Are Mavs Better Than They Were A Year Ago?

We've been here before, have we not? Start of March. New additions to the lineup. A Mavs hot streak (which continued Tuesday in Philly). Let's compare last year's sizzling-entering-March Mavs to this year's sizzling-entering-March Mavs. … and find Five Key Categories of Improvement that might give you hope that this year things CAN be different …

This year's Dallas Mavericks entered March with a winning percentage of 0.729, which was third best in the league, while last year at the same time they had a winning percentage of 0.671, which was fourth best in the league.

This year's numbers just got better -- 17 wins in 18 tries, a 44-16 record and a .733 winning percentage -- thanks to Tuesday's 101-93 win at Philly.

This win is just part of the picture, of course. (And given that Tyson Chandler exited the game a minute before halftime with what looked like an ugly ankle sprain, the part of the picture isn't completely gorgeous.) But let's use the game as a tool for study of this year's team ... and let's look at what we think are Five Key Categories of Improvement: …

1) Year-to-Year Offense

2009-2010

2010-2011

Off Rtg

109.2

109.7

Rank

10

8

eFG%

0.506

0.524

Rank

12

3

TO%

0.123

0.133

Rank

4

17

Off Rbd%

0.243

0.235

Rank

26

27

FT/FGA

0.226

0.221

Rank

15

24

Are this year's Mavs better offensively? We see that they are slightly better, scoring 0.5 points more per 100 possessions. This is a combination of a huge improvement in shooting (that has them ranked third in the league in effective FG%) and steps backward in regard to turnovers (dropping from 4 th in the league to 17th) and free-throws per field goal attempt (dropping from 15th to 24th). The Mavs have been sloppier with the ball, haven't gotten to the line as much, and have shot at a much better percentage. This has led to a slight improvement on the offensive end, which could be drastically improved if they can cut back on their turnovers.

The Application in Mavs-over-Sixers:


It's very difficult to argue against a team that almost always wins when it scores 100 points ... and nowadays, almost always scores 100 points.

Dallas' record when it reaches the century mark is now 33-2. Against a Sixers team that brings a high level of defensively intensity, Dallas shot 53.2 percent.


Smile

The two offensive anchors are unchanged from previous seasons: Dirk and Jet. And there they were again against Philly, the pair combining for 11 of Dallas' 22 fourth-quarter points. Our man Mark Followill did the research on this: Coming into the game, the Nowitzki/Terry duo ranked second in the league in terms of fourth-quarter scoring, with 12.7. Topping them? Only Lebron James/Dwyane Wade at 13.1 points.

In the final moments of this game, Dirk recorded a One-Legged Euro Lean-Back on the offensive end ... and then got a block (while whistled for a foul) that ended with Iggy going to the line ... and missing both FTs. Meanwhile, Terry notched a huge steal and an uncontested dunk. The Sixers were within 92-91 with 1:41 left when the consecutive baskets by Nowitzki and Terry made it 96-91.

Nowitzki finished the game with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Jet had a season-high 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting with four assists.

"My motor was at a high level,'' Jet said, and generally speaking, that is the case for the offense of the 2010-11 Mavs.


More from Jet, with Followill, on FOX:


2) Year-to-Year Defense

2009-2010

2010-2011

Def Rtg

106.3

105.4

Rank

12

12

Def eFG%

0.495

0.489

Rank

15

11

Opp TO%

0.136

0.129

Rank

12

21

Def Rbd%

0.737

0.744

Rank

15

14

Opp FT/FGA

0.206

0.201

Rank

6

3

Are the Mavs better defensively? We see that they are almost a full point better per 100 possessions on the defensive end, but with league-wide improvement it has left them still ranked 12th. This is a combination of holding their opponents to a lower shooting percentage (jumping from 15th to 11th), keeping them off the free-throw line better (moving up from 6th to 3rd), having slight improvement in defensive rebounding (going from 15th to 14th), while dropping from 12th to 21st in regard to forcing turnovers. The Mavs are better defensively but improvements need to come by forcing more turnovers and keeping their opponents off of the offensive glass.


The Application in Mavs-over-Sixers:


We'll just pluck out one area from this game where Dallas seemed more fortified than ever: The Sixers are an "easy-basket'' team. That is, they get to the rim with Iggy and Brand and company. Indeed, in the last 19 games -- as Philly has turned around its season and moved into position to be a playoff team -- the Sixers had averages 45 points in the paint per game.

We note above that an area of improvement for Dallas this year still has to do with controlling the interior? Fine. Philly scored just 28 points in the paint in this game.

3) Year-to-Year Center

2009-2010

Haywood

Dampier

Minutes

26.5

23.3

Points

8.1

6.0

Rebounds

7.4

7.3

Off Rbds

2.8

2.3

Blocks

2.0

1.4

Steals

0.3

0.3

FGA

3.1

2.4

FGM

5.6

3.9

FG%

0.564

0.624

FTA

1.8

1.1

FTM

3.1

1.8

FT%

0.575

0.604

2010-2011

Chandler

Haywood

Mahinmi

Minutes

28.2

17.3

7.7

Points

10.5

4.2

3.4

Rebounds

9.5

4.7

2.0

Off Rbds

2.8

1.6

0.8

Blocks

1.1

0.9

0.2

Steals

0.5

0.1

0.2

FGA

3.7

1.7

1.1

FGM

5.7

3.0

1.8

FG%

0.652

0.562

0.582

FTA

3.1

0.9

1.3

FTM

4.0

2.4

1.6

FT%

0.769

0.362

0.831

2009-2010

2010-2011

Minutes

49.8

53.2

Points

14.1

18.1

Rebounds

14.7

16.2

Off Rbds

5.1

5.2

Blocks

3.4

2.2

Steals

0.6

0.8

FGA

5.5

6.5

FGM

9.5

10.5

FG%

0.579

0.619

FTA

2.9

5.3

FTM

4.9

8

FT%

0.592

0.663

So has the center position improved this year? Absolutely. In four more minutes of playing time per game, the Mavs center position has scored 4 more points per game, grabbed 1.5 more rebounds, shot 4% better from the field, shot 7% better from the free-throw line, and shot 3 more free throws per game. They have blocked 1.2 less shots per game however. Overall though the center position has been a vast improvement even with Haywood's inconsistent and too-often uninspired play.


The Application in Mavs-over-Sixers:

So is it just TY?

This game suggests it is not just TY.


Smile

Haywood has been allowed to participate in four of the Mavs' last five games. He's been quite effective in each, including here, where he contributed seven points, four rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes of relief of Chandler. TY's condition is not known as we write this. But the Mavs have some reason to be confident at the center position when he is OK ... and for the upcoming schedule, anyway (Indy, Memphis, Minny) some reason to believe that Big Wood and Ian Mahinmi are up to this.

After the game, coach Rick Carlisle praised the two backup bigs for their solid work. Such comments are part of the proper care and feeding of Brendan, for sure, whether he's the No. 1, 2 or 3 guy.

4) Year-to-Year Minutes

2009-2010

2010-2011

Change

Nowitzki

37.5

34.2

-3.3

Kidd

36

33.5

-2.5

Terry

33

32.1

-0.9

Chandler

N/A

28.2

N/A

Marion

31.8

27.5

-4.3

Stojakovic

N/A

22.3

N/A

Barea

19.8

20.7

+0.9

Beaubois

12.5

17.8

+5.3

Haywood

26.5

17.3

-9.2

Have the Mavs done better at resting their veterans for the playoffs? Absolutely. Dirk is playing 3.3 less minutes, Kidd is playing 2.5 less minutes, Terry is playing 0.9 minutes less, and Marion is playing 4.3 less minutes. It seems that the older veterans on the team will be rested for the playoffs and therefore should have more of their legs than they did last year.


The Application in Mavs-over-Sixers:

Kidd remains the measuring stick here, and he logged a game-high 36:50. That is an indication that the game was a wrasslin' match ... and that's not a bad thing, just reality.


Smile

So Kidd is required to be in the game at the end ... and thank goodness he was, for it was the about-to-turn-38-year-old who grabbed the final rebound to seal the deal ... a rebound that gave him 10 of them to go with his 13 points and his 13 assists. That's his 107th career triple-double as he's behind only Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138) in career triple-doubles.

"J's unbelievable,'' Terry said. "He turns back the clock on us every night.''

The clock doesn't need to be "turned back.'' It just can't be allowed to be used up needlessly. In Philly, Kidd and 37 minutes ... and 13/13/10 ... was very much needed.

5) Year-to-Year PER (Player Efficiency Rating)

PER

2009-2010

2010-2011

Change

Nowitzki

22.9

23.6

+0.7

Chandler

12.5

18.9

+6.4

Marion

14.7

16

+1.3

Terry

16.5

15.9

-0.6

Kidd

17.2

15.2

-2.0

Barea

12.8

14.7

+1.9

Stojakovic

12.4

14.7

+2.3

Haywood

16.1

10.9

-5.2

Beaubois

18.5

10.7

-7.8

So are the Mavs individual players playing more efficiently this year?

Dirk, Chandler, Marion, Barea, and Stojakovic are all performing more efficiently. Chandler has by far the greatest improvement of the bunch.

Terry, Kidd, Haywood, and Beaubois are all performing less efficiently. Roddy B has had only a few games back from missing months of basketball and so his dip is probably artificial. Haywood has taken a big step back from last year and it with Kidd's drop in shooting he has also slipped.


The Application in Mavs-over-Sixers:

Because this team can be so confident in what it will get from first-team stalwarts Dirk, Kidd and TY, it becomes about the individual work of their supporting cast. The bench has been magnificent; coming in, during the 16-1 run, the Mavericks got 49.2 points per game from their bench … that's about 10 points more than their outstanding average. Here they get 54 points -- and manhandle Philly's similarly productive bench, limiting it to 29 points. That's not just Jet ... that's JJB and the centers and not least of all, Shawn Marion.

"Anybody on our team is capable of going out there and having a big night,'' said 'Trix, who got 30 minutes off the bench and was good for 10/10. "It just so happened it was Jason and Jason on this night. We have so much experience that any one of us can do it on any given night and that gives us added confidence as a group."


Smile

The record is 44-16. The big pieces are real. The improvement is there, and we wonder if the further difference can be made with help from the "smaller'' pieces. Haywood can be superior to what Damp was a year ago. … if he can play at a more consistently inspired level. The same goes for Roddy B, who, if he can be get his legs back under him and earn Carlisle's trust, can be a far greater than he was a season ago.

"This was another dress rehearsal for the playoffs,'' Kidd said of the win at Philly. "San Antonio is playing extremely well. So are the Lakers. We have to keep playing consistent basketball, especially as we get closer to the playoffs."

Five Key Categories of Improvement … and still room for more.



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