Do Recent Additions Give Dallas Mavericks the NBA's Best Offense?

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Do Recent Additions Give Dallas Mavericks the NBA's Best Offense?
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks haven't experienced much playoff success since taking down the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. 

In fact, they've advanced to the postseason in two of the three campaigns that have come to pass since they held up the Larry O'Brien Trophy but haven't even won a single playoff series during those appearances. In 2013-14, they came quite close, taking the San Antonio Spurs to seven games before succumbing to the eventual champions, but they couldn't get over the hump. 

The offensive charge, led by Dirk Nowitzki—who barely missed a 50/40/90 season—and Monta Ellis, was just unstoppable. All the supporting pieces worked together nicely, and the result was a unit that was awfully difficult to contain on any given night. 

Even with a struggling defense, Dallas was able to stay competitive. The offense was that good. 

And after a successful offseason, one filled with a trade and plenty of significant acquisitions, the point-scoring unit is poised to get even better. 

 

Weren't Far off in 2013-14

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Dallas, even if it scored "only" 104.8 points per game, the No. 8 mark in the league, had one of the league's very best offenses during the 2013-14 season. In fact, it may have been so good that it trailed only the machine boasted by the Los Angeles Clippers

What made the Mavericks so impressive was their ability to put up so many points while playing with a pace that, per Basketball-Reference.com, checked in below the league average. During the typical contest, Dallas actually used 0.4 fewer possessions than the average mark in the Association, yet they still finished No. 8 in scoring. 

So, how about using a pace-neutral metric? 

With an offensive rating of 111.2, the Mavericks trailed only the Clippers (112.1) and Portland Trail Blazers (111.5) last season, and they produced those marks while playing the toughest schedule of the bunch. If you go more in depth by looking at the four offensive factors, it's abundantly clear this wasn't some season-long fluke: 

Four Offensive Factors
Score NBA Rank
eFG% 52.6 No. 5
TOV% 12.7 No. 5
ORB% 24.6 No. 23
FT/FGA 20.1 No. 20

Basketball-Reference.com

Rick Carlisle's squad had a very clear identity throughout the 2013-14 season. 

It wasn't going to be overly aggressive, trading off appearances at the free-throw line for fewer turnovers, and his players often chose to get back for transition defense instead of trying to create extra possessions. And why not? They weren't squandering many trips down the court, given the lack of cough-ups and the insanely effective shooting. 

Everything clicked, just as it usually does under Carlisle

Ellis was finally used the right way, allowed to control the ball and drive the lane but encouraged to both keep his head up and avoid taking shots from the perimeter. He responded by putting together an impressive first go-round in Dallas, averaging 19 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 53.2 percent, the highest mark he's posted since leaving the Golden State Warriors

The combination of the athletic drives from Ellis and the incredible shooting of Dirk and Jose Calderon was just too much for opponents to handle, and the result was exemplary. 

Now, it's going to be even better. 

 

The Changes

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Dallas' first move of the offseason was a surprising trade with the New York Knicks, one that came out of left field and reunited a frontcourt duo that had dominated alongside one another during the championship-winning 2011 efforts. 

Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton were sent to Dallas, and the Mavericks gave up Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin and two second-round picks that became Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Cleanthony Early. 

Of course, those weren't the only transactions completed during the offseason. 

The Mavericks used some front-office savvy to sign Chandler Parsons to a large offer sheet, one that the Houston Rockets failed to match after they were unable to land Chris Bosh's services and assemble what could've been the best starting five in the NBA. 

As Mark Cuban explained while appearing on Dallas' KTCK-AM 1310, as relayed by The Dallas Morning News, everything was calculated to work against Houston's desires: 

I was pretty confident. Houston is a very logical organization. They do things by the book. They'll follow logic as opposed to some other human elements. ... I guess I can't think of a better way to put it. And so, by the book, they were not going to match. We priced it so if they tried to do a sign-and-trade, they were up against the CBA's hard cap. And that would limit their options. We knew if they didn't do anything with Chris Bosh, it would create limitations for their future flexibility. If they did bring in Chris Bosh, they basically were going to have to get rid of everybody. We tried to make it as difficult as possible on them.

The plan worked, and Houston didn't match the offer sheet Parsons signed with Cuban and the Mavericks, instead replacing him with Trevor Ariza

While Parsons is the most prominent acquisition this organization has made during the summer, we can't just overlook picking up Jameer Nelson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Greg Smith and Richard Jefferson. Each player is capable of contributing on one end of the court, and they'll all help provide a level of depth that can make up for some of the losses. 

Shawn Marion is still a free agent, but it doesn't appear as though he'll be going back to his old stomping grounds, not with the three small forwards and one power forward they've already added over the summer. 

"Now, his value in the marketplace is much higher than what we have right now, and so I would categorize that as a long long long long long shot," Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson told KESN-FM 103.3, as relayed by The Dallas Morning News, about the man fondly known as The Matrix.

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Count him out, and count Vince Carter out as well, seeing as the aging forward has already signed with the Memphis Grizzlies

Essentially, Dallas swapped DeJuan Blair, Calderon, Carter, Dalembert, Ellington, Larkin and Marion for Aminu, Chandler, Felton, Jefferson, Nelson, Parsons and Smith. Plus, you can throw in some expected improvement from young and inexperienced players like Gal Mekel, Ricky Ledo and Jae Crowder

That's a lot to process, but let's simplify things. 

Chandler is a huge addition to the offense, even if he's known as a defensive specialist. The big man is a dominant pick-and-roll presence who will thrive both running that set with Ellis and playing a high-low game with Dirk. Having him on the inside is a big upgrade over Dalembert, especially because his threatening strength around the rim will force defenses to compress around him and give the shooters more space. 

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Nelson and Felton should help shore up the point guard rotation, and the shooting lost without Calderon on the floor is made up for by Jefferson's presence on the bench and Parsons' in the starting five. It's not as though the former Orlando Magic floor general was waived because he couldn't find a home on one of the league's least competitive teams; his release was solely a cost-cutting move. 

But Parsons is still the headliner.

Carlisle was quite pleased with the acquisition, as he made clear during his own appearance on KESN-FM 103.3, relayed by The Dallas Morning News:

We always liked him. He's a guy you can't help but like. He's energetic; he plays both ends; he's highly skilled. He can shoot the 3; he can attack the rim; he can make plays. I think he may have led the league in 'floaters' made last year. I think it speaks to the versatility of his game. We've seen him be a very effective defensive player as well. He's gonna play multiple positions. I see him as our starting small forward. And I see him with the ability to bump to the big forward position. Maybe when Dirk goes out of the game, that's a possibility. He can also player smaller and he's guarded guards. Those are the kinds of guys every team is looking for right now. And with his age being 25, this is a young guy we can build with.

Just take a look at the numbers he put up last season compared to those accumulated by Marion and Carter: 

Per-Game and Advanced Stats for the Forwards
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% PER
Carter 11.9 3.5 2.6 0.8 0.4 40.7 39.4 15.9
Marion 10.4 6.5 1.6 1.2 0.5 48.2 35.8 13.7
Parsons 16.6 5.5 4.0 1.2 0.4 47.2 37.0 15.9

Basketball-Refernce.com

As a scorer, Parsons was the best of the bunch. Keeping in mind the inherent trade-off between volume and efficiency, his percentages are all the more impressive, as he was the most involved of the troika. 

But what really makes the Dallas offense better is his skill as a facilitator. That adds a new element to the attack, one that couldn't be present so long as a the aging forwards were eating up the minutes and providing their own brand of contributions. 

Looking beyond assists, 82games.com has a passing metric known simply as "passing rating," and Parsons earned the best mark of the three rather easily. He gives Carlisle a new offensive hub and will help take pressure off Ellis and Nowitzki. 

A better center, a better small forward and more depth are enough to trump the downgrade at point guard. One of the league's elite offenses got even better, and that's saying nothing of what Carlisle can do with his new soldiers. 

 

The Man on the Sidelines

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Even though he's undoubtedly part of the pantheon of current basketball coaches, Carlisle often gets overlooked by casual NBA fans. He doesn't stand out with his sideline histrionics, he hasn't experienced playoff success in the last few seasons and he doesn't have that one go-to calling card. 

Tom Thibodeau is a defensive genius. Gregg Popovich has a ridiculous system that scares the living bejesus out of everyone. Frank Vogel helped design one of the league's best defenses, and so on and so forth. 

But Carlisle?

He's the master of game management, a brilliant strategist who knows how to maximize the talent of his roster. That skill popped up throughout the previous campaign, something that didn't go overlooked by Bleacher Report's Steven Korn:  

Carlisle has his team playing great team basketball. He and his players know their strengths and weaknesses and don’t try and change their game based on which team they play.

Ball movement and ball security are two things that Carlisle has stressed with this team this year, and the Mavs have responded, ranking fourth in assists and fifth in turnovers.

The Mavericks do not have the world’s best defense, their defensive rating ranks 23rd in the league, and Carlisle knows it. While their porous defense does hurt them often, the Mavericks make up for it with highly efficient play at the other end of the floor.

Carlisle’s offensive schemes and sets are so perfectly matched for his players that it’s no wonder they rank in the top five in offensive rating. Carlisle’s game management will always put him ahead of others in the league and is a key reason to his teams' past and current success.

Now you're giving the master of management more toys to play with? 

Not only is Parsons a versatile upgrade who allows for more wrinkles in the offense, but there's depth at every position. Don't be surprised when Aminu, a limited offensive player who thrived as a transition threat during his final season with the New Orleans Pelicans, figures out how to find success as a cutter in half-court sets.

Try to avoid being shocked when Smith exceeds expectations and Felton, freed from the ever-present scrutiny and bright lights of Madison Square Garden, at least partially redeems himself. 

Simply put, the Dallas roster is better now than it was a year ago, and this team already experienced a great deal of success on the offensive end of the court. 

Will Dallas have the NBA's best offense in 2014-15?

Submit Vote vote to see results

The Mavericks don't have LeBron James or Kevin Durant. They don't have Stephen Curry splashing in three-pointers or Chris Paul functioning as more of a point god than a point guard. They don't have the all-around talent of the Portland Trail Blazers on the offensive end. 

But they still have Dirk and Monta and have added Parsons to the mix. With Carlisle prowling the sidelines, Chandler patrolling the paint and a deep supporting cast behind the stars, that might be enough to trump everything else. 

 

Who do you think will have the best offense in 2014-15? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook. 

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