Consider the Following

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 8, 2009 under Commentary | 7 Comments to Read

Jason Terry is a shooting machine. We hold that truth to be self-evident in Dallas. But are more shots for Jason Terry really a good thing for the Mavs?

Before you scoff at the notion, consider the following:

  • In games this season in which Terry has attempted fewer than 15 shots, the Mavs are 11-1. In games in which Terry has attempted 15+, the Mavs are just 3-6.
  • JET is averaging 12.1 field goal attempts (and 4.1 threes) in wins, compared to 16 attempts (and 6.6 threes) in losses. The per minute numbers are comparable, as Terry averages 13.3 FGAs in wins and 15.6 FGAs in losses.

As of late, Terry’s usually lethal jumper has not only been off the mark, but consuming a disproportionate amount of the Mavs’ total offense. In a typical Maverick win, Terry’s field goal attempts comprise 14.1% of the total team FGAs. But in a typical Maverick loss, that number jumps to a whopping 20.3%. That number itself doesn’t quite displace Terry in the team hierarchy (Dirk’s FGA numbers are similarly slanted upward in losses), but it’s an interesting tidbit to weigh in light of the Mavs’ first losing streak of the season.

The losses to Memphis and Atlanta, while partially indicative of the Mavs’ offensive struggles this season, presented a bit of an abberation: Dallas, a decent 3-point shooting team, hoisted up a ridiculous number of threes in failed efforts to regain momentum. Rather than settle into their offensive sets and develop open shots organically, the Mavs forced up bad 3-point attempts in transition, when guarded closely, and with better alternatives available. No Mav is more culpable than Terry, who combined for 18 3FGAs between the two games. Take a look at the JET’s shot charts for the Memphis game:

And the Atlanta game:

Visually, it’s startling to see how many of Terry’s attempts were behind the 3-point line, in spite of the Mavs’ impotent offense. And anecdotally, it was startling to see just how easy it is for Terry to put his blinders on when he feels it’s time to go to work, even if that means compromising the greater offensive strategy of the team. JET’s tenure in Dallas has been marked by his scoring efficiency, most of which is predicated on high-percentage jumpshooting and discretion. We’ve seen neither of late, as Terry, in his attempts to jump-start himself and his team, has settled into a habit of hoisting up threes. Those long-range shots are not going to unveil a mythical cure-all for the Maverick offense, and the manner in which Terry has taken them over the last two games has been destructive.

Don’t get me wrong, Terry still deserves to be this team’s top scoring option behind Dirk. But if the Mavs are going to right the ship on offense (as they’ve only done in spurts this season), Jason Terry must take heed of what has made him so valuable to the Mavs in the past. I fully understand the temptation to shoot your team back into a game, but Terry is going about this the wrong way. If the shots aren’t falling (and they haven’t been; JET is averaging 31.3% shooting over his last two), it’s Terry’s prerogative to find opportunities near the basket. Just four of Terry’s 32 shot attempts vs. Memphis and Atlanta came in the paint, which is far too low for a guard with the speed and handles to get inside.

I’m still not convinced that the overall trend is causal, but it’s hard to argue in favor of Terry’s performance over the last two games. In Josh Howard’s absence, Jason Terry has not only maintained his role as the team’s emotional leader, but also taken on the responsibility of being the Mavs’ heartbeat. Even the most complicated metrics don’t begin to approach Terry’s value to this team, and I still fully endorse putting the ball in his hands. But JET’s recent string of decision-making has only handcuffed an offense that aches for scoring. The moneyball has always been a critical part of Terry’s arsenal, but until he reverts to his usual, more diversified game, the Maverick offense could continue to take cues from one of its leaders.

Shot charts from ESPN.com, all statistics from Basketball-Reference.com.

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  • Crawford

    Good stuff. Unfortunately if JET is your #2 guy, that means you are not a championship team.

    Other notable #2′s among the league’s elite:
    -Pau Gasol
    -Paul Pierce
    -Vince Carter
    -Manu Ginobli/Tony Parker

    Yikes…Jet is fun and even critical, but he is no star like the above gents.

    Let’s cross our fingers for a J-Ho March/April explosion.

  • Joe

    I’ve long thought the Mavs needed to upgrade at the 2. This only helps support that idea. I love JET and would hate to see him go, but Dallas needs more at the 2 than what Terry provides. With the somewhat emergence of Beaubois (albeit only good for ~15 minutes/game), I think the time is now to try to upgrade Terry. Maybe one of Golden State’s guards can be acquired since they have so many? Raja Bell looks like the odd man out on that roster packed with youth, I wonder what it would take to acquire him, he is exactly what the Mavs need right now.

  • Jeff S.

    I believe Raja just had surgery. He’s out for at least a couple months. Maybe he’ll come back around the same time that Howard is able to finally play. Or maybe Howard never comes back at all.

  • Vic De Zen

    Um, as it says in the piece here: “Terry still deserves to be this team’s top scoring option behind Dirk.”

    It’s not a matter of upgrading, it’s a matter of Terry playing more efficient ball. That’s it.

  • KellerMaverick

    Hey Rob,

    Consider this — are the Mavs losing games because Terry is hoisting more shots, or is Terry shooting more because the Mavs are not getting production from other players in a losing effort?

    Just a thought…I have no stats to back this up.

  • http://projectvibe.net boogie

    all fingers point to Dirk. When Dirk is off his game, Terry as the second option becomes the go to guy…when the offense relies heavily on JET because Dirk is ineffective, it doesn’t bode well for the home team. JET as good as he is, is not the man to lead this team