HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Back in December, Mark Cuban chose to break up his championship roster, in part to chase a big free agent this summer, and in part because the new collective bargaining agreement — with its more punitive luxury tax coming in 2013 — called for “a different methodology for building a team.”
The biggest change the Mavs made was sending Tyson Chandler to New York via sign-and-trade. Chandler was the heart of the Mavs’ improved defense last season and arguably their second-most important player.
Four months later, the Mavs look like a long shot to make it back to The Finals. And with eight games remaining in the season, they’ve still got some work to do just to make it to the postseason.
But interestingly, the Chandler-less defense hasn’t been the problem for Dallas. After ranking seventh in defensive efficiency last season, they’re right back in the same spot this year, allowing less than a point per possession.
Instead, it’s been the Mavs’ offense that has held them back.
Mavs pace and efficiency, last two seasons
Only one team has regressed more offensively than the Mavs have. Ironically, it’s Chandler’s Knicks, who are scoring eight fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season.
A look at the Mavs’ offensive numbers reveals that their regression mostly comes down to shooting…
Mavs offense, last two seasons
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
Chandler is known for his defense, but he’s also a very efficient scorer, one of the league’s best finishers near the basket. And that’s one area where the Mavs’ shooting has dropped off considerably…
Mavs shooting, last two seasons
|Season||Restr. Area||Rank||Paint (Non-RA)||Rank||Mid-range||Rank||Corner 3||Rank||Above Break 3||Rank|
The Mavs are still very good from the restricted area and from mid-range, but they had a top-10 offense last season in part because they were great from those areas.
Shooting them at an incredible 72 percent, Chandler ranked second on the Mavs in attempts within the restricted area last season. He’s obviously missed.
In each of the last two seasons, Shawn Marion has led them in attempts near the basket. Although he’s shooting at just below the league average this year (59 percent), he’s regressed quite a bit from last season (68 percent). Dirk Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood have also regressed more than six percent from the restricted area as well.
Nowitzki is also responsible for some the mid-range regression. He’s still one of the best mid-range shooters in the league, hitting 47 percent of his shots between the paint and the arc (the league average is 39 percent). But he shot 53 percent from mid-range last year, and since he ranks second in the league in mid-range attempts, any regression there is going to hurt the Mavs offensively.
Corner threes? The Mavs miss DeShawn Stevenson, who led them with 45 of them on 109 attempts last season.
We know that Nowitzki had a bit of a championship hangover at the start of the year. Maybe the Mavs did as a whole, too. But with just two weeks left in the season, they still haven’t found any sort of rhythm offensively. They ranked 19th in offensive efficiency before the All-Star break and have just the 23rd-best offense since, scoring more than a point per possession in just four of their last 10 games.
The Mavs have a two-game cushion as they try to hold on to a playoff spot, but they do play six of their final eight games on the road, where they’re just 11-16 this far. And if they can’t take care of business at Golden State (Thursday) and Portland (Friday), they will be playing a huge game in Utah on Monday.
Will they miss the playoffs? Probably not. Will they be much of a threat in the playoffs? Probably not.
Unless, of course, they can start putting the ball in the basket.