DALLAS - As the start of the NBA regular season rapidly approaches, there is still time to ponder the results the Dallas Mavericks achieved during the preseason.
The Mavericks pulled off a perfect 4-0 record during the 2021-22 preseason. All but one of Dallas' victories featured a double-figure margin of victory — including a 68-point blowout over the Charlotte Hornets.
Jalen Brunson was the lone Mavericks player to reach the 20 minutes per game threshold while the team's two stars — Luka Doncic (19.7) and Kristaps Porzingis (19.3) — came close to doing so.
It's often difficult to take too much away from how teams are deploying strategies since they do not want to show too much of their hand in games that do not actually count. As a result, giving too much run to key players isn't necessary.
A lot of the preseason is about players getting physically back into a rhythm and avoiding getting hurt. In speaking of... let's take a look at some key takeaways from the Mavericks' preseason action.
Mavericks Utilized Transition Far More Often — Will It Continue?
Under Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks tended to slow things down offensively and try to pick teams apart within the half-court. Last season (including playoffs), only 12.2-percent of the team's possessions occurred in transition — ranking the third lowest frequency in the NBA.
The preseason is a small sample size, but the focus under Jason Kidd has been clear after defensive rebounds — advance the ball quickly and run more in the open floor. There has been a green light to take early shot clock three-point attempts in semi-transition, too.
During the preseason, the Mavericks had transition plays account for 22.5-percent of their offensive possessions — trailing only the Toronto Raptors (24.7-percent) and Memphis Grizzlies (22.6-percent).
It will be intriguing to see how much of Dallas' boosted transition rate translates to the regular season. The use of Feron Hunt, Carlik Jones, and Josh Green certainly helped to boost transition frequency.
It's difficult to envision the Mavericks' transition rate sustaining quite as high as it has. An increase surely is expected with partly more of an attempt to get out and run but most likely more so due to a heightened rate of very early shot clock takes.
With Luka Doncic playing heavy minutes, the team will remain a half-court-oriented team since it suites his play style. If there isn't a clean opportunity to make a quick lead pass for a favorable outcome, he will take a more patient approach.
Rejuvenated Kristaps Porzingis Ready For Season
Much focus has been placed on the impending production of Kristaps Porzingis after an underwhelming playoff series against the LA Clippers. With Jason Kidd at the helm, Porzingis' spirits have never been higher since being traded to the Mavericks.
Porzingis had a strong preseason after having a fully healthy offseason to work on his game instead of rehab. The Mavericks are quite optimistic about where he's at given those circumstances and what they've seen from him, so far.
“Health, first and foremost," Kidd said. "Sometimes if you’re hurt, you’re not able to do what you normally do. To give him credit, he never complained, he just did what he was capable of doing with the injuries. But when you’re healthy and can move, the fun, the joy comes back and you start to feel good.”
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Kidd wants to involve Porzingis in ways that utilize his size as opposed to relying so heavily on perimeter shooting. Porzingis still took a heavy dose of three-pointers in preseason play
"We would love for him to rim run," Kidd said. "He puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He's 7'3, he's gotta be accounted for; play through the post with him".
Perhaps most interesting of all is that Porzingis ended up taking a slightly higher volume of three-point attempts per 36 minutes in the preseason (7.4) than he did last regular season (7.0). He handled interior touches well and his free throw rate spiked. That sounds like inside-out balance.
"I think there is a balance," Kidd said. "I think sometimes we forget there should be a balance. Also, we were taught you warmed up getting close to the basket, then work your way out."
In the bigger picture, it will be important to see how the Mavericks' strategies involving Porzingis translates to success in the playoffs. If he can punish smaller defenders after switching occurs, it would go a long way for Dallas.
Drastic Change To Three-Point Rate... But Context Is Key
There has been a lot made about Jason Kidd's recent comments relating to perimeter shooting. Some have made it sound as though he will take the Mavericks back to the proverbial stone age but it's important to factor in how the team's reserves aren't built for high-volume output.
The 10-percent reduction in three-point rate in preseason compared to the 2020-21 regular-season figure has furthered the notion that Dallas is turning back the block.
While Kristaps Porzingis will be utilized more to bring an inside-out element, the Mavericks will still put up a lot of three-pointers — making it too early to 'panic.'
“I don’t want anybody to panic that we’re not going to shoot threes,” Kidd said. “We’re going to shoot threes. But when you look at the way KP (Kristaps Porzingis) is playing inside and out, it’s a plus for us.
“And the rotations. Guys have only played a half. As we go forward, I think you’ll see more threes go up, but still being consistent in trying to get the ball inside first trying to take the easy two or get to the free-throw line.”
Doncic is going to take a lot of three-pointers in his own right while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Porzinigs will undoubtedly do the same. Meanwhile, more '3-and-D' oriented talents like Reggie Bullock, Sterling Brown, Maxi Kleber, and Dorian Finney-Smith will do the same.
Mavericks Achieved Top Priority — No New Injuries
Whenever any team is participating in games that do not "count" toward the actual win percentage that determines playoff seeding, the top priority is to just not have key players get injured.
The Mavericks managed to achieve this and are fully healthy entering the regular-season opener. Additionally, Reggie Bullock — who was away for the time for a brief period due to personal reasons — has been back with the group.
Entering the start of the regular season with a fully healthy group as opposed to waiting to see when Kristaps Porzinigs will join the lineup is big. Think about all of the extra reps all throughout training camp and practice in the preseason.