The Dallas Mavericks were eliminated from playoff contention this season.
It is shocking how one year can completely change your outlook on a roster, coach and organization. One season ago, the Mavericks were feeling immaculate vibes and knocking teams out of the playoffs. To present day, Dallas knocked themselves out of playoff contention.
The Mavericks were half a game out of a play-in spot and ruled out Kyrie Irving and four key rotation players against the Chicago Bulls. Luka Dončić was scheduled to play just one quarter as it was “I feel Slovenia” night. The organization decided to prioritize their draft odds when faced with elimination.
This season was filled with few highs and many lows. Poor defense, multiple injuries and being at the bottom of the league in rebounding were obstacles the team could not overcome, but Kidd played a vital role in the Mavericks’ underachieving season.
It is a weird to see this team not make the playoffs after the Western Conference Finals run they accomplished last season. It was a remarkable season and a major step forward in the right direction. Dončić finished fifth in MVP voting, the defense ranked seventh and Jason Kidd tied for seventh among voting for Coach of the Year award.
The organization took a major step back this season. Dallas will watch other teams compete for a championship, while figuring out the next steps for the franchise.
Despite the underachieving season, Jason Kidd’s status as head coach doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. GM Nico Harrison discussed Kidd’s future in a radio interview on 97.1 The Freak with the Ben & Skin Show, stating “He’s still the guy.”
Mark Cuban has since echoed his support for Kidd remaining as the Mavericks head coach.
Kidd signed a four-year deal in 2021 and he holds a 89-73 record in his first two seasons with Dallas.
Kidd thrives at player relationships, development and empowerment.
You see the growth in current players like Josh Green and Jaden Hardy over the course of the season. The young players developed their game under Kidd and look for prominent roles next season. Former players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jalen Brunson grew their games with Kidd to become top-tier players in the league.
“We have one of the greatest guys to play the game leading us as a head coach [Jason Kidd]. We got some great coaches that really demand excellence out of themselves, and demand excellence out of us. It’s a great relationship that we have.” Kyrie Irving stated on his relationship with the Mavs head coach.
Kidd has built respect around the league and you can listen to complimentary remarks from former players he has coached.
“Jason Kidd unlocked something in me that I didn’t think would happen that fast. When the playoffs hit, he pushed me to a new level. Both coaching staffs I had [in Dallas] were amazing.” Jalen Brunson said of his former head coach.
Antetokounmpo was devastated when he was made aware of Kidd being fired by the Milwaukee Bucks.
James hated to see Kidd leave the Los Angeles Lakers to take Mavericks head coach position. Kidd won a championship as an assistant coach for the Lakers. James credits Kidd for teaching him patience and sees him as the “only person alive who sees the game of basketball with his level of clarity.”
Kidd pushed for player empowerment when he arrived in Dallas and created a “Leadership Council”, in which three captains communicate different topics in meetings with the coach. Those captains were Luka Dončić, Tim Hardaway Jr. and former player Kristaps Porziņģis. Dwight Powell filled the vacancy in the council. Kidd pushed for this board of players to give them a voice and represent their teammates when issues or discussions need to take place with the coaching staff.
Kidd allows his players the freedom on the court to manage the game and withstand opposing team runs. Former coach Rick Carlisle was the opposite as he wanted the gameplan executed and would call many timeouts if things fell off the strategy.
Kidd and Carlisle are the opposite ends of the spectrum on coaching. Kidd is a player’s coach and Carlisle was an Xs and Os coach. Last season, Kidd’s strategy worked because it allowed players to reach their full potential on the court and increased chemistry in the locker room. This season, the structure from Carlisle’s approach is missed which leads to Kidd’s weaknesses.
Kidd struggled this season at game adjustments, keeping leads and timeout management.
His rotations were inconsistent and the handling of Christian Wood’s role this season was a blemish on the season. The Mavericks and Wood played their best this season when he started for the team, but Wood could never stay in the lineup as Kidd liked him off the bench for majority of the season.
Kidd hasn’t had a consistent starting lineup, rotation or closing lineup all season. One consistent player in the starting lineup is Dwight Powell. The stern decision to keep him in the starting five is questionable, when the team is at the bottom of the league in rebounding rim protection. Opposing teams targeted Powell at the beginning of games by attacking the paint to capture early leads. When the Mavericks did have a lead, the coaching staff struggled to keep them.
Blown leads were an issue for the Mavericks this season. Kidd’s inability to keep leads can be seen below in the breakdown of the Mavs 44 losses.
17 losses: 0-5 point leads
12 losses: 6-9 point leads
11 losses: 10-15 point leads
2 losses: 16-20 point leads
2 losses: 21+ point leads
The Mavericks finish the season at 38-44. Dallas would be 45-37 if they kept roughly half of their 10+ points leads, which would be 4th seed in the Western Conference.
When you break it down further, the Mavs could be 42-40 if the team held on to the four 16+ leads, which would be tied for 8th seed. These type of meltdowns fall on the coaching staff.
Kidd’s timeout management was poor this season, which ties into the blown leads. Kidd implemented a Phil Jackson-like strategy in regards to calling time outs, he wants to build trust within his players to withstand runs. This worked last year when he had Brunson, who was an extension of the coaching staff on the court and natural leader. It was not a form of success this season.
“You can’t ask the coach to always call a timeout. We believe in the team to execute. Sometimes you have to put the ball in the basket to stop a run… If you’re not getting stops on the other end, it’s a blow out.” Jason Kidd on timeout management.
The post game press conferences has been a show for headlines, to say the least. Kidd’s lack of urgency is visible and his calm nature during the downward spiral this season has shown comfort in his position.
“I’m not the savior here, I’m not playing, I’m watching, just like you guys…” Jason Kidd on not calling timeouts during the opposing team runs.
Kidd’s Assessment on his Coaching
After the Mavs were eliminated, I asked Kidd what areas could him and the coaching staff have been better at this season.
“I think we can improve on everything. Look at the defensive schemes, understanding the offensive schemes putting players in better positions…” Jason Kidd opened his response to my question.
At this point during his response, I thought I had something, I thought we were all witnessing Kidd starting to take accountability for his coaching this season. Throughout the season, Kidd has pointed the struggles within the team to the players. Whether that be injuries, not playing defense to stop opposing runs, not being able to make shots and the chemistry amongst the new players needing patience.
Then the response instantly pivoted back to the players.
“…This roster, it’s always dictated on the roster so we got til the roster because there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t back.”
Kidd once again brought up the players in a response improvements he could have made as a coach from what he learned this season, so he’s better prepared next season. Which completes the full circle on what a player’s coach needs, talent at the highest level to succeed. An Xs and Os coach, can make adjustments during games and game plan accordingly against the opposing team.
You see how a year can change everything. The Mavericks were 52-30 last season and captured the 5th seed in the West, eventually reaching the Western Conference Finals. Dallas had an elite team defense with shooters surrounding Dončić and Brunson.
The Mavericks end the season as the 11th seed at 38-44 as they figure out the next steps of this franchise heading into the offseason. With the addition of Irving, there is a chance of a light being at the end of the tunnel for the Mavericks. Keeping him in Dallas will be the reoccurring theme over the next three months.
“These two are meant to be together, it just takes time.” Jason Kidd stressing patience with Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.
All roads point to Irving’s decision as he becomes a free agent this summer. The front office’s ability to re-sign the eight-time All-Star and building the roster around Irving and Dončić will be the top two priorities this offseason.