The Dallas Mavericks have been a different team since the start of the year, and it highlights the main difference between current coach Jason Kidd and former coach Rick Carlisle. When Kidd got hired, everyone said this was a downgrade at the coaching position in Dallas. Is it possible they were wrong?
Mavericks’ improved defense
Since January 2022, the Mavericks have been on top of the league regarding defensive rating. In their last 13 games, they are 11-2 because of their defense. Dallas held their opponents to 95.6 points per game on 42.4 percent field goal shooting and 27.8 percent beyond the 3-point line. Including the 9.6 point spread, all of these numbers have been NBA’s best.
The teams they faced were no pushovers either. They defeated Memphis twice, Golden State, Denver, and Chicago. The improved effort on defense helped Dallas climb the standings. The team now sits at the 5th spot in the Western Conference. Mavericks started slow, dealing with several injuries to key players, but it looks like they have found the groove now. This shows the big difference between Jason Kidd and Rick Carlisle: defense vs. offense.
Carlisle’s offense vs Kidd’s defense
Under Carlisle, the Mavs have been historically good on offense. In 2020, Dallas set an NBA record for the most efficient offense ever, with 115.8 points per 100 possessions. What made it work was Carlisle’s willingness to do away with traditional playcalling to make the team unpredictable. Having Luka Doncic helped. The Slovenian wunderkind possesses out-of-this-world playmaking skills and shotmaking abilities, and giving him the reigns to torture opposing defense worked to the team's advantage. However, the team failed to advance deeper in the playoffs. Clearly, changes have to be made.
Carlisle was fired, and Jason Kidd was brought in. The former Mavs point guard had a shaky start, but it’s starting to look like the team has embraced his philosophies. When Kidd was in Milwaukee and Brooklyn, the defense wasn’t his forte, but he learned his lessons. In the Mavs’ new-look defense, Dorian Finney Smith and Maxi Kleber now play bigger roles in protecting the rim. Before, Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell would get abused by the opposing team in their pick and rolls. Now, Dallas is cutting off the passing lanes early or blocking the driving lanes to force teams to make outside jumpers.
They say offense wins games, but defense wins championships. It’s too early to tell if the Mavs can sustain their NBA best defense until the end of the season, but it looks promising. This time, fans can have another reason to hope for a deeper playoff run with Kidd on the bench.