The Dallas Mavericks coughed up a late lead and lost their home opener against the Toronto Raptors Tuesday but have been able to get out to a 2-2 start to the season despite working key players back in to the lineup and playing extremely shorthanded against the Los Angeles Clippers.
There have been some surprising contributors early on; Zaza Pachulia has been a steady presence on the boards, averaging 9.3 rebounds in the first four games, and Raymond Felton is playing well now that he’s finally healthy. But the big story for the Mavericks thus far has been Dirk Nowitzki.
It’s not entirely shocking that the future Hall of Famer has been the team’s best player, but his efficiency has been nothing short of astounding. Through his first four contests Nowitzki has averaged 17.5 points per game on 56.3% shooting from the field and 61.5% from three-point range.
Even if his numbers are downplayed a bit Nowitzki remains one of the very few to accomplish that type of proficiency in the early going. Currently two players in the league are scoring over 17 points a night while shooting over 50% from the floor and long range. Nowitzki, and the first overall pick in this summer’s draft, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. The difference between the two? Towns is 1-2 from distance on the year and Dirk is 8-13.
It’ll be interesting to see if Nowitzki can keep this level of play up. Most figured the Mavericks would lean on the aging franchise cornerstone in the early part of the schedule as Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons got back into the swing of things, but Dirk has been able to do all of this in fewer than 28 minutes a night.
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Obviously it’s doubtful that he’ll shoot over 60% from deep all year long. But if Rick Carlisle can continue to manage his minutes this way without it being detrimental to the team’s success, keeping his legs relatively fresh as the season progresses, there’s no reason to think Nowitzki can’t maintain some semblance of those figures.
With talented offensive weapons around him he can pick his spots perhaps more than ever. And remember, he’s shot better than 38% from behind the arc in each of his last three seasons.
Tim Duncan gets a lot of credit for remaining one of the better players in the league into his late stages of his career, and rightfully so. And it’s only fair to point out that not only is he still a reliable offensive player, the 39-year old is still impactful on the defensive end as well. But Nowitzki deserves the same type of love.