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Why coach Jason Kidd is most responsible for what’s ailing the Dallas Mavericks

Courtesy of Sportsnaut.com

The Tweets are long, harsh, and squarely about Jason Kidd’s competence as a head coach. They critiqued his arrogant decision-making, nonsensical rotations and substitution patterns, and awful in-game adjustments.

These descriptors could easily define Dallas Mavericks’ Twitter daily, but it also describes the
Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets’ Twitter during Kidd’s tenure as their head coach. This is
Kidd’s third time at the helm of a franchise, his second at the start of an all-time great’s prime.
And just like deja vu, he’s destroying the team he’s supposed to be coaching from the inside.
But hold up, Dallas Mavericks GM Nico Harrison isn’t getting off the hook here.

It was long agreed Harrison and Kidd were a package deal. Harrison signed off on Kidd’s hire,
and Kidd vouched for Harrison’s contacts around the league from his days as a glorified shoe
salesman with Nike. But, as has been the case since the Mavericks won the NBA championship
in 2011, owner Mark Cuban has done his best to let his ego and mismanagement send the
Mavericks into poverty-level purgatory.

Between Harrison’s front-office decision-making, and Kidd’s ineptitude on the sidelines, the Dallas Mavericks are setting themselves up to lose a generational talent in Luka Dončić once he gets tired of Mavs amateurs failing to build a winning roster around him.

In games where Dončić and Irving have played together, the Mavs are 1-4, an embarrassing
stat and a clear sign Kidd has no idea how to balance the two on-ball dominant guards. The
most recent sign of Kidd’s incompetence was the Dallas Mavericks embarrassing themselves in their last game against the Los Angeles Lakers, where they led by 27 points, only to blow the lead and lose the game. It was the team’s worst loss of the season, but indicative of what has made Kidd
the worst coach in the NBA.

Kidd has a generational talent in Dončić, who has cemented himself as a top three player in the
NBA and a bonafide MVP candidate. Now with Irving, he’s continued the poor rotations end-of-
game play-calling that haunted him in Brooklyn and Milwaukee.

In so many games, Mavs fans have watched Kidd draw up a goofy weak-side isolation play for
Dončić, only for him to dribble the air out of the ball in a loss. Furthermore, Dončić is at an all-
time usage rate, leading the league’s most helio-centric offense in the league. He currently leads the league in isolation possessions per game at 7.3, while Irving ranks sixth since joining the Mavs at 5.3 ISO possessions per game.

Throughout the season, Dinwiddie, Irving, and Dončić are all in the top four during their time in Dallas this season in ISO frequency percentage, showing Kidd’s over-reliance on isolation plays instead of running a functional offense predicated on ball movement and off-ball action.

It gets worse on a team level. The Mavs are second to last in assists per game, only averaging
22.4 per game. It shows Kidd’s system’s lack of ball movement and an over-reliance on outdated and inefficient one-on-one basketball. Essentially, Kidd is just giving the ball to Irving and Dončić and praying they bail him out.

Digging deeper into the advanced metrics, the Mavs rank 24th in assist ratio, 24th in assist percentage, and second to last in pace at 96.55. On any given night, the Mavs offense looks like an Irving/Dončić two-man game, with the other three guys — usually Josh Green, Reggie Bullock, and Dwight Powell — standing around in their spots waiting for a high-level pass.

Jason Kidd is repeating past history with Dallas Mavericks

jason kidd
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

To fans of the Bucks and Nets franchises, this sounds familiar. While the coach of the Bucks, Kidd was accused of mental abuse by former players, forcing them to practice during Christmas after a loss and running sprints like boot camp.

In Mirin Fader’s book, “Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP,” Fader writes of Kidd, “he continued to go after (Larry) Sanders with his comments — calling him ‘pathetic.’ To make matters worse, Sanders explained how Kidd’s stunt broke him down physically and mentally, resulting in him suffering from ‘full-body convulsions.’”

When the Bucks fired Kidd midway through his fourth season with the team, general manager
Jon Horst said of the move, “We believe this gives our team the best opportunity to have the
most success this season, the success that we expect, and going forward long-term,” Horst
said. “You have short windows in the NBA to build toward contention and actually contend, and
we didn’t want to waste time in putting our team in the best position to do that.”

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Kidd’s ability to get the best out of his superstar
talent and win a championship. Opposing teams could figure out Kidd’s simplistic blitz defense
fairly easily, resulting in the Bucks’ defensive efficiency falling to 22nd in his second season,
19th in defensive efficiency in his third season, and 25th midway through the season he was

The Dallas Mavericks are currently 23rd in defensive rating this season. On offense, the Bucks relied on isolation plays, ranking in the top half of the league in isolation frequency and possessions during Kidd’s four seasons as coach. Kidd has only gotten worse this season on his over-reliance on “hero ball,” as the Mavs currently rank first in both those categories.

In his postgame comments after the loss to the Lakers, Kidd absolved himself of blame and
seemingly put the onus on Dončić for the loss. “I’m not the savior here. I’m not playing,” Kidd
said. “I’m watching just like you guys, and as a team, we gotta mature, and we’ve got a lot of
new bodies coming back, and we gotta grow up if we want to win a championship. There’s no
young team that’s ever won a championship, mentally or physically.”

How Jason Kidd is using Christian Wood and Josh Green

christian wood
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of the other guys, much of the Mavs fan ire has come from how Kidd has misused
Wood. Acquiring Wood for scraps from the Houston Rockets was Harrison’s best move in his
GM tenure. But it seems he and Kidd were not on the same page towards his usage, as Wood
was relegated to a bench role in favor of Javale McGee to start the season. And even after
McGee was banished from the lineup, Wood is still only averaging 27 mins per game — his
lowest in three seasons. Wood’s 17.6 points per game is also the lowest in the last three

In the 17 games where Wood has played 29 or more minutes, he has had a positive plus/minus
in 11 of them while averaging 23.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.59 blocks. This is a
clear sign Wood should be playing more than what Kidd is giving him. Wood is the best of the
Mavs’ five bigs, but Kidd has refused to start or close games with him. It’s been confounding as
Kidd has opted to start and finish games with Dwight Powell, a hustle guy with limited abilities.

The one bright spot this season has been the slow emergence of third-year wing Josh Green.
After shadow GM Haralabos Voulgaris selected Green over local stud Desmond Bane from
TCU in the 2020 draft, Green was borderline unplayable the last two seasons. This year, in an
increased role, he has grown into averaged 9.3 points on 42.1 percent 3-point shooting and .643 eFG percentage. Those are significant jumps for Green, whose improved three-point shot and on-ball defense have made him one of the few organic bright spots on the team.

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But ever since Harrison signed Justin Holiday on the buyout market, Green has been removed from the starting lineup, a potential signal from Kidd of a lineup change. More problematic is the gradual decrease in minutes from Green over the previous five games, where he went from 40 mins to 38, 29, 26, and 16. With Finney-Smith gone, Green is the Mavs’ best on-ball defender and third-best transition player. Reducing his role shows Kidd’s oblivious to what works best for the team.

Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo