Can the Dallas Mavericks Possibly Keep This Up?


Oct 30, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates making a three point shot against the Utah Jazz during the second half at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Jazz 120-102. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Through a week of a young NBA season, what was expected to be a very good Dallas Mavericks’ offense has been far more than advertised. The Mavs have run wild in their four contests thus far, racking up a 118.1 per-100 possession offensive rating that tops the league by over four points. They’re first in every conceivable overall shooting metric, with five different players currently over the 40 percent plateau from beyond the arc. A continuation of their current pace would undoubtedly place the Mavs among the greatest single-season offenses of all time.

The question isn’t in whether or not their incredible explosion is unsustainable long-term (spoiler alert: it is), but in just how unsustainable it is. Is this an all-time four-game tear for a group that’ll come crashing back toward the mean, or is this indeed the league’s best offense just starting out a little hotter than normal? While the above 118.1 figure will unquestionably fall, the former appears to be unlikely – the Mavs were the league’s third-most efficient offense last year before adding Chandler Parsons and reuniting with pick-and-roll demon Tyson Chandler, all without subtracting anyone from the team’s core.

That said, unless this is a team of jump-shooting aliens inhabiting NBA bodies, they’re due for a drop-off. It starts with the accuracy, which has been beyond spectacular. Some teams in the league would struggle to match Dallas’ percentages from certain areas of the floor even if there were no defenders on the court. For example— a silly 61.3 field goal percentage percent mark on 75 shots taken between 10 and 19 feet, per It’s hard to imagine Brandan Wright shooting 88.9 percent all year long, and guys like J.J. Barea (35 percent career, 50 percent so far) and Devin Harris (31.9 percent career, 40.9 percent so far) will fall back to earth from behind the three-point line over time.

Dallas is converting on a remarkable 52.4 percent of their shots taken with a defender “very tight”, or within 0-2 feet, per SportVU – outside Wright and since-departed Samuel Dalembert, both of whom shoot almost exclusively at the basket, not a single player on their entire team managed such a mark last season. Last year’s group was a collective 46.1 percent on these highly contested shots, and they simply can’t remain at such an elite level for too long.

However, after accounting for what will surely be a regression of some sort, it’s still easy to envision the Mavs remaining the league’s best offense the entire year. Dallas hasn’t fully gelled yet with their new pieces; a team that was ninth in the league for assist percentage last year at just under 60 percent is just 29th so far this year. A guy like Parsons, who was assisted on nearly 65 percent of his made shots last season in Houston, has drawn them on fewer than half his buckets so far this year. But Parsons is new to the team and still learning how to play with a historically unique big man in Dirk Nowitzki, and his figure, along with the team’s, should rise.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ spacing, most heavily influenced by the big German, isn’t going anywhere and may likely have even improved a tad. The Mavs are generating a slightly higher percentage of their attempts with no defenders within four feet of the shooter than last season, and it’s entirely conceivable that all three of Dirk, Parsons, and a re-energized Jameer Nelson could finish the year at over 40 percent from deep.

Chandler and Wright are feasting on the fear of defenses afraid of straying too far from the perimeter, both on a pace for top-five all-time field-goal percentage seasons that, while they’ll surely regress, represent remarkable figures. Wright has been particularly impressive after an under-the-radar year last season where he posted a 23.5 PER in over 1,000 minutes, and the team has been 18 points-per-100 better with him on the floor than off. Coach Rick Carlisle, already a wizard with maximizing the talent of eclectic personnel groups, has to feel like a kid playing a video game with a legitimate three-man big rotation and the sort of spacing the Mavs can trot out at his will.

Ultimately, the numbers will deflate at least a bit – they simply have to. But this has all the makings of an offense that will easily challenge for the league’s top spot, and it has a head start already. When their newer pieces are fully integrated (or re-integrated, in Chandler’s case), the way they’ve played so far makes one think just about anything is possible. Mark them on your League Pass calendars every night, folks.