The Dallas Mavericks 2021-2022 season has been one big rollercoaster ride. At the beginning of the season, the team looked discombobulated on the court and was the victim of some horrendous shooting percentages with one of the highest open shot percentages in the league.
The Mavericks were hovering in no man’s land showing the ability to win close games against below-average teams while getting blown out by playoff contending teams.
However, a lot changes over the course of a month.
Dallas went 7-9 in the month of December and were looking in from the outside of the NBA playoffs. Eight days into the new year the Mavericks have won four straight games. They have won six of their last seven games and seven of their last ten games.
Things have changed significantly for Jason Kidd’s Dallas Mavericks
Obviously, the most incredible thing about their recent form is the team has signed a plethora of 10-day contracts to free agents due to Covid protocols and this group was responsible for beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, and Golden State Warriors as well as keeping games close with the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks.
Dallas has been fun to watch recently, in large part due to the new faces that have joined the team, but also because the team is returning to their expected form while showing out on defense (Dallas shot 57 percent from the 3 point arc against Houston Friday night).
For years, the Mavericks were known for their high octane offense with average defenses, but now the tables have flipped. Dallas currently sits sixth in the league in defensive rating at 107.6 and their +1.6 net rating is 10th best in the league.
When Jason Kidd signed to become head coach, everyone familiar with Kidd’s coaching style knew there was going to be an emphasis on restoring the defense. For the first two months, Dallas showed the same tendencies of years past but with worse shooting percentages. Kidd wasn’t able to establish his identity as a coach and that wasn’t a surprise given the roster had less turnover the past three years than the team’s front office.
So how have things gotten drastically different for the Mavericks at the halfway mark in the season? What is Jason Kidd doing with this Dallas roster that Rick Carlisle simply couldn’t unlock?
Put simply, develop his younger players. The best example of this is Jalen Brunson. In Dallas’s recent stretch without All-Star Luka Doncic, the fourth-year point guard averaged 21.3 points per game and 7.3 assists per game on a 52/39/77 shooting split.
Not only did increasing Brunson’s minutes lead to better numbers and more wins for Dallas, but also this seems to be consistent with the Mavericks this season. Friday night, he shot an efficient 7-11 for 15 points and recorded 10 assists making it his sixth double-double of the season.2
Brunson’s numbers are drastically different depending on whether he starts or comes off the bench. When starting, Brunson averages 19.8 points per game and 6.8 assists per game on a 48/35/78 shooting split when starting. Off the bench, he averages 12.0 points per game and 4.1 assists per game on a 50/31/76 shooting split. The volume and efficiency are staggeringly different considering the average difference in minutes per game is only seven minutes.
Brunson even credited Kidd for his development as a player this season, something he never did with the previous coaching regime.
While no one else on the team has seen a significant increase in volume like Brunson, players like Frank Ntilikina and Moses Brown are having their best seasons per 36 minutes. Ntilikina is shooting 35 percent from three and is averaging 12 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game per 36 minutes. Moses Brown is averaging 19.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game per 36 minutes shooting 60 percent from the floor. In his lone 20 minute game, Brown scored 15 points and tallied six rebounds, two blocks, and one steal.
I’m definitely not trying to make sweeping generalizations about something with small sample size, but can we be sure that if the previous coaching regime would give players like Frank Ntilikina to run the second unit offense? Would the previous regime take the chance on a player like Frank at this stage of his career? Could we be sure Tim Hardaway Jr would take a back seat to a starting Jalen Brunson? (It happened from time to time, but it wasn’t consistent)
Can we be sure they would allow Moses Brown or Josh Green to play meaningful minutes? Green played 39 games and 445 minutes all last season; this season he’s already played 24 and has been charted with 270 minutes. (In his last 25, he scored 17 points)
Everywhere Jason Kidd goes, he seems to understand how to develop younger players in their early phases.
If the Mavericks can come out of this season with two solid young centers (Marquese Chriss and Moses Brown) and two combo guards (Frank Ntilikina and Josh Green) capable of playing rotation minutes alongside Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Jalen Brunson, that leaves Dallas with an incredibly deep lineup heading into the playoffs and the future.
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Jason Kidd promised to take Luka Doncic to the next level in his development, but with Doncic missing a quarter of the season so far, Kidd has spread his influence to the rest of the roster and the fruit of his labor is starting to show. The start of a new era is officially upon us; let’s see where this goes?