Mavericks vs. Rockets

Raymond Felton scores 23 points with five other Mavericks scoring in double figures as Dallas wins it 110-98.

The Mavericks and most of the other teams in the NBA have only played 10 games this season, but at this point there has been enough of a sample size to get an idea of what Dallas is doing really well so far. Granted, the Mavs were without three starters in two games already this season and Chandler Parsons has only played a total of 90 minutes, so we haven’t quite seen this team at full strength to this point. Therefore, all of these numbers will probably change one way or another once Parsons gets back to playing major minutes — which, he hinted after the Mavs beat the Lakers on Friday night, is only a couple weeks away.

One thing’s for sure, though: The Mavs are getting it done as a group. There are plenty of talented players on the roster, but there’s not a “superstar” by conventional standards — that is, there’s not one guy on this team who carries a bigger burden of responsibility than anyone else. On any given night, credit can be given to numerous players, not just one. And that’s how the Mavericks want it.

All of that said, here are a few areas in which the Mavs have performed at a high level through the season’s opening leg.

HALFCOURT OFFENSE

The Mavs are tied for fifth in the NBA in points per possession in the halfcourt, according to Synergy Sports, at 0.930. Dallas has made it a point to push the ball up the floor quickly, getting the ball across the halfcourt line in three seconds or less more than 60 percent of the time, per the team’s analytics department, but that doesn’t mean the Mavs are attacking with reckless abandon. If an open shot isn’t available right away, Dallas is more than happy settling into a play and working the shot clock to get someone a good look.

Without one true “go-to” scorer on the roster, Dallas often swings the ball from one side of the floor to the other to throw the defense off balance before working the ball into the paint and going from there. And while the goal is to generate quick shots, the Mavs have been extremely efficient late in the shot clock. The club is third in the NBA in eFG percentage with between 7-4 seconds left on the shot clock (55.5) and sixth in eFG with between 4-0 left on the clock (45.7). By comparison, Dallas is 15th in eFG with between 15-7 seconds left on the clock (47.9), according to NBA.com, which considers that the “average” time for a shot to go up.

Scoring late in the shot clock is certainly a skill, and it’s not always luck. The San Antonio Spurs, for example, are considered the best team in the league at scoring in the final few ticks, as they use rapid ball movement and a ton of off-ball cutting to make the defense work for all 24 seconds. Similarly, while the Mavericks want to shoot the ball quickly, they aren’t averse to using every second at their disposal to beat teams at the long game. Playing quickly all the way through a possession also takes a toll on the opposing defense and can wear opponents out over the course of 48 minutes.

POST-UP PROWESS

No team in the NBA scores more efficiently than the Mavericks in the post (1.071 points per possession). Atlanta and Oklahoma City are the only other teams in the league averaging more than 1 point per possession in those situations, just to give an idea of how much better Dallas has been than everyone else.

Dirk Nowitzki is the main guy to thank for that superiority, as the German has shot 54.3 percent from the post this season, according to Synergy. But Deron Williams is shooting 60 percent and Charlie Villanueva has shot 83.3 percent so far as well, while Wesley Matthews has been able to turn his post-up chances into free throws nearly one out of every five chances.

The Mavs have worked in several post-up plays for Williams in particular every game, running other players off screens to give Williams some passing options. It’s not unlike what Dallas used to do with Jason Kidd in the past and Monta Ellis or Vince Carter more recently. According to SportVU, Williams is recording 0.4 assists per game out of the post — not a bad mark considering he only passes it out of the post 1.6 times per game. His teammates are shooting 50 percent on those passes, per Synergy.

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THREE-POINT DEFENSE

Dallas is allowing opponents to hit only 31.2 percent of their three-point attempts, the fifth-best mark in the league. By comparison, the Mavs were fourth-worst in that category last season, so that’s obviously a huge leap.

One of the old adages of the NBA is long shots produce long rebounds, which means it’s on the entire team to track those down. So far this season, the Mavericks have done a very good job of ending possessions off of long shots, gathering opponents’ three-point misses 82.2 percent of the time, according to nbawowy.com. That’s a very high rate, and one that has given Dallas plenty of chances to run the other way. So far this season the Mavericks have a 53.3 eFG percentage after collecting a defensive rebound, according to nbawowy, versus just a 45.7 eFG percentage after an opponent scores. The key to offense is defense.

It goes without saying, then, that forcing misses and getting stops translates to wins. Dallas is 5-3 this season when opponents shot 33.3 percent or worse from deep, according to Basketball-Reference, against just 1-1 when they shoot higher.

Going back to the beginning of the 2013-14 season, the Mavericks are 53-12 when opponents hit less than one-third of their long-range attempts, and just 46-56 when opponents shoot higher than 33.3 percent. There’s likely not a bigger indicator of whether Dallas will win or lose than that one.

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OTHER DRIBBLES…

  • Dirk Nowitzki is playing at an insane level. Read this to find out just how hot he’s been. He needs just 318 points to pass Shaquille O’Neal for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

  • Only two qualified players who haven’t started a game this season have a higher PER than Mavs backup big man Dwight Powell (22.4). He’s bested only by the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili and Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter, both of whom are considered premier offensive options off the bench. Powell is in good company to start the season.

  • The Mavericks are 9.0 points per 100 possessions better than their opponent when Raymond Felton has been on the floor this season, according to NBA Stats. The guard has been sensational in his second season with the Mavs, and it was his crunch-time play that ultimately put the Rockets away on Saturday night. He’s averaging 12.7 points per game in Mavs wins versus just 4.8 points in their losses. It’s too early and the Mavs are too deep to say Felton is the biggest X-factor on the roster, but when he’s influencing games in a positive fashion, the Mavericks are usually winning.

  • Dallas is 5-1 when its defense records at least 10 deflections, according to the Mavs’ analytics team, versus just 1-3 when the club fails to reach that threshold. The best performance of the season came against the Lakers, a game in which the defense recorded 20. Overall, the Mavs average 97.9 points allowed per 100 possession in games in which they record double-digit deflections, and that number climbs to 103.6 when they don’t. Positive activity affects games positively.

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