Writer: Caleb Akpan
No one expected the Dallas Mavericks to have a good record going into this season, and no one’s surprised that they’re currently 16-32, good for 14th in the Western Conference heading into February. What might be shocking is that if you give a little bit deeper into the numbers, this record becomes a bit confusing.
For starters, the team’s offensive rating sits at 107.0 points per 100 possessions, good for 16th in the league and above teams like San Antonio or Boston. It’s not great by any means, but it’s completely passable and would usually be enough to generate some additional wins, at least more than the third least in the league, and they have a lineup to back that up.
At one point, Dallas’ 5-man rotation of JJ Barea, Yogi Ferrell, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Powell had a better offensive rating than Golden State’s starters. That’s right, the same Golden State Warriors currently going through arguably the greatest dynasty in NBA history was being outplayed by a three-guard lineup featuring two of the shortest players in the league, a 39 year-old, and a player some NBA fans probably haven’t even heard of. Even now, that Mavericks’ lineup currently sits just a point below the Warriors’ famous “Death Lineup” featuring Andre Iguodala.
Dallas Sports Fanatic
The player names might not ring the same bells as in the Bay, but it’s clear Dallas’ offense isn’t a major issue with shooters like Wes Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki and a young playmaker in Dennis Smith Jr. beginning to take charge. There has to be something going wrong if their record is so poor though, and that problem may lie in the defense…..except when you check the numbers, it’s the same results as with the offense: simply average. At 108.8 points per possession, they sit at 17th in the league, higher than teams like Minnesota, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Cleveland, all four firmly in the playoff race while Dallas prepares for the lottery once again.
Statistics say the Mavericks should be around .500 instead of below 20 wins. They’re average on both ends of the floor when it comes to the typical rating system, commit turnovers at the lowest rate in the league (12.5 per game), are top ten in fewest fouls, and shoot well at the line when they get there themselves. There’s no statistic that says the Mavericks should be as bad as they are, at least until you look at how the team has performed in the clutch.
The good thing is that the Mavericks have played in the most “clutch” contests in the league at 31, competing game in and game out. The bad thing is that they’re only 7-24 in those games, an abysmal .225 win rate. In comparison, the Miami Heat have also played in 31 clutch games, but are 20-11, winning about 65% of those games. If the Mavericks could play to that level, they’d be 29-19, good enough for fifth in the West, though the standings would probably be a bit shaken up from where they are now if the Mavs were winning more.
Dallas’s struggles are strange to say the least, but they really emphasize the difference between a team building and a team ready for greater heights. The Mavericks are competitive, but they lack the players needed to close games. For some players like Dirk Nowitzki, the time to take games over in the fourth quarter has passed, while others like Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes are clearly still learning, at times showing flashes and at times showing nothing. Dallas seems to be on the right track, with encouraging play up until the last seconds of most games, they just need time to develop and grow. That clutch record can’t stay so low forever and they seem to be just on the cusp of getting it flipped around, don’t be shocked if they’re back to their old ways as soon as next season.