Mavs Friday Donuts: Trends At The Quarterpole

At 15-5, the Dallas Mavericks have come out off their transitional offseason scorching hot. With such a fever, it’s time for a checkup. In Mavs Donuts, I look at interesting stats that are defining this Mavs’ season, now at the quarter pole.



DONUT 1: Historic Offense

By almost any measure, this Dallas Mavericks offense is one pace to be one of the all-time greats. Leading the league in points per game at 110.3, their 115.7 points per 100 possessions would set the league record. (It’s worth mentioning, however, that the Raptors are right on their heels at 115.1 points per 100 possessions.)

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How have they managed such a feat while incorporating so many new pieces? The answer lies in efficiency, heady ball movement and a generous opening schedule.

DONUT 2: Efficiency

One of the surprising features of this offense is that it doesn’t play as fast as one would expect. No longer does Jason Kidd look to push the tempo nor do the old philosophies of Nellie Ball guide the Mavs, who only play at the 10th-fastest pace in the NBA.

How then do they squeeze out such disproportionate production? By concentrating on highly efficient shots at the rim and valuable three-pointers.

Punctuated nightly by so many Brandan Wright and Tyson Chandler alley-oops, the Mavericks 110 dunks leads the league by a wide margin. Further, Dallas ranks seventh in layups made this season.

However, Dallas’ average shot distance is the seventh-farthest from the rim in the league.

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The explanation for this lies in the fact that nearly 32 percent of all shots put up by the Mavericks this season are three-pointers. This mark ranks third-highest in the league, though they’re only sinking them at a league-average rate.

DONUT 3: Smart Ball Movement

Though Dallas lacks a top-shelf point guard this season, Rick Carlisle’s ‘flow’ offensive concept is still very much alive.

Dallas ranks fifth in the NBA in assists per game at 24.6. However, their leading assist-er, Monta Ellis ranks only 39th in the NBA, the lowest leader of any team save the woebegone New York Knicks.

Such a discrepancy indicates how Dallas has truly embraced Carlisle’s philosophy of offensive flow. Further, not only do the Mavericks pass the ball a ton, but they hardly turn it over. Indeed they are tied for the league lead in turnover percentage (a measure of turnovers per 100 possessions) at 10.5 percent.

DONUT 4: Soft Opening Schedule

Perhaps the NBA schedule-makers were being generous when they granted the Mavericks the third-easiest (prior to the Bulls game), strength of schedule.

Things will only get harder from here, but as the training wheels come off, Dallas is well-positioned to make serious noise this season because of their buzz-saw offense.

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It's worth noting that we went into Chicago with concerns. That worked out well. Then Dallas went into Milwaukee on the second night of a roadie back-to-back with Dirk resting. That worked out well, too.

DONUT 5: Defense: The Big Picture

But what about the D?

Prior to the Bulls’ double-overtime thriller, Dallas was surrendering 100.1 points per game, the 12th-best mark in the league. Further, Dallas’ average margin of victory is 8.74 points, a mark only the Warriors and Raptors can best.

The 106.6 points surrendered per 100 possessions by the Mavs’ defense is just league average. Coupled with such a high-powered offense, a merely-average defense can be a recipe for success.

However, areas of concern are beginning to take shape.

DONUT 6: Rebounding Woes

Bad news: Dallas ranks second-to-last in the entire league in defensive rebounding percentage, a measure of available rebounds secured by the Mavs while they’re on defense.

Good News: that’s actually an improvement compared to where they were last week.

OK, that actually sounds bad, too.

We knew Tyson Chandler would be asked to cover a multitude of sins this season, but he can’t grab every rebound (even though twice he's grabbed 20 in a game!) Barring trade acquisition of another Shawn Marion, a team-wide focus on securing the defensive glass is in order if Dallas is to make a serious run this year.

DONUT 7: Miscellaneous Defensive Numbers

Perhaps the reason Dallas misses so many potential defensive boards is the long caroms caused by the deep shots the Dallas D forces. Indeed, Maverick opponents’ average shot distance is the furthest from the basket in the league, at 13.7 feet. Perhaps it is the Chandler/Wright effect but the Mavericks simply do not allow many opponent shots to go up from 0-3 feet.

Further, Dallas opponents shoot a below-average .446 from the field on all shots.

Where Dallas gets into trouble is further out, where their small-ish wing defenders are routinely overpowered. Indeed, of all field goals attempted, Dallas’ opponents put up a league-high percentage of threes. By itself, this wouldn’t be such a problem if they weren’t burying them at such a killer rate. Indeed, the .397 shooting surrendered on the wing is second-worst in the league. Of particular concern are corner threes, where Maverick opponents are hitting over half their attempts (.514).

DONUT 8: Dirk Nowitzki’s “back” seat

While Monta Ellis drives to the basket or Wright/Chandler rolls to the rim to finish an alley-oop, Dirk Nowitzki sits quietly on the weak side, pulling his defender away from the play. This season, Nowitzki’s 17.5-foot average shot distance would be a career high. Part of this is by design, as he frequently sets an initial screen to set up his more athletic teammates’ devastating pick-and-rolls.

However, Dirk isn’t really slowing down in his age-36 season as his 27.1 percent usage rate is a hair above his career average.

Further, his 23.2 Player Efficiency Rating has him inside the league’s top-10, a spot he’s occupied every non-lockout season this millennium.

DONUT 9: Tyson Chandler Have it All

Though the tagline applies to his teammate, Tyson Chandler is being asked to do more this season than perhaps any other in his career. Though his player efficiency rating is only third-best on his team, it ranks among the dozen-best in the league, and was top-10 last week. Already a career-high, his 22.9 PER is All-Star caliber, though he will struggle to actually make the team in a loaded Western Conference.

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Already a plus rebounder, this season, Chandler is performing at near-freak levels. Leading the league in offensive rebounds, he also ranks fifth in defensive boards and second in total rebounds. His 21.7 total rebounding percentage is a career-best mark.

Chandler is getting it done on offense too, where his 10.9 points per game is the third-best rate of his career. Even for a big man, his .689 FG percentage is insane and, if carried over the whole year, would be the second-best rate all time.

The only problem? It’s not even the best rate in the NBA this season and not even the best on his own team.

DONUT 10: Brandan Wright: Efficiency Monster

Pick a category, seemingly any statistical category, and you’ll likely find Brandan Wright putting up either career-best or video-game-silly numbers. Averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, blocks, FG percentage, and blocks per game, Wright is perhaps coming into his own.

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More likely, however, is Carlisle is using the limited-but-still growing former lottery bust in a role that perfectly leverages his strengths. Still averaging less than 20 minutes per game, Wright makes his living getting easy buckets. To wit: 34 percent of all his shots are dunks and 71 percent of his makes are assisted.

Still, his game has undoubtedly grown. He’s become a much smarter player under Carlisle’s tutelage. He remains an elite-level pick-and-roll weapon and will be counted on to contribute much more should Nowitzki or Chandler miss extended time.

DONUT 11: The notable omissions

You'll note a pair of notable omissions as I go through the who's who at the quarter pole. Next week, I'll take a detailed Advanced-Stats look at Monta Ellis’ game, Chandler Parsons' adaptation and more.

For now, though, we've got loads of info on Monta for you here in DB.com Mavs News (type a name into the search box and away you go) and Mike Marshall has the latest analysis on Parsons' ups and downs here. ... with the Mavs Apple Moving DFW "Move Of The Day''!

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DONUT 12: The Final Word

Rick Carlisle opened the season by saying his Mavs' defense needed to be top-10 and then paired with a Dallas offense that we all knew was going to be top-something. We aren't there in the standings; 15-5 gets you nothing in the Southwest. But by surrendering 100.1 points per game (good for 12th-best) and by flirting with an all-time NBA-record of points per 100 possessions? would set the league record.

The Mavs are there. Rounding the quarter turn. And looking for more.

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