Dirk Nowitzki is making the road trip with the Dallas Mavericks this time around, as the team travels to Los Angeles to battle the Clippers to begin the road swing. If Nowitzki is close to being ready to return, O.J. Mayo will be smiling from ear to ear for the next few months, as the two have the potential to quickly form one of the best 1-2 combos in the NBA.
The addition of Mayo in the offseason was one that went largely unnoticed across the league. But by the time Nowitzki returns to the lineup and acclimates himself back into game shape, it might be the most important move in the Western Conference.
Nowitzki has never had a player like Mayo come in and produce the way the fifth-year guard from USC has since arriving from the Memphis Grizzlies.
NBA.com is already paving the way for a grand return for Nowitzki to unite with Mayo, as evidenced by its interview with the latter earlier in the week.
Simply put, Nowitzki has never had a player like Mayo to operate with.
His running mate, Jason Terry, was the primary scoring option from 2004-2012, and you can't argue with the championship and two NBA Finals appearances—all franchise firsts.
However, Terry's production had dipped over the past three seasons, as noted by this chart. The 66-game sample size helped, but it was clear that Terry was done being able to carry the load himself with Nowitzki aging at the same pace he was.
The list behind Terry, however, is one filled with disappointing names and guys past their primes. Caron Butler, Antoine Wright, Marquis Daniels, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Josh Howard and other role pieces that never really filled the production void behind Nowitzki are all things of the past.
The future is Mayo.
Sandwich jokes aside, Nowitzki and Mayo are two players that have differing styles. Nowitzki brings to the table half-court offense, automatic points down the stretch and the ability to create matchup problems by making outside shots.
All three of those things are Mayo characteristics, but he's added the ability to get to the basket and beat teams in transition—things he was criticized for not doing as a bench player for Memphis the past two seasons.
Mayo is averaging 20.2 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 53 percent from the three-point line. He's also putting in three rebounds and three assists per game, something that helps keep him on the floor 71 percent of the time.
Nowitzki is also a career 20-plus-point scorer, so something is going to have to give when the two come back. The answer to the sharing of the ball issue and why these two will be a matchup nightmare is simple—by using the pick-and-roll.
It's a role that Terry resumed in the fourth quarter of games for the team over the course of this continued success, and a role that Mayo has had to resume with point guard troubles for Darren Collison now on the horizon.
With the arrival of Derek Fisher as the starting point guard, the Mavs are going to rely on him to be more of a distributor that helps get the offense going rather than actually break the defense down. It has a dual purpose—to allow Mayo and Nowitzki to be the joint focal points of this offense and have Collison run the second unit without any chains.
But back to the new duo. When they hit the court, teams will be forced to make the wrong decision, no matter what that decision is. If you play off of Mayo and go under a screen, he lights up the three. Double Mayo, you say? He'll flip to Dirk.
Find a way to stop both by shifting defense around? That's OK, Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion or Fisher will be waiting with the defense in a vulnerable spot.
There's a lot to sort out on this Dallas team. Fisher's arrival and Collison's demotion is a rough patch for this team that could really have far-reaching effects on the season. But no event will be more important for Dallas than the return of Nowitzki—and what it means for his new backcourt mate.
On Mayo's official Twitter account, his bio section hails his persona as Doc Holliday and his running mate as "Wild Dirk". If said fast, it's clearly a play on words for Wyatt Earp, the outlaw gunslinger that joined Holliday in raising hell in the Old West.
If the Mavs get half of that old firepower from Mayo and Nowitzki, this team will be dangerous enough to not only create matchup nightmares for opponents, but make a serious run at a top-five seed in the Western Conference.
Ethan Grant is the Dallas Mavericks featured columnist and a member of the Breaking News Team for Bleacher Report.
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