Make no bones about it, Dallas Mavericks hybrid big man Maxi Kleber is in a major offensive funk. In fact, it may be the worst shooting slump of his career.
Over his last 12 games, Kleber is shooting just 17-of-65 (26.2 percent) from the field and 6-of-41 (14.6 percent) from 3-point range. As painful as those numbers look on paper, it’s been even more painful to watch Kleber go through these struggles in real time.
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The conundrum for the Mavs — at least from our perspective — is that they can’t really afford to bench Kleber (even if it’s just for general rest) due to all the other vital attributes he brings to the team, including rim protection, rebounding and overall defense. The Mavs aren’t worried, though, and they’re banking on Kleber eventually shooting his way through it before the playoffs begin.
"What I love about Maxi [Kleber] and what he's doing, is he's shooting the ball still,” said coach Jason Kidd of Kleber’s continued struggles. “Most people just turn it down and not even look. He's shooting it and they do look good — I swear they're going in.”
The Mavs have still been able to play winning basketball lately despite Kleber’s shooting — Dallas is 16-5 dating back to Feb. 2 — and that could be a sign of great things to come in the near future. After all, a career 36 percent 3-point shooter simply can’t continue to shoot the ball as poorly as he has, right?
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“I think at some point when [Kleber’s shots do fall], it's going to be a lot of fun for him and the rest of his teammates on the floor, because they keep throwing him the ball,” said Kidd.
Regardless of how long it takes for Kleber to find his stroke again, he will continue to get wide-open looks as teams throw traps at Luka Doncic.
Kleber’s next chance to break out of his slump will come on Friday night as the Mavs take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in a big game on the road. Dallas defeated Minnesota 110-108 at American Airlines Center on Monday, and Kleber finished that one with five rebounds, three assists and one block despite shooting just 1-of-9 from the field and 0-of-6 from deep.
“He has to [keep taking the shots],” said Kidd. “He's taking them and they're going to fall for him. When they do, it's just going to make the offense that much easier."
Dallas is more than capable of winning a first-round playoff series even if Kleber can’t figure things out, but if he can, we might be talking about a lot more than just a first-round victory in less than a month from now.