The Dallas Mavericks are still fifth in the Western Conference after they were dealt a tough loss at the hands of the Utah Jazz on their home court. Perhaps the greatest news that came out of this loss was the production of Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, the two newest members of the Dallas Mavericks, by way of the Washington Wizards.
The 2021-2022 season marked the third straight season for Dallas to return at least 8 members of their team from the previous season. It was a roster that produced the highest offensive rating in NBA history, at the time, while holding middle-of-the-league defensive ratings for the greater part of two seasons. Even at the start of this season, things looked very similar except the Mavericks were one of the worst teams on offense across the league.
Within a matter of months, Jason Kidd and Sean Sweeney’s defensive scheme came to fruition and Dallas soon boasted the best defensive rating in the NBA. It was a stark contrast from seasons prior making it more significant since the turnaround had been completed with a roughly similar roster.
Only Kristaps Porzingis, while defensively sound, wasn’t having a substantial impact on that defensive rating. Intelligently, the Dallas Mavericks knew it was time to cut bait and they did! It would also seem we misevaluated the front office’s ability to evaluate players in poor situations. Even more interesting, the combo of players they acquired is different from what fans are used to seeing in Dallas.
It turns out the Dallas Mavericks new GM Nico Harrison is pretty darn good at his job
When Bob Voulgaris had a prominent role in the front office, there was a pretty clear emphasis on finding players who could be efficient at whatever they did. This sometimes resulted in guys who were one-trick ponies (Seth Curry, Josh Richardson, JJ Reddick, Delon Wright) Maximizing a player’s production by having them play certain roles is the ideal way of winning a championship, but as championship-winning executives will say, it is harder to game plan for players with versatile skill sets than those who are incredibly efficient at one skill set.
This is where Dinwiddie sets himself apart from the pack. Dinwiddie developed into a primary ball-handler in Brooklyn proving to be a quality scorer at all three levels. However, his shooting percentages were amongst the leagues’ worst at his volume. How does a player like that provide such important value to a team that strives to be one of the most efficient at scoring?
Offensively he’s likely better than the opposing team’s backup point guard and in tandem with an All-NBA offensive player, he can create his own offense when the main ball-handler can’t because he’s garnering the best defender come clutch time.
The Dallas Mavericks had interest in Dinwiddie during the offseason for this very reason, and trading for him that season accruing an albatross of a contract is an incredibly poor way to eventually sign him, but it was pretty clear they needed someone (with Jalen Brunson still being relatively unknown) to become a lead facilitator while scoring on his own at all three levels. That problem was magnified when Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t able to create his own offense because he was instead sitting on the bench due to injury.
Stacking your team with contracts that don’t match their worth is a bad business practice. No one knows this better than Nico Harrison or Mark Cuban for that matter. However, if there was anyone who was going to inject new faith into roster management, it had to be Nico Harrison and it’s a job he’s done fairly admirably so far!
Signing Reggie Bullock was initially seen as a pretty bad decision. He has brought much needed defensive intensity, but his offensive numbers to start the season were abysmal. He’s been so hot he’s officially shooting 36 percent from the three-point arch this season. He’s playing five fewer minutes than last season and his stats are nearly identical per 36 minutes. Dallas turning him into a viable bench wing player has been everything they’ve needed the last three years.
Even with Davis Bertans, Dallas has managed to add a lethal shooter with a history of excellent three point shooting, to a team that creates the most three-point shots in the league. At one point in his career, Bertans was averaging 8.7 three point attempts per game in 30 minutes. In Dallas, he’s averaging 7 three-point attempts per game in just about half the time at 16 minutes per game.
Even his play style is fairly unique. At 6-feet-10 inches, he presents matchup problems for most small forwards and he’s much lighter on his feet than most power forwards. He moves on off-ball screens like Duncan Robinson and has a quick trigger to pull up a shot from just about anywhere.
It’s still weird to think about how Dallas gave up on an immensely talented player in Porzingis who could singlehandedly win them games, but Nico Harrison and company realizing that him coming back would likely hinder progress than elevate a rotation was an astute observation. It was an observation that yielded two really good bench players who can score in volumes; something that has significantly hindered Dallas’s playoff performances in recent years.
Cut bait on a star who didn’t really fit anymore and instead go find athletes to bolster your bench! It’s a strategy that hasn’t worked out too well in recent history, but it might be the move Dallas needed to make?
And for that, a toast to Mavs GM Nico Harrison!