In order for the Dallas Mavericks to sustain success carried over from last season, the team must improve in five key areas.
1) Improved Distribution of Offensive Production
The Mavs have continually struggled to get players, apart from Luka Dončić, to take initiative and create offense. It is something that they have not been able to find a solution for but consistently are aware of and address. After a game against the Phoenix Suns in May coach Jason Kidd said, “We’ve got to get other guys involved to help [Dončić]. It can’t just be him.” Similarly, this season following a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder he said, “We can’t just rely on Luka, someone has to step up.” Apart from this being a problem on offense when it comes to scoring, it is also a concern on the load that Dončić is taking on. He averaged 35.4 minutes per game, the 9th most in the NBA. These kinds of minutes are more typical for star players but the heavy reliance on him and effort put in during these minutes, can be a bigger concern for a player that is more susceptible to injuries. Mavs fans have already seen him have several minor scares and this is something else to consider further when it comes to the distribution of production and minutes.
2) More Timely Substitutions
One of the biggest topics this offseason was regarding the Mavs’ center position. After getting JaVale McGee and Christian Wood, many anticipated the way it would play out on the court and thus far it has been far from ideal because of the time of substitutions. Currently, Wood is averaging more minutes, points and rebounds than McGee. At the end of the day, the number of minutes you give a player is not as significant if they aren’t given at the correct time. It’s crucial that this season the right matchups are recognized, the pace of the game, and the amount of time left in the game, when substitutions are made. This season it has been frustrating to see the correct substitutions never occur or occur too late.
3) Making Free Throws
The Mavs need to make free throws if they want to win close games down the stretch as this cost them several close games last season. Luka Dončić in particular, really struggles at the line despite being able to easily draw contact from defenders. Last season he was 74.4% from the line and had the 5th most attempted free throws in the NBA. He came out strong in the Mavs’ first three games of this season, where he went 20-for-23 from the free throw line (87%). This consistency needs to continue with him and the rest of the team for continued success. The past three games, Dončić went 37-for- 51 from the free throw line (73.9%). So far, the Mavs have lost three games by a combined ten points where they missed a combined total of 15 free throws.
4) Less Reliance on the Three
This one doesn’t need much explanation as the Mavs were notorious for overshooting threes last season, when their inside presence was not able to score. It was a common crutch that this team fell back on and it is important that they don’t fall back into this habit. If they make shots, this isn’t an issue. The problem is when they are missing, the Mavs often don’t know when to stop. The key to this, is the team being able to gauge when to stop shooting and finding ways to get the offense going in a different direction. All this to say that sometimes they take, “live and die by the three” a little too far.
5) Closing Out Games in the Fourth Quarter
The final thing, blowing leads, especially in the fourth quarter, is obvious but another recurring issue for this Mavs team. We have already seen them do this several times this season, most recently against the Thunder when they lost a 16 point lead with four and a half minutes left in the game. A combination of factors are contributing to this happening but for a successful season they need to be recognized and resolved as soon as possible.
The Dallas Mavericks next game is Wednesday, November 2nd against the Utah Jazz.