Kidd has a lot to prove this year
The Mavericks are off to a hot start this offseason, making every move in the margins count. They have improved considerably a little over a week into free agency. Josh Green and Grant Williams form an exciting wing duo, while Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper provide plenty of intrigue as young upside. The return of Seth Curry gives Dallas another sniper that Luka Doncic can find on the rim. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving will benefit from an upgraded supporting cast, as improved athleticism and skill around them will make the Mavericks that much harder to defend. However, it is not a single player who will benefit the most from the improved roster, but rather head coach Jason Kidd.
Kidd has been criticized by a lot of people in Dallas (myself included) and rightfully so. After a great first year with the Mavericks, the team took a big step back in year two. He was frugal with timeouts, constantly said the wrong thing to the media and at times seemed like he had no game plan at all. His career winning percentage is currently around 50 percent (273 wins, 264 losses), underscoring the fact that he is likely no more than a mediocre coach. Despite all this, he deserves one more chance. Not because he deserved it, but because Dallas has done a complete 180 and is facing a team that plays right into Kidd’s coaching style.
Take Joe Mazulla, head coach of Boston Celtics, e.g. He rarely calls timeouts, says weird things, and doesn’t run a ton of offense. He has a very similar coaching style to Kidd, but the Celtics were a game away NBA finals this past season, not a game away from the play-in tournament. This is because Boston had a far more well-rounded and talented roster and is more equipped to play through mistakes. Kidd is able to use the new Mavericks to leverage himself into a similar extension that Mazzulla got after the Celtics’ playoff run this past season.
The upgrade to Dallas is twofold. On the one hand, Dallas got objectively better. They turned Reggie Bullock, Theo Pinson, Frank Ntilikina and Davis Bertans into Grant Williams, Seth Curry, Dante Exum, Richaun Holmes, Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Along with expected year-over-year improvement from Jaden Hardy and Josh Green, Dallas has upgraded the talent significantly. Kidd’s style requires shotmaking and talent to overcome the lack of interference from the sideline, especially during opponents’ runs. Curry and Williams are perfect contributors here, as they both boast high career three-point percentages (43.5 and 39.5 percent) and low career turnover rates (1.1 and 0.9 per game). Hardy and Green should also see increases in their minutes, giving Dallas two more dynamic athletes to put pressure on when they’re under pressure themselves.
The other side of the roster turnover is the inspection by the youth. They added a 19, 21 and 24 year old to a core that already had a 21, 22 and 24 year old. Kidd may get a lot of flak for his coaching mishaps, but without a doubt he knows how to develop talent. Josh Green was buried as a rookie under Rick Carlisle, averaging just 2.6 points per game. match in 39 appearances. In year one under Kidd, he took a step and averaged nearly five points in 67 games. This past season, Kidd’s influence began to pay off as Green averaged a career-high 9.1 points on 53.7 percent shooting in 60 games and 21 starts. Jaden Hardy averaged just 3.7 points in seven minutes a game over 11 games before Jan. 1, 2023. After the turn of the year, Kidd’s decision to let him grow in the G-League paid off. Hardy put up over ten points in 17 minutes on the night on 43.3 percent from three after January 1st.
With those two guys having another year under Kidd, and now adding three other players under the age of 25 to take advantage of the Mavericks’ skill development, the latter part of the year could be very strong for Dallas. If they get off to a faster start than they did last year and the rookies can get up to speed by the All-Star break, Dallas will have a very good chance to be the hottest team in the West heading into the playoffs. Lively and Prosper are archetypes of impact players, and Kidd will be a big help to them in their rookie years.
The Mavericks are going to have a full training camp of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. They have dynamic young players who will have the chance to learn from some of the greatest players to ever play the game, including Kidd. They bolstered a veteran presence by adding Holmes and Curry and re-signing Powell. Kidd has no excuses this year, the team is far more equipped to play into his style. He has the most to prove and the Mavericks are giving him as much as they can to help him show that he is the right coach to build this young team into a contender.