Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s rant about Kristaps Porzingis post-ups is right on the money
It seems just about every time the Dallas Mavericks are brought up on TNT, there is a need to mention how Kristaps Porzingis needs more post-ups. Each time it happens, it makes less sense than the last.
The fact of the matter is that the Mavericks have the top offensive rating (115.3 points per 100 possessions) in the NBA this season by a comfortable margin, so changing up their style of play because Charles Barkley says so doesn’t make sense. Their offensive prowess begins with the elite playmaking of Luka Doncic and is maximized by having tremendous floor spacing, large in part due to Porzingis’ shooting ability at his size.
After the Mavs’ 102-98 win over the San Antonio Spurs, a reporter asked Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle about NBA on TNT’s criticism of Porzingis. Carlisle made it clear that the ‘post-up just isn’t a good play anymore’ and they are producing historic offensive results. He also noted that Porzingis operated in the post more previously because he played in the New York Knicks’ triangle offense and that philosophy is ‘extinct’ for a reason.
a righteous, all-time coaching rant from Rick Carlisle reacting to the TNT broadcast's criticism of Porzingis includes him calling KP's offense "pretty fucking cool to me" pic.twitter.com/cYLE8IXO75
— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) December 27, 2019
It’s clear the Mavericks have accomplished what they have offensively so far this season in spite of posting up Porzingis, not because of it. For reference, he has posted up on 13.4% of his offensive possessions and is generating a horrific 0.589 points per possession in these situations. That’s by far the worst output of any of the 58 players with at least 30 post-up plays, which should make it abundantly clear that this isn’t an area of strength.
By maximizing their floor spacing, the Mavericks have in effect become one of the league’s elite finishing teams within the half-court. The numbers speak for themselves as they generate 1.28 points per possession (3rd) on these particular attempts. Doncic gets to the rim with ease in the pick-and-roll and isolation and off-ball players can attack the holes in the defense by putting the ball on the floor or cutting.
Having Doncic, or a complementary playmaker, drive to the rim for a finish at the basket is by far a more valuable play than having a stagnant post-up for Porzingis. For starters, Doncic has been one of the league’s absolute most efficient finishers this season, but in addition, he has been quite efficient on floaters and adept at drawing shooting fouls. On top of all of that, the frequent kick-outs that occur to highly effective spot-up shooters make these sequences even more valuable.
Partly why the Mavericks have been so effective is that they aren’t just a stand-still offense that watches off the ball. They change up their on-ball screening approach frequently to involve different players directly in plays. They also maintain more than enough off-ball movement and exploit ball-watching by off-ball defenders with movement and screening.
There is a highly effective core style of play that the Mavericks have succeeded using and ramping up Porzingis’ involvement in the post would be counter-intuitive.