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Commentary: Jason Kidd’s Amorphous Contribution

Since entering the league over 15 years ago, Jason Kidd has always been able to identify his team’s needs and fill them to the best of his 6’4″, 200 pound body’s ability. Through and through he’s grabbed necessary rebounds, fed his team’s hot hand in the right place at the right time, and dictated tempo with unparalleled decision making prowess. In these playoffs he’s decided to play the role of secondary scorer, an identity he’s rarely assumed since beginning his second stint as a Maverick, and the jury remains out on whether it’s a good move or not. Kidd leads all playoff competitors in three point attempts with 29, and he has one more rebound than assist—rare for every other point guard apart from Kidd and maybe Rajon Rondo. A few days ago the Wall Street Journal posted some interesting statistics dealing with Kidd and how much he’s relied on the three-point shot this season. 

While Kidd fills his basic point-guard duties even more efficiently than he did as a young Mav, his scoring style has changed markedly. He had the lowest field-goal percentage this season of any NBA regular, 36.1%. That’s primarily because Kidd was taking more of his shots than any other NBA player from three-point range, nearly two-thirds. (In his first go-around with Dallas fewer than one-third of his field-goal attempts were from behind the arc – his jumper was so iffy his critics used to call him Ason Kidd, because he had no J.) In fact, the proportion of his field-goal attempts from beyond the arc was one of the six highest in any single season since the NBA introduced the three-point shot.

Charles Barkley likes to say basketball teams don’t live by the three, it kills them. Through four games, Kidd is somewhat of a symbolic reflection of this ideology and, hardly for the better if you’re a Mavs fan, a major variable in Dallas’ chances of advancing. Watching the Mavericks, it almost feels like they can’t lose when Kidd makes his threes (he’s currently shooting a career playoff high 48%), but they can also gut through for victories when he doesn’t shoot them at all. Dallas’ roster overflows with players who’ve taken on the role of primary scorer at some point in their careers, and none of them are scared with the ball in their hands when a crucial play must be made. This from ESPNDallas.com’s Jeff Caplan:

The Jason Kidd Show that swept the nation — and in particular the Portland Trail Blazers – has hit a rough patch. After scoring 24 and 18 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively, to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 2-0 lead, Kidd will be looking for some more home cooking when Game 5 arrives Monday night back in Dallas with the series tied 2-2. In Portland, Kidd totaled 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting, scoring eight points in Game 3 and nine in the epic meltdown of Game 4. It continues the theme that when Kidd can produce in double digit scoring, the Mavs typically win, and when he doesn’t they don’t.

Portland’s strategy has been steadfast—they seem to be daring Kidd to shoot from deep, accepting that as a more acceptable option than any other Mavericks method of attack. His 24 points in Game 1 were a season high and somewhat of an anomaly. Yes, Kidd shoots a lot of threes, but neither at the rate nor as successful as last year when he shot 43% on 5.2 tries per game to this season’s 34% on 4.9. Portland will happily clap along while Kidd continues to launch the deep ball and it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone if Carlisle chooses to simmer the load his Hall of Fame point guard has undertook in the first four games of the 2011 playoffs. It’s a question the Mavericks are going to ask themselves in this series’ final three games: Should they keep looking at Jason Kidd three-pointers, or make more attempts at exploiting mismatches employed by, say, the likes of Shawn Marion. (In the team’s past four games, Kidd’s usage percentage has jumped up four points from what it was in the regular season while Marion’s has dropped by seven.) Whichever option they choose to lean on could decide who advances and who goes home.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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