As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 16th season, he's coming off his lowest scoring average since his first full season, saw a dip in rebounding and health is now becoming a factor. ESPNDallas.com will explain five reasons it’s too soon to say Dirk’s demise as an elite player has arrived.
Everyone knows how the Dallas Mavericks would like their offense to run. The ball moves side to side, and if the opportunity presents itself, the ball kicks out to an open man in the corner. This season, the problem ended up being that Shawn Marion was often the man in the corner. The result usually led to him driving into the lane or him taking a shot from the corner.
Imagine if Dirk Nowitzki was taking the corner 3.
Dallas shot 141 corner 3s during the 2011-12 season, marking the 10th-lowest amount in the league. Out of the nine teams that shot fewer than them, only two -- Memphis and Chicago -- made the playoffs.
“Obviously, if you’re tall and you can shoot like Sam Perkins and those guys, they can play until the end of their 30s if you’re out there and you’re spreading the floor,” Nowitzki said after a loss in late February. “Obviously, in five, six years -- if I make it that long -- I’m not going to like take every shot in the fourth quarter, but I’m going to be out there spacing the floor and be smart if I make it that long.”
This isn’t asking Nowitzki to jump into the Perkins role of being just a spot-up shooter beyond the arc. It’s just adding another wrinkle to the offense and to his game. For the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh shot 42 corner 3s during the season. Nowitzki shot a total of five for Dallas during the season. For one of the league’s best shooters, it’s perplexing that he isn’t used in that aspect. Again, he doesn’t have to live in the corner, but the threat of him being there has a ripple effect on how teams will defend him and the Mavs.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra explained the impact of Nowitzki prior to a matchup against the Mavs in January.
“I see him change how everybody plays them,” Spoelstra said. “It’s the Dirk Nowitzki effect on their offense. As a defense, you absolutely overreact to every situation he’s in -- or even that he’s not in -- and then you lose all sight of your team defensive rules.
“As soon as he comes in, you see that whole effect come in. It’s fascinating to see, and he’s earned that respect, that overreaction by defenses.”
Nowitzki is a very capable shooter from beyond the arc. Even in a down season, Nowitzki shot 41.4 percent from 3-point range. When looking at the breakdown, 96.8 percent of his long-range attempts were above-the-break 3s.
His “gravity” pulls opposing big men away from their natural spot, out to zones in which they are much less dominant. But, most importantly, this gravitational pull opens up lanes for other players to attack the opposing defenders.
Nowitzki still demands respect when he’s out on the floor. The Mavs should use that to their advantage and see what Nowitzki can do on the corners. He either sucks the defense to him or has a clean look at the easiest 3-point shot.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.