadly scorer. Putting up nearly 29 points per game, good enough for 6th in the NBA last season, while shooting only 32% on threes and 76% on free throws shows that Luka’s best work is done inside the arc when he is putting pressure on the defense by attacking the basket. Listed at 6’7″ and 230 lbs, with magical handles, and elite basketball IQ Luka has the tools to overpower and bully smaller defenders but also the tools to toy with and skate around bigger players on the perimeter. No matter who is on Luka he can get to the paint where he is among the elite finishers in the NBA, regardless of position.
Luka Doncic had the 7th highest field goal percentage within 5 feet of the rim of any player in the NBA last season who attempted at least 6 shots from that area.
Not only does Luka have all the tools to get to the rim but he finishing those shots at a rate like the best big men in the League. We like to OOH and AHH over the dagger step back threes (pause to dream about Luka’s Playoff game-winner) but its his finishing ability that is his defining scoring trait that sets up the rest of his arsenal.
Last season 43% of Luka’s shots came from beyond the arc, 8.9 of his 20.6 attempts per game. As we already noted, he shot 31.6% on these nearly 9 attempts per game resulting in 8.4 points per game. On the 7 attempts per game Luka took from within 5 feet of the rim he shot 69% for 9.6 points per game. Less shots and more points from Luka attacking the rim as opposed to messing around so much on the perimeter. Now, what we really need is more shots at the rim for even more efficient points. I think Luka lets defenders off the hook too much by settling for off the dribble threes. By attacking more often, continuing to work the free throw line and putting opposing bigs in foul trouble, I think Luka can take his scoring to another level and contend for the scoring title for many years. I do think Luka is a good shooter, I would just like to see a few more of his three point attempts be open jumpers set up by some of his playmaking teammates that we will discuss in Part 2 of this series.
Before the torn meniscus in October, that put Porzingis on the sidelines for the remainder of the first round series with the LA Clippers, KP was on tear. In game 3 Porzingis dropped 34 points on 18 shots including 5 made threes, 13 rebounds, and a blocked shot. If not for the injury, the bubble Playoffs may have been MUCH different for MFFLs.
This type of performance should have been no surprise to those who watched KP leading up to the Playoffs. In his last 20 games of the Season, Porzingis had per game averages of 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks. This is the type of player that I think Porzingis is. Elite on both ends of the floor with real MVP level talent. There were questions about his rebounding coming into the 2019-2020 Season but he gave answers by grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game in his 57 games played.
KP’s ability to score in bunches, control the boards, and protect the rim is very unique. In fact, there have only been 7 players in NBA since the 1973-1974 season (since blocks have been recorded) that have gone for at least 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
Clearly I am cheating here by comparing 20 games from Porzingis to entire seasons from some of the greatest big men of all time but I do not think it is farfetched that KP can join this list, I actually think its likely. At 25 years old, paired with an All-NBA scorer and playmaker and an all-time great Head Coach, I only think the best is still ahead for KP.
Tim Hardaway, Jr.
NEWSFLASH: THJ can shoot. On 7.3 three point attempts last season Hardaway, Jr. shot an impressive 39.8%, good for 34th in the NBA. It may looks a little wild at times with the way he side-steps defenders, swings his legs, and turn his shoulder, but if he keeps knocking them down at this rate I am all for it.
Where THJ really excels is when he has his feet set, elevates straight up, and has a little space (shocker, I know). On spot-up jump shots last season Tim moves up to 10th in league on spot-up threes at 45%.
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||DAL||71||45.10%||4.2||1.27||5.6|
Not only is THJ top 10 in the League on spot-up three efficiency but he is the only one to shoot at least 45% on at least 4 spot-up attempts per game. Some of this is the Luka effect, letting Tim catch it in the right spot at the right time, and some of it is his ability to find the open spot and knock them down. Whatever mix of the two you want to believe the result is a really effective scoring duo. When Luka is attacking the rim, drawing a drove of defenders because he is so dominant in the paint, there stands THJ open on the perimeter ready to make them pay.
Dwight Powell is the longest tenured Dallas Maverick, now in his 7th season with the team, and has maintained his job as the starting Center for the Mavs this 2020-2021 season over the first 2 games. Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks have grown accustomed to Powell and are strong believers in what he does on and off the court. Last season DP started 37 of the 40 games he played in and was 5th on the team in minutes played at 26.5 per game. While many fans tend moan and groan when he is in the starting lineup, the fact is that Carlisle and his staff believe that they are at their best when Powell is on the floor. Believe it or not, the Rick Carlisle knows what he is doing and he was right! When you look at all of the lineup combinations that the Mavs had last season ranked by net points, Dwight Powell was part of the top 2-man, 3-man, 4-man, and 5-man lineups.
Top 2-Man Lineups by Net Points
|T. Hardaway | D. Powell||633:26:00||12.8|
|D. Finney-Smith | D. Powell||741:58:00||10.8|
|L. Dončić | D. Powell||742:53:00||10.5|
Top 3-Man Lineups by Net Points
|L. Dončić | T. Hardaway | D. Powell||456:55:00||15.2|
|D. Finney-Smith | T. Hardaway | D. Powell||457:15:00||14.3|
|L. Dončić | D. Finney-Smith | D. Powell||589:40:00||10.4|
Top 4-Man Lineups by Net Points
|L. Dončić | D. Finney-Smith | M. Kleber | D. Powell||176:09:00||28.4|
|J. Brunson | D. Finney-Smith | T. Hardaway | M. Kleber||142:06:00||21.7|
|J. Brunson | D. Finney-Smith | T. Hardaway | K. Porziņģis||214:15:00||16|
Top 5-Man Lineups by Net Points
|L. Dončić | D. Finney-Smith | T. Hardaway | M. Kleber | D. Powell||96:50:00||34.7|
|S. Curry | L. Dončić | D. Finney-Smith | T. Hardaway | M. Kleber||31:38:00||28.1|
|J. Brunson | D. Finney-Smith | T. Hardaway | M. Kleber | K. Porziņģis||81:33:00||23.6|
Dwight Powell’s 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game don’t get people excited. Aside from his insanely athletic and acrobatic alley-oops (which are awesome), there really isn’t much exciting about Powell’s game. Most of the time he catches the ball, turns and swings it or hands it off to the guard on the other side of the floor, sets the pick, and rolls to the basket. There is not much variation in what you are going to see from DP. He finishes around the rim with high efficiency (71% on two point shots) and will inevitably crash the glass and earn the Mavs a few extra possessions a game. It is hard to exactly pinpoint exactly what value Dwight Powell’s relentless effort has but it seems to show up in whether his team scores more than the other team or not, aka winning. To be in each of the top lineup combinations for the Mavericks last season says a lot.
MFFLs love Maxi, and rightfully so. His combination of athleticism and length, long range shooting and rim defense is what your are looking for in a modern NBA big man. About to turn 29 years old and coming into his fourth NBA season, Mavs fans including myself are looking for Maxi to continue to improve and play an integral part in the future of this Mavericks teams over the rest of his 4 year deal he signed in 2019.
Kleber has been getting better each year with the Mavs, ending last season with averages of 9.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 25.5 minutes per game. His main improvement last season was based on the continued growth of his 3 point efficiency, jumping from from 35% in his 2nd year to 37% in his 3rd campaign last year.
Regardless of his 3 point shooting, the best ability of Maxi Kleber last year was his availability. Maxi was the only player in the NBA to play 74 games last season. Now, the Blazers (74) and Mavs (75) were to only teams to actually play 74 games last season so he had a little advantage in winning the Iron Man award. Either way, in a year when Porzingis and Powell missed a ton of games and you were short on big men as it is, Maxi showing up ready to play every day is a big deal. Especially for a player who has had his own history of knee injuries in his mid 20’s. Over his first 3 seasons with the Mavs Maxi has played in 72, 71, and 74 games. Dallas is going to need his consistent presence in the lineup again this season if they are going to be at their best and compete at the top of the Western Conference.