Expect to see a lot of Rick Carlisle’s impression of a third base coach sending a runner home next season.
That’s what the Dallas Mavericks coach does when he wants his team to get out in transition, cranking his arm around and around. His shoulder might be sore if the Mavs play at the pace Carlisle wants next season.
Then again, if the Mavs get the message, maybe Carlisle won’t have to wave as he watches his team push the tempo on a consistent basis.
The Mavs ranked in the middle of the pack in pace last season, averaging 95.7 possessions per game, almost six fewer than the team that played at the fastest tempo. Carlisle hopes the remodeled Mavs, a team he believes is built to run, will be among the leaders next season.
“We want to play faster,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to have to do it by playing with our depth and playing with intelligence. We should be able to do that because we’ve got a lot of high-IQ players.”
That includes three point guards with significant starting experience in Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris. Of that trio, only Harris could be considered fast by NBA point guard standards. However, the Mavs’ hope is that their three-man rotation at the position gives their point guards the luxury of playing at maximum speed without concern for conserving energy.
The idea isn’t necessarily for the point guards to run the transition offense on a regular basis anyway. The best way for them to push the pace is often via the pass, something Jason Kidd was a master of as an old man during his second tenure in Dallas.
The Mavs will feature two starting wings who can flat run. Shooting guard Monta Ellis is widely recognized as one of the NBA’s fastest players. Chandler Parsons also excels in transition, ranking 17th in the league in fast-break points last season while playing for the run-and-gun Houston Rockets, eight spots ahead of Ellis.
The Mavs’ top two centers are exceptional athletes for big men. Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright are capable of outrunning most centers and are outstanding at finishing above the rim. As is the case with the point guards, the Mavs’ depth at center (with banger Greg Smith also seeing spot duty there) should allow their big men to play with maximum effort at all times.
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t win many footraces a decade ago, much less at the age of 36. But the big German is absolutely lethal as a 3-point-popping trailer.
When Nowitzki rests, the majority of the power forward minutes are likely to go to Parsons and Al-Farouq Aminu, an exceptional athlete who has played small forward for the vast majority of his NBA minutes. Those small-ball lineups will probably play even faster than the starters.
The Mavs’ desire to push the pace isn’t just about racking up traditional transition points. The faster the Mavs play, the more often they’ll force opposing defenses to scramble, creating mismatches for the Mavs to exploit out of their flow offense.
For example, a Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway over a small forward with 14 seconds left on the shot clock wouldn’t count as fast-break points, but the Mavs can create that mismatch by making their foe sweat in transition.
The Mavs were one of the most efficient offenses in the league last season, tying the Miami Heat for second in points per 100 possessions (109.0). With improved personnel and increased pace, the Mavs think they can be much more explosive and even more efficient.