The Mavs may not have hooked a big fish but they did make a significant addition in the former Knick
Reggie Bullock was not supposed to be the Mavericks’ prize acquisition for the Summer of 2021. That was supposed be Kyle Lowery or DeMar DeRozan, but despite Dallas’s balmy weather, Raptors apparently don’t migrate to North Texas. Bullock, on the other hand, called his decision to sign with the Mavericks “a no-brainer.”
“When I played against the Mavericks last year, I liked the way that they competed as a team,” Bullock said at his introductory press conference. “They got great players, so it was an easy, no-brainer for me. Being with the Knicks last year, we made it to the playoffs but I see [the Mavericks] as a team that’s taking that next step to be in the postseason.’’
Last season, Bullock averaged 10.9 points on 44.2 percent shooting from the field, including 41 percent from beyond the arc and 46.8 percent from the corners — you know, that place Luka routinely feeds wide-open teammates thanks to his penetration.
He’s also a tenacious defender, having hounded new teammate Luka Doncic in past matchups between the Mavs and Knicks. His physical, hard-nosed style of defense is a welcome addition in Dallas; it’s what the team had hoped for from Josh Richardson last season.
As Kirk Henderson wrote when Bullock initially inked his three-year, $30.5M contract, his pick and roll defense with the Knicks last year was strong, grading out in the 71st percentile. While that might in part be aided by the Knicks’ overall team defensive rating, he does have a solid body of work to fall back on beyond his tenure in New York.
But what makes him different from Josh Richardson? Wasn’t Richardson supposed to be a major addition to last year’s squad, only to flame out and be dealt away prior to the start of free agency? Yes. But the difference is that Richardson’s strength as a three-point shooter lies largely in wide-open looks. He shot north of 40 percent in Philadelphia on such looks prior to coming to Dallas, but his overall three-point percentage (34.1 percent) was below the league’s 35.8 percent average that season.
He also isn’t able to play with the same physicality as Bullock despite being almost the exact same size and weight. J-Rich could flash at times, but he struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor. With Bullock, that problem doesn’t exist.
Reggie Bullock averaged 1.8 steals per 48 minutes last season, compared to Josh Richardson’s 0.7. While Richardson did post a ridiculous 3.8 steals per 48 during his lone season in Philadelphia, the drop-off last season was substantial when on a less talented defensive team.
Richardson’s defensive field goal percentage on two-point field goals was better than Bullock’s last season (46.8 percent compared to 57.5), but his three-point defensive percentage was an alarming 40.9 percent, while Bullock posted a stout 30.2 percent.
While it might be unfair to say Richardson underperformed in Dallas given the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 and his struggle to regain form following a two-week quarantine in a Denver hotel room, the fact remains that he was borderline unplayable in the postseason. Considering he was acquired for the explicit purpose of assisting the team’s defensive efforts in a playoff run, that’s pretty… pretty bad, man.
Bullock, meanwhile, isn’t expected to be the team’s borderline third option as Richardson was once. He’s expected to be a gritty defender and a knock-down three-point shooter —one of many around Doncic.
Players like Tim Hardaway Jr, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber have been able to elevate their three-point shooting thanks to the quality looks gifted them by Doncic’s gravity, passing, and vision. Bullock’s ability to do the same (unlike Richardson, who tied his career-low 33 percent mark from beyond the arc in his lone season with the Mavs) will be a major factor in his success this season.
Reggie Bullock might have come to Dallas to do much of what Josh Richardson failed to do during his time in a Mavs uniform, but he’s not a simple swap out for J-Rich. He’s better.