Dirk Nowitzki holds key to Mavericks’ success


The faces of blame and frustration this season for the Dallas Mavericks: Chandler Parsons, Rajon Rondo, and Monta Ellis. Expectations have been placed high on the Mavs’ perimeter trio. But it isn’t solely on those three to right the Mavs and lead the push to the playoffs.

With those three taking much of the heat throughout the season, Dirk Nowitzki has been able to avoid plenty of it. But the truth is that the Future Hall-of-Famer hasn’t played up to expectations. It’s not fair to expect Dirk to still be the Dirk of old, but the Mavs need more out the 36-year old.

He’s averaging 17.2 points, which is the third lowest of his career, but it isn’t his scoring averaging that’s most alarming. After all, that was expected with the addition of Parsons to the team. It’s his shooting that’s been a concern. His 45.8% field goal is the third lowest of his career. The previous lows occurred during his rookie season (40.7%) and the 2011-2012 lockout shortened season (45.7%). His 38.5% three-point shooting isn’t awful but it is far below what we’ve come accustomed to see from him these last few seasons.

To make matters worse, his field goal percentage has dropped to 44.8% since the Rondo trade; at least his three-point percentage has raised to 41%. But it’s evident that Nowitzki hasn’t been the dead-eye shooter we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Rondo has gotten much of the team’s flack for the offensive woes and not just Dirk’s, but the numbers show that Dirk has gotten more open looks with Rondo on the roster than he did last season with Jose Calderon running point.

More from The Smoking Cuban

According to NBA.com, 45.9% of Dirk’s shots last season were considered open or wide open. This season, that number is up to 53.5% since the Rondo trade. For shots outside of ten feet, his percentage jumped from 44.3% last season to 52.4% this season.

So that’s the bad news. He’s getting more shots he should hit and hitting fewer of them.

And the worst news is that he’s struggled most where he’s always made his living.

On shots outside of ten feet and inside the arc, he’s shooting just 43.8% in open situations. And on catch and shoot situations, he’s making just 45.5% of his shot. These are drops from 51.8% and 53.9% last year. And again, he’s getting more open looks this season than last; 21.5% of his shots in that range are considered open, last year just 17.9% were.

We knew, as Father Time crept up, Dirk’s one-on-one game would suffer. And that’s certainly happening. He’s shooting just 42.3% and 33.3% this season in tight and very tight situations outside of ten feet; last season he shot 52.7% and 43.1%. But it’s his inability to make defenses pay for playing off of him that’s hurting the team.

And unfortunately, it’s Dirk who will need to cure his ailments for the Mavs to have a fighter’s chance in the postseason.

But for the Mavs to make a playoff push, Dirk will have to give them much more than he has so far.

He’s looked better over the last five games; he’s shooting 50.9% from the floor and 60% from three, but he’s still averaging just 16.6 points per game during that stretch.

The team doesn’t need him to give them 30 points a night, but they need more than the 16-17 he’s offering. He can no longer just be a decoy or option three on offense, not on this team that obviously lacks shooting and spacing.

Pieces have been added to ease the burden on Dirk. Now the team needs him to make everyone else’s job easier.

Next: 5 Under the Radar Free Agents the Mavericks Should Consider

More from The Smoking Cuban