Kidd came into the season with a lot weighing on him: the Mavericks had to do well this year or else they would alienate their lead player, Luka Doncic, who is reportedly growing unhappy with the team’s sustained losing streak in the playoffs.
In other words, if this season didn’t show promise – and a lot of it – Doncic could be gone at his first opportunity.
Well, the season hasn’t always been great and there have been some massive bumps in the road but Dallas is really coming together, especially lately.
The Mavericks have won six straight games, and seven of their last eight.
They’ve done this against some difficult competitors too, including the Golden State Warriors (who they beat 99-82) and the Chicago Bulls (who they defeated Sunday night 113-99).
Kidd has figured something out and the Mavericks have been on a tear.
It’s not just point-scoring that wins basketball games, it’s a defense that really makes the difference.
Kidd, a former NBA pro, knows that and he has adjusted the way the Mavericks defend the basket.
It didn’t start this way: when the season began, they were giving up games because of sloppy, unprofessional, and lazy defense.
But Kidd has tightened things up and has made some big changes.
You see the Mavericks playing much faster and much more determined: they are blocking with intensity and contesting nearly every shot.
And they are getting the whole team involved, it’s not just Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis who are leading.
Great Mavs win: KP was great, Portland defense is terrible, and Green's passing was awesome.
Underrated parted was how Dwight Powell played defense in PNR vs Lillard. Great game plan from the start, Powell showed high on almost all screens and was able to recover. pic.twitter.com/MQfnmzMAbg
— Iztok Franko (@iztok_franko) December 28, 2021
Look how the Mavericks are absolutely smothering the paint in the tweet above – that simply wasn’t happening before.
The entire team is working in tandem to suffocate any attempted shots, even against some of the best players and best teams in the league.
According to Mavs Moneyball, the Bulls attempted 21 mid-range shots on Sunday night and only sank seven of them.
Progress is paying off: Dallas is now allowing just 103.3 points-per-game, which is the third-best ranking in the NBA.
Dealing With Doncic
If Kidd wants to truly transform the Mavericks into a championship-caliber team, he will have to make sure that Doncic is playing at the best of his ability.
Kidd has already shown that he’s figured out how to use Porzingis better – and because of that the Latvian superstar has stepped it up and improved his game.
But Doncic is the centerpiece of the team and it’s at its best when he is.
So far this season, Doncic has been a mixed bag: most of his stats are lower than previous seasons and he has suffered multiple injuries while seemingly not in shape.
The Mavs believe Luka Doncic’s ankle injury is, 'not too serious,' but he will miss a bit of time, per @espn_macmahon.
Here's where Luka Doncic suffered the ankle injury vs. the Nuggets:pic.twitter.com/CDn4ffY2ow
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 16, 2021
Most troubling, Doncic was relying on his usual form of hero ball, without turning to his teammates for help.
Kidd needs to get Doncic in check and remind him that he really does have a team he can rely on now – the days of hero ball are gone.
If Kidd can work on Doncic and take him to the next level, there really is no stopping this team.
In a very crowded, very competitive Western Conference, Dallas is coming together in the right way.
Their head coach might have finally cracked the code of the Mavericks.NEXT: Is Dirk Nowitzki The Greatest Mavericks Player Ever?