Deron Williams has thrived since returns of Dirk, Bogut

Deron Williams has been the best pick-and-roll point guard in the NBA this season.

That’s a bold claim to make, of course, especially if you’ve watched any of what James Harden has done this season in Houston, or what Steph Curry does every night, and the list goes on. There are a lot of terrific point guards in the league right now, and offenses rely more than ever on the spread pick-and-roll to generate points, and they are doing it efficiently — so efficiently, in fact, that the league has taken notice.

But yep, Deron Williams is the most efficient of them all to this point.

The Mavs point guard is creating 1.177 points per possession this season in possessions deriving from the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports. (In other words, when a possession begins with a pick-and-roll involving him as the point guard, and ends when either he or someone else shoots as a direct outcome of the play.) Of the 122 players in the NBA with at least 100 such possessions, Williams’ 1.177 PPP mark ranks at the very top of the list, and the gap between Williams and second-place Tony Parker, 0.079 PPP, is larger than the gap between second and 17th place.

Williams has long had a reputation for being one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the NBA. But what about this season is so different? How has his efficiency taken such a huge leap, up to 1.177 points per possession this season after just 0.932 last season?

Part of it has to do with his increased comfort level in general. This is the first season he’s played for the same head coach in two straight seasons since 2010, during his days with the Utah Jazz. Health could very well have something to do with it, as well. But any time you’re taking a point guard’s numbers into consideration, you must also consider the personnel around him. Are there shooters? Quality big men? Good spacing? All of those factors can make a significant impact on that player’s effectiveness. In the Mavs’ case, particularly since the returns of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut, Williams’ club has been able to check off every box for him. All he’s had to do is make the right decision.

Dirk Nowitzki’s nearly full-time switch to the center position has further opened up the offense. For nearly 20 years, he’s been a floor-spacing menace to opposing defenses, able to dictate the coverage simply by standing still on the wing or atop the arc. Until this season, though, he was doing it as a power forward almost 100 percent of the time. This season, however, nearly half his minutes have come at the 5, per Basketball-Reference.

What does that do for the offense?

Pulling a center 25 feet from the rim is like sticking a point guard down on the block: It makes him uncomfortable. No disrespect to the defense, of course, but it puts the offense at an overwhelming advantage to space the floor with good 3-point shooting at every position and then isolate the center in space. This is Tyson Chandler, still one of the top interior defenders in the league. But on the perimeter, he’s helpless against the Williams/Nowitzki 1-5 pick-and-roll.

That’s Mav-on-former-Mav crime right there. Chandler knows better than just about anyone how dangerous Nowitzki can be on the outside if left unguarded. Devin Booker slid over to contest the shot as best he could, but at 7 feet tall, the German wasn’t bothered.

Naturally, after seeing something like this on film, a center will think it’d be best to simply hug Nowitzki — as another former Dirk ally, Zaza Pachulia, does below — and hope someone else can stop Williams’ drive. The only problem, though, is typically when a guard penetrates, it’s the center’s job to contest. By pulling him from the lane, there’s no one to stop dribble penetration from reaching the rim.

This is playing in huge amounts of space, but Dallas can condense the floor to present even more difficult decisions for a center. In the play below, Nowitzki is the power forward but is guarded again by Chandler. Watch what happens as he sets a ball-screen for Williams and then back-pedals to the free throw line.

Chandler’s instincts, as well as basic defensive philosophy, tell him to abandon Nowitzki to stay in front of Williams. To hug Nowitzki here is to surrender a layup, guaranteed. There is simply not enough time for any other player to help against Williams’ drive. But Nowitzki escapes unguarded and disregarded to the mid-range, where he’s hit thousands and thousands of jumpers in his career. There’s no solution for the defense, either. If P.J. Tucker rotates too quickly to Dirk, Harrison Barnes will be all alone on the wing for an open 3.

The Mavericks have shown they can open the floor up even more than this, however. The higher the screen, the more space there is underneath for Williams to roam, and the greater the strain on the defense to scramble.

In the play above, Nowitzki sets his screen near midcourt. Williams then sprints toward Dragan Bender, Nowitzki’s defender, and puts him on his heels. Brandon Knight thinks he’s out of the play for a split-second, then briefly plays the passing lane, then finally catches up to Williams. By then, Nowitzki is comfortably standing 18 feet from the rim waiting for the pass.

That play above is the future of the NBA, in my opinion. James Harden already utilizes extremely high screens to get up to full speed by the time he’s reached the 3-point arc. As more and more athletic players reach the NBA, they’ll be able to cover more ground in fewer strides, so why not pull the pick-and-roll out to 40 feet instead of 30? (I don’t envy defenses.)

Andrew Bogut has shown, though, that you don’t need to set a screen 40 feet from the basket just to create an easy jump shot. Rather, all you need to do is set a monster screen and remove one defender from the play.

It doesn’t get much easier than that in the NBA.

Nowitzki and Bogut aren’t the only options in the pick-and-roll. Dwight Powell has scored 1.152 points per possession as a roll man this season, with that number trending upward. Harrison Barnes, meanwhile, has scored a ridiculous 1.246 PPP in 61 possessions as a roll man. He’s 33 of 55 from the field — yes, 60 percent — in those situations, with nearly all of them coming on jump shots, not dunks. The fade to the corner has become a favorite of his. He’s 20 of 34 on no-dribble jumpers in the pick-and-pop, per Synergy.

And things become unfair when the Mavs use both Barnes and Nowitzki in combination to set a double-screen, otherwise known as a drag screen, at the top of the arc.

Williams dribbles horizontally, parallel to the baseline, leaving it up to the Suns defenders to commit to one thing or another before making his move. Marquese Chriss initially switches off Barnes to slow Williams’ attack, but he’s under the impression that Eric Bledsoe will eventually get back over to help him. Bledsoe can’t leave Barnes open, though, and we already know there’s no way Chandler is leaving Dirk, which means once Chriss leaves Williams alone, he’s got a wide-open 3-pointer.

Williams was 4 of 5 from deep last night and is shooting 43.1 percent from beyond the arc in his last 12 games. During that time he’s scored at least 20 points six times and has dished out at least eight assists five times, including 12 last night.

There’s never been a question about Williams’ ability to read the defense and distribute the ball. Similarly, there’s never been a question about Nowitzki’s ability to shoot open jumpers. Bogut has been one of the biggest screeners in the league for a decade. Barnes has answered every question about his game and then some this season. So, naturally, when those players pair up, good things will tend to happen.

In Williams’ case, he’s been better at what he’s doing than anyone else in the NBA this season.

The ‘Big D Will Burger’ does Dallas, Deron Williams proud

First Justin Anderson got to make his own burger. Dirk Nowitzki went next.

But now it’s Deron Williams’ turn up to bat, and he hit one out of the park with the Big D Will Burger.

A play both on his nickname and Dallas’ own moniker — Williams originally hails from The Colony — the burger will be available at American Airlines Center throughout the month of November.

Anderson and Nowitzki both incorporated elements from the area they grew up in their burgers, and Williams did the same with his: a 1/3 pound beef patty with smoked bacon, shaved romaine, tomato, chopped red onions, chipotle aioli, and Monterey Jack cheese are all stacked on a jalapeño cheddar brioche bun. It comes with black and tan onion rings, coated in a dark beer batter. Williams said the heat should appeal to Mavs fans with Texas roots.

“Most people are from Dallas, so they’re gonna see a taste of Texas right here,” he said. “I think it’s just a great mix of flavor.”

He’s right. It’s a really tasty burger. There’s a bit of a competition going on between Anderson and Williams to determine whose burger is better, and while I will happily stay out of it, I will offer this: AAC executive chef Mark Mabry placed the tomato by design directly on the bottom bun, beneath the patty, because he’s been told that’s the optimal place for it to be.

By whom, exactly? Anderson. As Mabry was explaining this, Williams interrupted: “Hold on, Justin?” Mabry nodded. “No, we gotta change that.”

A rivalry is born.

The burger does pack some serious flavor. The jalapeño and chipotle add a nice bit of heat, but not enough to overwhelm you. And who could say no to onion rings? Williams said he chose them to be different from Anderson and Nowitzki, as both paired their burgers with fries last season.

The Big D Will Burger with onion rings is yours for $12, which is a pretty great deal for the amount of food you get. In addition, the Mavs-themed can of Bud Light, set to debut at the arena tomorrow, is only $4 when ordered with the burger. You get a restaurant-quality burger at a restaurant-quality value. Not a bad deal at all.

Plus, you can go on Twitter after you’re done and let @DeronWilliams and @JusAnderson1 know which one you like better. Williams guaranteed his burger would outsell the second-year Mav’s, so the heat really is on, in more ways than one.

Five Mavs stats to keep an eye on in 2016-17

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Basketball season is finally here, everyone. Breathe it in. Enjoy it. We made it.

This Mavs team is so different from last season’s squad for a variety of reasons. Yes, there are plenty of new faces in the locker room, and yes, the team is much younger. But even the returning players are beginning this season under entirely different circumstances. Wesley Matthews, in particular, didn’t spend the summer recovering from a significant injury and ensuing surgery. Deron Williams went through an entire training camp and appears to be in good health once again. Although Devin Harris will be sidelined for tonight’s season opener, this team is in much better health today than it was one year ago.

That fact alone ought to be enough to get you excited for the season to start. The Mavs, though they are still figuring each other out, are going to have the opportunity to give it their best shot from the opening tip, without serious injury or distraction to derail their attempt to make the playoffs for the 16th time in 17 seasons.

But how will they get there? What are some of the numbers to keep an eye on this season — aside from the obvious — that could go a long way in showing how this 82-game marathon will go? Here are five stats you might not immediately think of, but ones to follow closely, as the season wears on that could very well tell the story of this 2016-17 campaign.

Harrison Barnes’ usage rate

The Mavs signed Harrison Barnes this summer with visions of him one day becoming the type of player who could help carry the load in the post-Nowitzki era. However, Barnes is fully capable of helping this team win games in the meantime, and as the 24-year-old continues to develop his individual skill set, his level of involvement in the offense is going to be important to follow.

Last season, Barnes had a 15.9 percent usage rate, meaning he “used” roughly one-sixth of the Warriors’ possessions while he was on the floor, either by taking a shot or free throw, or turning the ball over. A “balanced” usage rate is 20 percent, as there are five players on the floor. I expect his usage rate to be much closer to the 21.6 mark he posted in preseason, although that number could certainly rise as the season wears on and he becomes more comfortable in his new, expanded role within the offense.

But how those shots come almost matters more than how many he takes. Eventually the Mavs hope to develop his pick-and-roll ability, but in the meantime Barnes has demonstrated he can post up smaller players and excel as a spot-up shooter. He also showed flashes of explosiveness moving off the ball and in transition during the preseason. He’s got the tools, and you can see where the Mavs are going in developing Barnes’ game, and now it’s just time to see how the team and the young star take the approach to reaching the finish line.

Team assist percentage

Assist percentage, or the percent of team’s field goals made that someone else assisted, does not correlate directly to winning. For example, only five of the top-12 in the NBA in team assist rate made the playoffs last season. But the importance of the stat, at least as it relates to this Mavs team, is that the number is going to indicate what level of ball movement this team can generate on offense.

Last season the Mavs were 13th in the league with a 59.2 assist percentage and were fourth in the NBA in passes per game. The ball flew around, and much of that had to do with the team’s reliance on two-guard lineups, and also it was a natural consequence of giving Chandler Parsons more of a playmaking role.

This season, with Barnes replacing Parsons and mixing Seth Curry into the fold, the Mavericks will have a different cast of perimeter players. How, if at all, will that affect ball movement? Will the team continue to pass more than just about any other, or will possessions be more iso- or post-up-oriented, meaning there will be fewer passes? I think the Mavs’ goal is to keep the ball moving, and this is one way to measure how effective they are in doing so.

Bedgear Training Camp Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle looks ahead to tomorrow's season opener against Indiana.

Dirk Nowitzki’s minutes per game

We’ve heard it for years, but I think this could finally be the year that Dirk Nowitzki gets under 29 minutes per game, and that could be a very good thing both for him and the Mavericks. Last season, his MPG total jumped from 29.6 to 31.5, mostly out of necessity. The Mavs relied on Nowitzki to space the floor and keep the offense rolling. In a perfect world, however, the second unit would be able to maintain an advantage even without Nowitzki, and just a few extra minutes of rest for him could go a long way in keeping him fresh for the time of season when the team needs him at his best.

Barnes could see some minutes at backup 4, Quincy Acy will as well, and perhaps even Dwight Powell will split time between center and power forward. The Mavericks have more options at that spot than they’ve had in recent seasons — even Justin Anderson could play small-ball 4 at some point, in certain matchups — which means they have a greater chance of finding a combination that works which could afford Nowitzki just a little more time to rest in games. That could pay off in April.

Beneath only his minutes per game total, I’m also curious to see how many minutes, if any, he plays at center. A small-ball, 5-out offense with Nowitzki at center torched defenses last season, although the Mavs only went to it when they direly needed offense. If they could iron out a solid defensive unit around Dirk at the 5, the Mavericks could concoct one of the best offensive groups in the NBA for small stretches.

Deron Williams’ clutch field goal percentage

Of the 21 players in the NBA who scored at least 100 points in the clutch (last five minutes of the game when the score is within five either way), only Deron Williams shot at least 50 percent from the field. And he was the only one to shoot better than 50 percent from deep, too. He was so incredibly clutch for the Mavericks last season, and that was a huge reason why Dallas was the second-best clutch team in the league in 2015-16 (+16.0 net rating in a league-high 224 minutes), behind only Golden State.

How was he so successful? For starters, Williams is a veteran guy who knows how to create his own shot, and typically the Mavs would let other guys carry the load earlier in the game before relying on Williams and Nowitzki in the fourth. That was a very good formula for Dallas, and I wonder if it’s one we’ll see again in 2016-17. If Williams can continue his clutch heroics, not only will the Mavericks continue to win close games, but it will also mean defenses will have to focus in on Williams, potentially leaving more room for Nowitzki, Barnes, Matthews, or whoever else to find shots of their own.

Wesley Matthews’ 2-point percentage

Wesley Matthews looks like a totally different player this season, now more than one year removed from a serious Achilles injury which ended his 2014-15 campaign and severely limited his physical ability last offseason and early in the 2015-16 season. He was an absolute warrior in his first season as a Maverick, leading the team in minutes played despite recovering from one of the most significant injuries a player could ever suffer. However, the Achilles did appear to limit his ability off the dribble, and where the consequences of that injury reared their ugly head showed in Matthews’ 2-point percentage, which sank to a career-low 43.2 percent.

In 2014-15, Matthews shot a career-best 53.4 percent on 2-pointers. The year before, he was 49.0 percent, and 47.8 percent the year before that. I expect him to be much closer to those numbers this season than the 43.2 percent he recorded last season, and we’ve already begun to the extra pep in his step as he mixed in more drives to the basket in preseason games than we saw in 2015-16. That slight extra burst alone is enough to create more separation for drives, and his added explosiveness will lead to more dunks and fearless rim attacks. Matthews will shoot much better than the 50.0 percent inside 2 feet he shot last season, there’s no doubt about that. That will lead to more points for Matthews, and more points for the Mavericks.

There are way too many basketball stats for most of us to keep a close eye on, but those five stats are going to go a long way in telling the story of the 2016-17 Mavericks. The NBA season is a marathon, but if you follow these five numbers (and a few others), you’ll be able to see the finish line sooner than later.

Deron Williams expects to be ‘full go’ for training camp

Eight weeks removed from sports hernia surgery, Mavs point guard Deron Williams said on Friday he expects to be ready for training camp, which starts in late September.

“I had my sports hernia repaired, so now I’m pretty much fully cleared, but I’m taking it slow and trying to get back in shape, and trying to get back to where I need to be,” Williams said. “But I should be a full go for training camp. That’s almost exactly a month away from now.”

Williams, 32, started 63 games last season in Dallas, averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was one of the league’s most clutch performers, as well: Of the 21 players who scored at least 100 points in the clutch last season (last five minutes of a game, score within five points) Williams was the only player to shoot above 50 percent from the field. He was also the lone shooter in the group to connect on more than half of his three-point attempts.

His campaign came to an awkward end, however, as a sports hernia injury sidelined him for eight games in March and April and, after scoring 13 early points in an inspired performance in Game 2 of the playoffs, Williams’ postseason came to an abrupt, early close.

But, as the 11-year veteran said last week, the hernia should not bother or limit him heading into training camp, which should certainly help his team. Both members of last season’s starting backcourt, Williams and Wesley Matthews, are returning for the 2016-17 campaign, which should help this team jell perhaps quicker than it did in 2015, when Williams, Matthews, and Chandler Parsons were all severely limited during the entire preseason. The Mavs have no real injury issues at the moment, as Williams, Devin Harris, and J.J. Barea all ought to be healthy in time for camp.

Speaking of his new teammates, there’s one in particular, Andrew Bogut, that Williams is happy to welcome to Dallas.

“I’ve always been a fan of Andrew. He’s definitely a player that a point guard like myself would love to play with,” Williams said. “He sets screens, he can pass, he’s a great pick-and-roll player. You know what he can do on the defensive end. I’m definitely excited to play with him.”

The Australian center’s presence on both ends of the floor will be something all his teammates will soon speak very highly of, if they haven’t already. And between Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki, Williams will have no shortage of pick-and-roll options when playing alongside the starters. Even Harrison Barnes played some screen-roll for the Golden State Warriors last season, so Williams will have plenty of help in that department this year.

All of that is still ahead of the team, however. Between now and then, he and some of his teammates will bond — and battle — in a dodgeball tournament open to the public, benefiting his Point of Hope Foundation. Williams said he’s got another couple small vacations planned in between now and late September, but with his kids having started school and the season approaching, it’s soon to be all business for the point guard.

And he should be ready to go when that time comes.

Deron Williams joins ‘The Ben & Skin Show’ on 105.3 The Fan

Yesterday Mavs point guard Deron Williams jumped on “The Ben & Skin Show” on 105.3 The Fan to chat about his offseason, family game nights, and his upcoming charity dodgeball event.

Click to listen for the full audio, with a transcript of the highlights below.

On his free agency: I had to wait and just see what happened, especially with all the things that the Mavs were trying to do. I was just kind of playing the waiting game. In the end, I decided to come back and give it one more year, at least. I would’ve liked a longer-term deal, but it is what it is. I have another year to try to improve on last year, and another year of playing under (Rick) Carlisle. We have the same kind of core group of guys, just added a couple pieces, and I think we’ll be pretty good.

On wanting to rejoin the Mavs: I wanted to come back to the Mavericks. I felt like 1, I played for four coaches in like three-and-a-half years, so the stability side of it is good. I think we had a pretty good year last year, and I think we can be better this year. I kind of wanted to do that. My family is happy here, they’re settled. It was a pretty easy transition for me.

On why he’s had so many good games at American Airlines Center throughout his career: I definitely love coming home and playing in front of my mom and family and friends. I definitely think the arena’s a great shooting arena. You see that with opponents, and for some reason they come in and shoot the lights out in that building. I think it’s a good shooter’s gym with good sight lines. I’ve always enjoyed playing in there.

On the upcoming Charity Dodge Barrage: It’s my main fundraising charity event of the year for my foundation, the Point of Hope Foundation. I love golf, so I started out doing golf tournaments, but there’s so many of those, a million of them, and they cost a lot to put on, and so your profit for your foundation and the charity you’re trying to raise money for is kind of limited. So I tried to think of a fun way, a way for people who don’t golf or don’t have the money to play golf, to come and enjoy an event. Kyle Korver and myself, when we were in Utah, started the Dodge Barrage. It’s kind of a hit. I think this is my fifth one, my first one in Dallas, and I’m really excited about it.

On what the event is like, for those who might be unfamiliar: It’s a lot of fun. Anybody can do it, anyone can come out and have fun. We encourage costumes – the uglier, the better. I think we’re gonna have some awards this year for them. I think it’s fun to just come and watch, come and spectate. You’re gonna come get to see a lot of celebrities, a lot of Mavs players are gonna be there. It’s just gonna be a great event, and we’re gonna raise a lot of money for charity. I’m excited about it.

“The Ben & Skin Show” airs weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mavericks re-sign guard Deron Williams

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have re-signed free agent guard Deron Williams. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Last season with Dallas, Williams averaged 14.1 points, a team-high 5.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 32.4 minutes in 65 games (63 starts). He shot .414 from the field (321-775 FGs), .344 (97-282 3FGs) from three-point range and a career-high .869 (179-206 FTs) from the free throw line. Among league leaders, he ranked 19th in assists and 15th in free throw percentage.

Williams (6-3, 200) is a 11-year NBA veteran with career averages of 16.8 points, 8.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 34.8 minutes in 781 games (727 starts) for three teams (Utah, New Jersey/Brooklyn and Dallas). Overall, he has shot .445 (4,611-10,364 FGs) from the field, .357 (1,093-3,062 3FGs) from three-point range and .822 (2,788-3,393 FTs) from the free throw line.

Williams was a member of three All-Star Teams (2010, 2011 and 2012), made the All-NBA Second Team in 2008 and 2010 and won gold medals as part of Team USA at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He also was a member of the All-Rookie First Team in 2006 and became only the third player in NBA history to have 1500+ points and 800+ assists while shooting .500+ from the field in a single season in 2007-08 (also Magic Johnson-1986-87 and 1988-89 and Kevin Johnson-1988-89).

A familiar face to Dallas/Fort Worth, Williams played high school basketball for The Colony before attending the University of Illinois. He was selected by the Utah Jazz in the first round (3rd overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft. On February 23, 2011, he was traded to New Jersey in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first round draft picks (Nets 2011, Golden State 2012) and cash considerations. He re-signed with Brooklyn on July 11, 2012.

The best Mavs buzzer-beaters of 2015-16

We’ve already taken a look back at the best Mavs dunks and blocks of the 2015-16 season, so now all that’s left is checking out the buzzer-beaters.

For this list, we included attempts to beat the shot clock, for two reasons: 1. There’s a buzzer sound when the shot clock expires, and 2. These are just arbitrary rankings so we can make up the rules as we go! There’s a certain amount of freedom in bending conventional wisdom and mixing in a bit of improvisation when you do anything in life, and that includes both making rankings lists and free-styling toward the end of a quarter or possession. Once that clock gets below two seconds, as you’ll see in the video below, anything can happen. There are no rules and there are no limits. Zaza Pachulia can hit a fall-away 20-footer from “a Larry Bird angle,” to quote play-by-play voice Mark Followill, and Deron Williams can drain one practically from the opposing team’s bench. That’s what makes buzzer-beaters so exciting.

Enjoy! And, as always, if you think we missed one, let us know in the comments below which of your favorite buzzer-beaters were left out.

Top 10 Mavs Buzzer-Beaters of 2015-16

Take a look back at the best Mavs buzzer-beaters of the season!

10. D-Will to Dirk for 3

You won’t find many more meaningful wins in November than the one the Mavericks earned against the Clippers last November. It was the first time DeAndre Jordan’s team came to town since the dramatic twists and turns of last summer’s free agency period, the Mavs had lost three of their previous four games, and at the time a few of Dallas’ key players were still battling back from significant injuries. But the Mavs, sporting the skyline jerseys for the first time, came through with a huge victory against Los Angeles on national television, signaling to the NBA universe that this team would be just fine. Dirk Nowitzki’s buzzer-beating trey put Dallas up by 14 points in the third quarter in what turned out to be a 118-108 win. It might only have been November, but it was a big, big win for Dallas.

9. D-Will with the rainbow

Deron Williams’ first appearance in this top-10 list isn’t quite as unbelievable as his final one — more on that later — but this shot was still pretty nice: a Dirk-esque rainbow jumper from the wing on a pass from an off-balance J.J. Barea. The Mavs beat the Grizzlies that night, Dec. 18, 97-88. This Williams 3-pointer put Dallas ahead for the first time all night, 38-35, and the club wouldn’t trail again for the rest of the game.

8. Felton from wayyyy back

Raymond Felton hit so many big shots for the Mavericks this season that you might have forgotten about this one. On Jan. 6, the night after a double-overtime win against Sacramento — more on that later — Dallas was severely shorthanded in New Orleans as most of the starters were resting. That meant more playing time for Felton, who delivered 22 points and six assists in one of his best games of the year. Three of those points came on this play, with 42 seconds left in the game and Dallas clinging to a six-point lead. The impossible shot gave the Mavs a nine-point lead, which would ultimately be the final difference.

7. Matthews from the corner

Just one week later, on Jan. 12, the Mavs and Cavaliers would duke it out in a highly entertaining and tightly contested game at American Airlines Center. With just over two minutes left and the shot clock winding down, Chandler Parsons found a spotted-up Wesley Matthews in the corner for three, which put Dallas ahead 91-89. Unfortunately Cleveland would tie it up and ultimately win in overtime, 110-107, but Matthews’ big shot was a highlight in what was a thrilling contest.

6. Felton over LeBron

Felton’s only made field goal of that night came at a great time, as he beat the first-half buzzer even while taking contact from LeBron James, putting the Mavericks ahead 52-47. Again, how many big shots did Felton hit this season??

5. Zaza from the impossible angle

It might only have been preseason, but Zaza Pachulia’s turnaround fall-away miracle shot was still one of his most impressive highlights of his first season as a Maverick. At the time, it was no guarantee that Pachulia would be the starting center on opening night, as Samuel Dalembert was still on the roster at that point. But Pachulia’s play in the preseason earned him the starting rights, and the Georgian big man never looked back, putting together a fine campaign.

4. Felton with a crossover and step-back

What do you know, another big-time shot from Felton! Mark Followill even called this one, as we watched him whip and then proceeded to watch him Ray-Ray and drain a 21-footer as time expired in the Mavs’ 91-79 win against Brooklyn on Jan. 29. The story of that two-game homestand, featuring wins over the Nets and Suns, had more to do with defense, however, as Dallas kept both opponents below 80 points. Defense and tempo control would save the Mavs’ season down the stretch, so there was a bit of foreshadowing here.

3. Dirk from the wing

Watching Nowitzki 3s never gets old. This one, though, meant a bit more than your usual trey, as the Mavs needed every point they could muster to win a tight one against the Knicks on March 30, taking the contest 91-89. This was the second of six straight victories Dallas would piece together down the stretch to earn its 15th playoff berth in 16 seasons. Barea grabbed the headlines, scoring 26 points off the bench, while Nowitzki shot just 5 of 23 from the field. But, hey: Every point counts, and Dirk’s long-range bomb to beat the halftime buzzer meant a lot at the end of the day.

2. Felton does it just like they drew it up

Here’s the way the Mavs designed this play:

1. Beat your man off the dribble into the middle of the lane.

2. Spin and look to pass.

3. Pass it off the opposing center’s stomach.

4. Catch your own pass.

5. Fade away and shoot it over the backboard. Two points, easy.

1. D-Will wins the game, chaos ensues

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This bucket instantly became an iconic moment, as not only did the shot win the game, and not only did it end a disappointing two-game losing streak, but that moment showed us how close together the players on this team were this season. The dogpile on the sideline gave us an image that sums up this club well. These guys all liked each other, they all rooted for one another, and they celebrated with each other as brothers, not just teammates. That was as tight-knit a locker room as you could find in the league this season, and there’s no measuring what that chemistry did for the Mavericks this season.

Also, what a shot.