At about this time last season, I argued that as long as Jason Kidd scored in single figures most nights, no matter how many assists he piled up, the Dallas Mavericks ultimately would not be successful.
Injuries to Josh Howard last season left Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry as the team's only consistent scoring threats. Kidd finished last season averaging 9.0 points a game, about four points per game lower than his final full season in New Jersey and in single digits for the first time in his 15 NBA seasons.
Howard missed an early chunk of this season and was never a consistent scoring threat when he played. It's apparent that Shawn Marion is good typically for 10 to 12 points. Of course, the Mavs hope that newcomer Caron Butler can fill it up, but he's missed the last two games. The bottom line is the Mavs must get consistent point-guard scoring, just as Denver, New Orleans, Utah, Oklahoma City, Phoenix and San Antonio get from their floor leaders.
During the Mavs' 6-1 run since the All-Star break, including a season-high six-game win streak after Friday's come-from-behind 111-103 overtime win at Atlanta, Kidd has scored in double figures in every game. While he's put up 10 points in two of those games and 12 in another (the loss to OKC), he's also recorded games of 18 points, 21, 14 and Friday's 19 to go along with 17 assists and 16 rebounds for his first triple-double of the season.
More often than not, it's the scoring category that's limited Kidd's triple-doubles to just five -- among a career total of 104 --in 168 games since his return to the Mavs in February 2008.
Kidd's recent point surge has his season average nearing 10.0 a game. It took him until Feb. 5 to take his scoring average consistently into the 9-point-a-game range. When's he's scored in double figures this season, the Mavs are 20-10. More critical is Kidd posting 14 points or more. When he does, the Mavs are 10-3, including 4-0 in the seven games since the All-Star break.
Who knows if Kidd, who turns 37 next month and in his 16th NBA season, can keep up this pace. Maybe when Butler is fully healthy and integrated, Kidd's scoring won't be so integral to team success. Yet, it is conceivable that Kidd can keep going. He's made himself into a deadly 3-point shooter and he's driving the ball. He's been an absolute killer in the fourth quarter as he was again at Atlanta, nailing three 3-pointers in the final frame.
The truth is that when Kidd, one of the greatest assist men of all-time, also puts the ball in the hole, the Mavs are a very difficult team to beat.