One Team, One Stat: Mavericks starters can't match up

NBA.com Global on Sep 30, 2018 07:59 AM
One Team, One Stat: Mavericks starters can't match up
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 23: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Dallas Mavericks grabs the rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 23, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Dallas Mavericks, who couldn't match up with their opponents' best.

THE STAT

The Mavs' most-used lineup - Dennis Smith, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Maxi Kleber and Dirk Nowitzki - was outscored by 14.8 points per 100 possessions.

THE CONTEXT

That was the worst mark (by a wide margin) among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.

In total, the Mavs' lineup was outscored by 93 points, the worst raw plus-minus among all lineups last season. And you don't rack up a minus-93 in 271 minutes without problems on both ends of the floor.

On offense, the lineup had an effective field goal percentage of just 49.5 percent, the third worst mark among the 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes. It shot poorly from the outside, and it didn't get to the basket or to the free throw line enough...

1. Its effective field goal percentage of 45.9 percent on shots from outside the paint ranked 60th among 67 lineups that took at least 300 total shots

2. It took only 27 percent of its shots in the restricted area, a rate which ranked 61st among those 67 lineups with at least 300 field goal attempts.

3. It had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 0.135, tied for the lowest rate among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.

On defense, the Mavs' most-used lineup allowed an effective field goal percentage of 57.3 percent, the third highest opponent mark among the 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes. It also forced a paltry 10.7 turnovers per 100 possessions, the third lowest mark among that same group.

Now, the Kleber lineup only played in 29 of the Mavs' 82 games. So it wasn't that much of a problem by itself. But really, the Mavs' core starters were generally bad together. The Mavs were outscored by 11.7 points per 100 possessions in 1,257 total minutes with Smith, Matthews and Barnes on the floor. That on-court NetRtg was more than twice as bad as any three-man combination that played at least 1,000 minutes together, and the trio's raw plus-minus of minus-288 was the worst for three-man combinations by another huge margin.

Smith, Matthews and Barnes aren't the three worst players in the league by any stretch, but going against opposing starting lineups, they just couldn't match up.

Smith has incredible bounce and helped the Mavs get to the basket more than they did before he arrived. But his effective field goal percentage of 34.6 percent on pull-up jumpers ranked 90th among 95 players who attempted at least 200. His overall effective field goal percentage of 44.6 percent ranked last among the 36 players with at least 1,000 field goal attempts.

Barnes' effective field goal percentage of 49.4 percent ranked 29th among those 36 players. The percentage of his shots that came from the restricted area or 3-point range were up from his first season in Dallas, but was still well below the league average.

Matthews was slightly more efficient, but still below the league average in regard to both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. And with those three guys on the floor, the Mavs allowed 113.0 points allowed per 100 possessions, a rate which would have ranked last in the league defensively.

Though the Mavericks' starters couldn't match up with those of their opponents, the team had some success with its second unit. Quite a bit, actually.

The Mavs built a bench around Nowitzki, who has started 1,575 of the last 1,583 games of his career (since being moved into the starting lineup late in his rookie season), but usually checked out five minutes into the first and third quarters, checking back in to start the second and fourth to play alongside the reserves.

And that's when the Mavs were at their best. Dallas outscored its opponents by 19.1 points per 100 possessions in 326 total minutes with J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrell, Nowitzki and Dwight Powell on the floor with either Devin Harris (prior to the Feb. 8 trade that sent him to Denver) or Doug McDermott (after he arrived in the same deal).

So while Nowitzki doesn't move very well anymore, the Mavs were still able to build a successful lineup around him. And it was actually best on the defensive end of the floor (in part because it played against other reserves). The Harris lineup allowed just 93.9 points per 100 possessions in its 231 minutes, the best DefRtg among the 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. It was also one of two lineups that played 200 minutes or more and recorded assists on at least 70 percent of its field goals.

Nowitzki will "likely" come off the bench this season, and that should be a relatively easy transition given last year's substitution pattern. Ferrell is gone from that second unit, but Harris is back (via free agency) and will re-unite with Barea, Nowitzki and Powell.

More good news is that the Mavs seem to have upgraded their starting lineup, with the additions of DeAndre Jordan and Luka Doncic, along with the development of Smith. Jordan will get them more shots in the restricted area, Doncic will allow Barnes to play more off the ball, and Smith should be a better shooter off the dribble after a summer of work.

Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).

MAVS NOTES - GENERAL

1. One of four teams - the Hawks, Bulls and Clippers are the others - that have seen a win decrease in each of the last three seasons.

2. Had the league's biggest differential between their "expected wins" (based on point differential) and their actual wins. Were 24-58 with the point differential of a team that was 31-51, in part because they were a league-worst 12-38 (0.240) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They ranked last in clutch offense and 29th in clutch defense.

3. Saw the league's second biggest increase in pace, from 94.2 possessions per 48 minutes (29th in the league) in 2016-17 to 97.5 (27th) last season.

4. One of two teams - Memphis (15-16) was the other - with a losing record (20-21) in games it led by double-digits. The Mavs also had the league's fewest wins (they were 3-49) in games they trailed by double-digits.

5. Have ranked last in rebounding percentage in three of the last four seasons.

6. Outscored their opponents by 58 points in the second quarter. Were otherwise a minus-307.

MAVS NOTES - OFFENSE

1. Saw the league's second biggest increase in the percentage of their shots that came from the restricted area, from 23 percent in 2016-17 to 27 percent last season, though the latter was still the lowest mark in the league.

2. Have ranked last in offensive rebounding percentage in each of the last two seasons and in the bottom 10 in each of the last nine.

3. Led the league in turnover percentage (just 12.5 per 100 possessions) last season and have ranked in the top 10 in 19 of the last 21 seasons.

4. Only 10.8 percent of their possessions, the league's second lowest rate, were in transition. The 1.03 points per possession they scored in transition also ranked in the bottom three.

5. 59 percent of their turnovers, the highest rate in the league, were live-ball turnovers.

6. Had the league's second biggest differential in their 3-point percentage from the corners (42.0 percent) and from above the break (35.0 percent).

MAVS NOTES - DEFENSE

1. One of four teams that has been a worse-than-average defensive team in each of the last six seasons.

2. Allowed their opponents to shoot a league-high 66.8 percent in the restricted area, but only 27 percent of their opponents' shots, the league's lowest opponent rate, came from the restricted area.

3. Saw the league's biggest drop in opponent turnover percentage, forcing 14.0 (17th in the league) last season, down from 15.7 per 100 possessions (first) in 2016-17.

4. 9.6 percent of opponent possessions, the highest rate in the league, were post-ups.

5. Allowed just 6.3 points per game, the league's second lowest mark, from pick-and-roll roll men.

MAVS NOTES - LINEUPS

1. Had the league's biggest discrepancy between aggregate bench NetRtg (plus-1.3 points per 100 possessions - 10th in the league) and aggregate starters NetRtg (minus-6.3 - 25th).

2. Among rotation regulars, the Mavs were at their best both offensively (109.6 points scored per 100 possessions) and defensively (102.8 allowed) with Devin Harris on the floor.

3. Matthews and Smith were two of nine players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a team that was at least 10.0 points per 100 possessions better with them off the floor than it was with them on the floor.

MAVS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL

1. J.J. Barea had a an assist-turnover ratio of 3.03, the second best mark (behind that of Chris Paul) among the top 50 players in usage rate.

2. Harrison Barnes had an effective field goal percentage of 55.9 percent on shots in the last four seconds of the shot clock, the second best mark among 45 players who attempted at least 75.

3. Barnes took 28 percent of his shots from 3-point range. That wasn't a career-high mark, but it was up from 17.3 percent last season.

4. DeAndre Jordan had an effective field goal percentage of 64.5 percent, the second best mark among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts last season. He was the only player with an effective field goal percentage of 70 percent or better in a quarter in which he attempted at least 200 shots, registering a mark of 70.6 percent in the third quarter.

5. 90 percent of Jordan's shots came from the restricted area and 99 percent (574/578) came from the paint. Those were both the highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.

6. In each of the last two seasons, Jordan has seen the league's biggest drop in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) among players with at least 500 field goal attempts. He went from 122 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field in 2015-16 to 74 in 2016-17 and just 54 last season.

7. Wesley Matthews is one of six players who have made at least 100 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers in each of the last five seasons.

8. Dirk Nowitzki had a usage rate of 20.6 percent last season. That was the lowest mark of his career.

9. Only five percent (37/758) of Nowitzki's shots came from the restricted area. That was the lowest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts. 44 percent of his shots, the highest rate among that same group of players, came from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line).

10. Nowitzki had an effective field goal percentage of just 50.1 percent in the first half of games, but 60.5 percent in the second half. That was the second biggest jump among 210 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each half.

11. Though Nowitzki in 77 games, he was only on the floor for 41 of the 170 minutes the Mavs played with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Six other Mavs played more in the clutch and Barnes attempted more than eight times as many clutch shots as Nowitzki did.

12. Dwight Powell scored 1.41 points per possession as a roll man, the best mark among players 63 with at least 100 roll-man possessions, according to Synergy tracking.

13. Powell allowed just 0.72 points per possession on isolations, tied for the best mark among 25 players who defended at least 100 isolation possessions. Jordan allowed 1.04, the worst mark among the same group.

14. Dennis Smith Jr. ranked second among rookies in usage rate, using 29 percent of the Mavs' possessions while he was on the floor.

15. Smith shot just 24 percent on non-restricted-area paint shots, the second worst mark among 126 players who attempted at least 100 shots in that range.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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