There aren’t many shots in the NBA easier than a dunk, especially on the fast break. And they’re fun, too. When a player throws it down, the crowd gets into it and highlights spread across Twitter like wildfire.
The Mavs are having fun of a different kind this season, making difficult plays look easier than a slam. And, statistically speaking, they are easier, more efficient, and more frustrating to the opponent.
Dallas is the second-best team this season in scoring efficiency on BaseLine Out of Bounds plays, or BLOBs. These are inbound plays that occur under the basket, along the baseline. Typically it’s a pretty hard way to generate offense, with the league average in terms of points per possession at 0.854 points per possession on such plays. Considering the league average in overall PPP is 0.932, BLOB plays are generally more inefficient than working the shot clock and running an actual play.
Not for the Mavericks.
Dallas is scoring 1.101 points per possession on BLOB plays this season, one of just three teams league-wide to average one point or more per BLOB play, according to Synergy Sports. The other two teams in the top three — the Warriors and Clippers — have all-world point guard talent and often work to get right into a regular play after the inbound pass. The Mavericks, however, usually rely on just one play with all sorts of options to get an open look. More often than not, it’s successful. The Mavs shoot 52.5 percent and turn it over less than 6 percent of the time on those plays, both elite marks.
For some context on just how insanely effective that is, look at it this way: Dallas scores more efficiently on BLOBs than 16 teams — including the Mavs themselves — score in transition. That means the Mavs’ inbound plays are, relatively speaking, better than more than half the league working to get a dunk or layup in the open floor.
It doesn’t stop there, either. Mavs BLOBs are more efficient than Dirk Nowitzki post-ups and Wesley Matthews spot-ups. Not bad, considering those are two of the best in the league at doing what they do best. And speaking of the best, Dallas scores almost as efficiently from the baseline as reigning MVP Stephen Curry does in the pick-and-roll, the bread and butter of the powerful Golden State offense.
|J.J. Redick||Off Screen||1.120|
|Dallas Mavericks||Baseline Out of Bounds||1.101|
|16 NBA Teams||Transition||<1.101|
How can this be? What do the Mavs do to get such good looks on such hard plays? If there was any doubt about Rick Carlisle’s ability with a dry-erase board in one hand and marker in the other, it’s about to vanish.
One problem with breaking down a set with as many layers as the Mavs’ go-to BLOB is it’s hard to figure out where to start. I suppose that would be showing the play working at its simplest, and then getting more and more complicated from there. So here’s Chandler Parsons throwing down an alley-oop against the Cavs.
In order to defend this play, communication, rotation, and switching are almost paramount, otherwise the defense risks giving up an alley-oop. To really see what happened here, take a look at NBA Stats’ “Movement” breakdown of the play, which turns the players into dots, giving you a better idea of how a play went down.
Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia set up next to each other on the free throw line. Parsons runs parallel to the baseline and feels LeBron James on his left, or outside, hip, so he slips in-between the double-screen. Meanwhile, James keeps running, anticipating Parsons will finish his cut and receive the inbound pass on the wing. No Cav switches to help, and J.R. Smith doesn’t leave Matthews alone in the corner, and the result is a dunk.
One way to stop a dunk is to slide off the shooter in the corner, but a passer as talented as Parsons will find the open man in the corner. That won’t work.
If the defender overplays that cut, he’ll still get beat backdoor anyway.
The second option in this play is one big man — usually the center — setting a screen for the other big man to move toward the ball and receive a pass. In the play below, Pachulia’s man slides down to stop layups and dunks, leaving Dirk and Zaza 2-on-1 against Nowitzki’s man. The result is wonderful for Dallas.
OK, so now the defense can’t press up too far without risking a dunk, but the big men also can’t slink down without risking an open jump shot. Even if you play it perfectly, Dallas still has athletes at the forward positions who can attack off the dribble from far away.
There’s no way a Spur will ever leave Nowitzki open anywhere on the floor, leaving JaVale McGee one-on-one against his man in space. In that scenario, advantage goes to McGee almost every time.
If all this stuff is making your head spin, just imagine what’s going through the minds of the defenders. Big men both can’t help and are helpless, the cutter’s man can’t overplay or “underplay,” and the spot-up shooter’s defender can’t do anything, either. It takes perfect defense to stop this, but that requires communication and a whole lot of pre-play management. While that’s going on, though, if the cutter catches you off-guard, he will literally just run to the rim for a layup.
If you thought that play looked like a blooper, watch this one. Parsons could have walked into an open layup.
There’s a funny line in the “Dirk, Making Dallas Great” video where Dirk says “I’m gonna score so many points, it’ll make ya head spin.” Fortunately heads don’t actually spin, but throughout all these plays you can visibly see how confused the defenses are. In each example, a guy at a different position is messing up. All five Dallas players are involved, and there’s an option for every one of them to get the ball. (We didn’t even get into what happens if none of the above options are there, but there’s more.) That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense, and that often results in almost comically easy layups for the offense.
As the season has gone on, the Mavs have rolled out new BLOB plays to keep things fresh, but every now and then they’ll roll this one out and score two points. It’s a slam dunk.