The process against the Hawks wasn’t good, and neither was the result.
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them, the first time.” Well, if Angelou was a basketball writer instead of a poet she’d say the same thing, except about coaches and schemes. All preseason, new head coach Jason Kidd told us how he wanted the Dallas Mavericks to play.
“We’re not just going to rely on jump shooting because that can leave you at any part of the season or in the playoffs,” Kidd told Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “If that happens, you don’t have anything to fall back on, and that means an early exit.”
Kidd must have some sort of selective amnesia since he was part of a championship team that hoisted the fifth most three pointers in the NBA in 2011. He must have also been in some sort of Rip Van Winkle-like coma for the past decade and not noticed that five of the last eight NBA champions were in the top 10 in three-point attempts.
Then Kidd went on the Take Dat Wit You podcast and unloaded this gem: “I know everybody cringes on the midrange, but when you look at the teams who were just in the Finals, midrange was big.”
Statistically, he’s right. The Phoenix Suns were fourth in the league in midrange attempts last season, and the Milwaukee Bucks were eighth. But those teams had Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Khris Middleton, midrange specialists. The Mavericks have Luka Doncic and…no one else. Kristaps Porzingis, 39 percent on midrange last season, 1-of-3 on midrange Thursday, is not someone you want shooting from midrange shots.
So before a single regular season game was played, Kidd stated he wanted to shoot fewer three pointers and more midrange shots. And in the season opener against the Atlanta Hawks, they did exactly that. The result was bad, a 26 point loss. But that’s just one game, and it’s early.
What should be concerning is the process. The Mavericks played exactly the way Kidd wanted them to against the Hawks. Dallas averaged almost 12 midrange shots per game last season. Against Atlanta Thursday night, they took 17. Dorian Finney-Smith had two post ups against the Hawks. He had only two all of last season.
I never thought that an offense with Luka Doncic and floor-spacing could look like a slog, but here we are.
Good example number: in the first half against the Hawks, the Mavericks took 9 shots from the midrange area. Last year, they averaged 11.8 over full games.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) October 22, 2021
But Kidd’s comments raised concerns in the preseason, and the same problem remains —this team isn’t built to play any other way than shooting a crap ton of three pointers. The Mavericks do not have the personnel to play another way, and Thursday night’s loss against the Hawks only emphasized that fact.
Per Second Spectrum, Mavs’ expected shot quality tonight was 48.4%. That stat was worse for the Mavs in only six games last season. https://t.co/cfNwvu4o7E
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 22, 2021
The Mavericks did take 43 shots from behind the arc, well above their 38 per game last season. So there is hope that Kidd’s talk about de-emphasizing three pointers is just talk. But if he’s serious about moving away from three pointers, the shots that replace them should be at the rim, not in the midrange. Last season Dallas only averaged 22 shots per game in the restricted area. Thursday against the Hawks they only put up 20.
The question is how long Kidd will continue to play this way. Will he abandon it after one game? Or will he stick with it for 10, 20 games? Maybe the Hawks forced the Mavericks into those shots, but based on Kidd’s preseason comments, that doesn’t seem likely.
It’s way too early to judge the results of the Jason Kidd era in Dallas. But so far the process isn’t looking great.
Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.