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Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and the Mavs turned it up in the playoffs on the way to their first title.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

StatsCube: Mavs' repeat hopes may hinge on roster continuity

Posted Dec 2 2011 7:01AM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

The Dallas Mavericks finally reached the mountaintop this past June, defeating the Miami Heat in six games for the NBA championship.

Before the playoffs started, Dallas was the higher seed that many predicted would be upset in the first round. Two months later, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Mark Cuban were celebrating their first title, having swept the defending champion Lakers and drastically outplaying the Heat in Finals crunch time.


Before we can predict if the Mavs can repeat, we have to know if they can keep the band together. Four of the eight Mavs who played at least 300 postseason minutes are free agents. So is Caron Butler, who was lost for the season on Jan. 1.

2010-11 Basics
Pace: 93.4 (19)
OffRtg: 107.6 (8)
DefRtg: 102.3 (7)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The Mavs were one of four teams that ranked in the top 10 both offensively and defensively, and one of 10 to improve from the previous season to improve their place in both categories (relative to the league average).

The defensive improvement can be tied to the acquisition of Tyson Chandler, one of those 2011 free agents. Chandler ranked just 26th in blocked shots per game (even trailing another Chandler -- Wilson Chandler of the Knicks and Nuggets), but the Mavs were a better defensive team when he was on the floor (allowing 101.0 points per 100 possessions) than when he was on the bench (103.8).

Nowitzki also deserves credit for improved defense of late. According to his on- and off-court numbers, he's been a plus defender each of the last two seasons. And last season, the Mavs allowed less than a point per possession in the 1,389 minutes when Chandler and Nowitzki were on the floor together.

NBA champs ... and lineup champs

The Mavs won their championship without Butler, who was still recovering from a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. So one might question how important Butler is to their quest to repeat.

But before Butler was injured, he was a key cog in the Mavs' early-season success. In fact, for the entire season, the lineup of Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki and Chandler was the league's best among those that played at least 200 minutes, incredibly strong on both ends of the floor.

Highest efficiency differential
Team Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
DAL Kidd, Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki, Chandler 20 257 93.3 119.0 94.4 +24.6 +111
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, O'Neal 18 265 95.4 115.1 96.1 +19.1 +102
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Davis 55 514 93.1 111.2 94.5 +16.7 +166
IND Collison, Dunleavy, Granger, McRoberts, Hibbert 35 443 99.7 110.8 97.3 +13.5 +121
SAS Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Duncan, McDyess 41 228 95.5 115.0 101.8 +13.2 +59
Minimum 200 minutes
Meet Mr. Mid-range

Offensively, the Mavs were most improved in their 2-point percentage, shooting a league-high 51.6 percent from inside the arc after ranking 16th the previous season. Chandler's efficiency in the paint helped, but so did the best shooting season of Nowitzki's career.

In his 13th season, Nowitzki recorded career highs in field goal percentage (51.7), effective field goal percentage (54.5), 2-point percentage (53.4) and true shooting percentage (61.2).

True shooting percentage = Points / (2*(FGA + (0.44*FTA)))

Of the top 50 players in usage rate, only one player had a higher true shooting percentage than Nowitzki. That was Dwight Howard, who had a mark of 61.6 percent while taking 87 percent of his shots from inside the paint.

Nowitzki was nearly as efficient as Howard while taking only 29 percent of his shots from inside the paint. He took 57 percent of his shots from mid-range and shot those mid-range shots at a ridiculous 52.9 percent, which was nearly 13 percent better than the league average and more than six percent better than what he shot in 2009-10.

Shooting both often and efficiently from the area between the paint and the 3-point line, Nowitzki scored 154 more mid-range points than any other player in the league.

Most mid-range points
Dirk Nowitzki 353 667 52.9% 56.6% 706
Kevin Durant 276 663 41.6% 43.1% 552
Kobe Bryant 267 641 41.7% 39.1% 534
Carmelo Anthony 248 591 42.0% 39.3% 496
Al Horford 235 464 50.6% 50.4% 470
LaMarcus Aldridge 232 564 41.1% 39.9% 464
Amar'e Stoudemire 229 516 44.4% 34.8% 458
Chris Bosh 228 535 42.6% 50.7% 456
Monta Ellis 225 593 37.9% 36.8% 450
Elton Brand 225 450 50.0% 45.9% 450
%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

As a team, the Mavs scored only 37 percent of their points in the paint, the lowest rate of any team.

Pace: 88.9 (10)
Offense: 110.1 (1)
Defense: 103.4 (9)

The Mavs went from being a very good offensive team in the regular season to being an unstoppable offensive team in the playoffs. As a whole, the league scored 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did in the regular season, but the Mavs eclipsed their regular-season efficiency in each of their first three series. And they nearly matched it in the Finals.

Interestingly, of the eight Mavs who attempted at least 35 shots in the playoffs, only two of them (Kidd and Jason Terry) shot better from the field than they did in the regular season. The biggest difference in the Mavs' offense was their ability to get to the line.

Nowitzki attempted 38 free throws per 100 field goal attempts in the regular season and upped that ratio to 47 per 100 in the playoffs. He also shot them better, hitting 94.1 percent of his free throws, which is the highest percentage in NBA history among those who have attempted at least 65 free throws in a single postseason.

Highest postseason free throw percentage
Player Team Season G FTM FTA FT%
Dirk Nowitzki DAL 2010-11 21 175 186 94.1%
Reggie Miller IND 1999-00 22 121 129 93.8%
Chauncey Billups DET 2002-03 14 84 90 93.3%
Sidney Moncrief MIL 1984-85 8 70 75 93.3%
Jeff Hornacek PHX 1989-90 16 68 73 93.2%
Minimum 65 FTA

Nowitzki's 175 made postseason free throws rank sixth all-time and are the most since he set the record with 205 in 2006. Chandler, Kidd, Terry and Brendan Haywood also increased their free throw rate from the regular season.

Texas-sized amount of clutch

In the regular season, the Mavs had the league's best offense in clutch time, scoring 125 points per 100 possessions in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less. In the postseason, they were even better, scoring 137 points in 97 clutch time possessions (141 per 100).

Of those 137 points, 62 came at the free-throw line, and 34 of the 62 came when the Mavs had the lead. But if you just counted the times where the game was tied or the Mavs were trailing by 1-5 points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, they still scored 76 points in 55 possessions, a ridiculous rate of 137 per 100.

Not surprisingly, Nowitzki scored 49 of those 76 points, shooting 13-for-20 from the field and 20-for-21 from the line. In The Finals, he was 7-for-10 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter with a tie game or with the Mavs down 1-5.

Maybe most impressive is that the Mavs turned the ball over only six times in their 97 postseason clutch time possessions.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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