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Dirk Nowitzki is Embracing His Role as the Mavs’ Center

Feb 25, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) jump for the game tipoff during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) jump for the game tipoff during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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As the Dallas Mavericks have transitioned to a primary small-ball team, Dirk Nowitzki has outsmarted Father Time yet again by seamlessly shifting to Center.

In the 2016 offseason, the Dallas Mavericks traded a future second round pick for professional rim protector and hard screener Andrew Bogut. Mavs fans were excited for their big man combo of Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki, but there was some questions about how the two could play together. Needless to say, that experiment did not go according to plan.

59 games and numerous injuries later, the Aussie is no longer with the Mavericks and Dirk looks like he has played Center his entire career, all at the age of 39 years old.

After Dirk and Bogut failed to be able to play together (or stay healthy for that matter), basketball chemist and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle had to head to the lab. After a few experiments and some losses, Carlisle finally found a winning concoction. Mavs bargain-bin gem Seth Curry was thrust into the starting lineup, and the long time Power Forward was bumped down to Center.

Feb 6, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) and guard Will Barton (5) guard Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry (30) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 110-87. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 6, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) and guard Will Barton (5) guard Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry (30) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 110-87. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The transition hasn’t been without its flaws (try watching Dirk do the opening tip-off, its pure comedy), but overall the change has fueled a Mavs resurgence. This is due in large part to Seth Curry’s heroics, but Dirk’s contribution at the 5 shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Mavericks are allowing 1.114 points per possession with Dirk at center, and are actually rebounding better with the Dunking Deutschman anchoring the middle, posting a 79 DRB% when he is at the 5 versus 77 DRB% when playing the 4. Since January 12 the Mavs are 4th in the league in total defense. Also, in the past 4 games Dirk has grabbed 10, 7, 9, and an impressive 12 rebounds in last nights contest. Nowitzki has been good for the occasional highlight play from the center position as well, even against some of the best bigs in the league.

Perhaps the most notable positive from Dirk’s transition to center has been how incredible the Mavericks spacing is. With Dirk on the perimeter, opposing bigs are staying glued to him rather than protecting the paint. This opens up driving lanes for the Mavs’ young guards and allows better chances for offensive rebounds. You can see below as the Blazers’ Mason Plumlee sticks with Dirk rather than hedging onto Yogi Ferrell in the pick and roll.

There was a time this season when Mavs fans didn’t have much to hope for, as Dallas struggled to win games against weak opponents, and it seemed Dirk may have finally lost his battle with Father Time as he struggled to get in a rhythm following an Achilles injury.

Fast forward to now and Nowitzki is thriving at Center, and the Mavs are winning games and contending for the playoffs again.

Next: Is Matthews the Next Big Trade Asset for the Mavs?

Eventually Dirk will get to old to keep up with the athletes of todays NBA, but that day hasn’t come yet. Long live the legend.

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