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The Mack-Attack!

Shelvin Mack had to step up when Utah was injured. Is it time for him to step back now?

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz suffered through a ridiculously high number of high value injuries this season. Starters like George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, and Derrick Favors have all missed time in the first half of the season. Reserves like Dante Exum, Alec Burks, and Boris Diaw have as well. There have been only a handful of players Quin Snyder could have reliably called upon this year: Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles, and Shelvin Mack.

Mack is a journeyman NBA player who is at his physical peak right now, and in a contract year. He’s been given a lot of responsibility as Hill, Exum, and Burks have all been out (PG/SG, PG/SG, and SG/PG). Mack, probably more of a combo guard than a pure point at this stage, responded to the greater responsibility with dominating the ball when he’s in the game. Players have to step up when there are injuries. Mack did step up.

But I think it’s time for him to step back a little bit (hard to ask him to do when he’s in a contract year and the head coach has his back). I’m saying this because we have to look at the “Mack attack.” We’ve had about half a season of Mack in the books right now (39 games). In the small sample size of the last five games we’ve seen him score 17 points and 15 points, but also 4 points and 0 points. I had to see what the full season of Mack was really like and I crunched the numbers.

  • 39 games
  • 900.73 minutes
  • 23.81 minutes per game
  • 330 points
  • 8.46 points per game
  • 133 FGM / 294 FGA
  • 3.41 FGM per game / 7.54 FGA per game
  • 45.24 FG%

All in all that’s not bad. There was a strong correlation between the more minutes he has played and the most shots he has taken. But there was no real ‘self-check’ when it came to him playing well / making shots, and him taking shots. In a way this confirms the idea that the defense would rather live with Shelvin Mack beating you, than the other Jazzmen who they’d rather defend.

What I found out is that the more Mack-Ops we see, the less effective he is.

  • Season average is 7.54 FGA per game, and that’s at .4524 FG%
  • Games where he takes 8.00 or more FGA per game, .4378 FG%
  • Games where he takes 7.99 or fewer FGA per game, .4839 FG%

The more he ‘feels himself’ as part of the offense the less efficient he is. What about the extreme case? Mack’s had some nights where he’s scored big! (19 points, 17, 17, 17, 15, 15, etc) Well, in the games where he shoots a lot (10.0 or more FGA) he shoots .4054 FG%.

I don’t want Mack shooting 10 times a game. Or more. The 3 for 11 or 6 for 16 nights don’t get erased because of that one time he shot 7 for 14.

There’s more to Mack than just shooting. There’s, in theory, passing, rebounding, defense, hustle plays, and leadership. But so far in this contract year what we see the most when we see extended Mack-Ops is more FGA. For what it is worth, we could watch Dante Exum miss layups as well, but have the actual defense to look forward to on the other end.

Mack held down the fort when people were out. People are back. There’s a reason why other NBA teams kept him as the third point guard. In an emergency he is useful. But the fire is out right now. Time to put Mack back on the shelf.