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Mavericks Over/Under: Dirk Nowitzki’s 17.3 Points Per Game

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As the NBA regular season gets closer to its beginning we at The Smoking Cuban are looking at some key individual numbers from 2014-15 and predicting what those figures could look like in 2015-16.

In this case we’re looking at Dirk Nowitzki and his points per game.

Nowitzki scored 17.3 points per contest during an injury-riddled 2012-13 season, but rebounded by upping his average to 21.7 the following year. No injury woes last season, but Dirk duplicated his 2012-13 average of 17.3 in 2014-15.

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With Monta Ellis in Indiana and Chandler Parsons making his way back from offseason knee surgery the Mavericks will probably rely on the 37-year old Nowitzki for offensive production more than last year, especially early on.

Will Dirk score more than he had to last year? Or will the wear and tear of a 17-year career really start to catch up to him in 2015-16?

We debate the issue below.

Mavericks Over/Under: Dirk Nowitzki’s 17.3 PPG

Case for Over

Jason Lee:

When Dirk Nowitzki plays well, the Dallas Mavericks are a different team. And coming out for what will be his 18th season in the NBA, Dirk still must try to carry his team by doing what he does best: score.

Acquiring Wesley Mathews and Deron Williams would have been nice supplementary signings to ease Dirk’s scoring burden if; a). Matthews didn’t suffer an Achilles tear last season, b). Williams was three years younger, or c). Mark Cuban is willing to invest in a time machine.

And the uncertainty of how long Matthews and Chandler Parsons will sit on the sidelines will only cause more headaches for head coach Rick Carlisle. Although recent news indicates Parsons will attend Team USA’s minicamp this month, there are no assurances of when Parsons is returning to full health.

And that leaves the primary scoring responsibility in Dirk’s hands. Something that he has welcomed and excelled with throughout his historical greatness.

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Mark Cuban definitely knew what was coming out his mouth two years ago when he backed Nowitzki after the latter had his lowest point production (17.3 per game) since his rookie campaign.

“Knock on wood, if we stay healthy, I think people are just missing Dirk in ways they shouldn’t,” Cuban said in 2013, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. “Like I’ve been telling him, Karl Malone won an MVP at 35 and there’s no reason why he can’t be considered in an MVP conversation at 35.”

By that season’s end, Dirk didn’t win the MVP. But Cuban’s was correct to remain stubborn about prematurely dismissing Dirk as a superstar as the seven-footer averaged almost five points more than in 2012-13, tallying 21.7 points for the season and getting called up for his 12th All-Star appearances.

Over the course of NBA history, Nowitzki joins Karl Malone as the only power forwards older than 34 to average 17-plus points and post at least a 50.0 true shooting percentage more than once. While it might be naive to compare one legend to another, it’s not really an impossible task for Dirk to continue the trends set by Malone and remain an offensive machine even in his late 30s.

But Carlisle will also have his hands full controlling Dirk’s minutes, and taking the over here hinges on how well he manages them.

Last year after the break Dirk saw his points per game dipped down to three points fewer than prior. But if the last five playoff games against Houston Rockets is an example, things are almost back to normal in Mavericks land. In that stretch, Dirk went for 24, 10, 34, 16 and 22 points, with relatively mediocre percentages by his standards (45 percent from the field, 23 percent from the three-point line).

Dirk is our guy. A living legend who created this unique fadeaway jumper. A guy who inspires this city and we need that.

And plus, why would you want to bet against Dirk? That sounds like bad business to us.

Case for Under

Jay Knodell:

This is a tough one, but I’m going to take the under here. I don’t think it’ll be by much, and I don’t think it’ll have as much with diminishing skills as it will with his minutes.

As you pointed out Jason, Rick Carlisle and staff will closely monitor Nowitzki’s time spent on the floor and I think that’ll hurt him in this department. I also think early on Dirk’s field goal attempts will be higher than normal and he’ll do his fair share of scoring, but once Parsons and Matthews return to form they’ll pick up a lot of the slack.

Look, the Mavericks aren’t contending for a title this season, but doing so in 2016-17 isn’t out of the question. I think the goal will be to keep Dirk as fresh and injury free as possible in 2014-15 while looking forward to one last run in the final year of Nowitzki’s contract, and in all likelihood, career.

What do you think?

Next: Will Young Mavericks Make an Impact in 2015-16?

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