Now that Dirk Nowitzki is back at practice, it's time to examine just how deadly the Nowitzki/OJ Mayo one-two punch can be.
Dirk and Jason Terry paired to form one of the NBA's most dynamic one-two punches during their eight years together in Dallas. Once Terry signed with the Boston Celtics during free agency, the Mavs decided to give Mayo an opportunity to fit the role.
Mayo has played very well despite Nowitzki's absence, as he is averaging a team-high 20.6 points per game.
Dirk is yet to make his season debut, due to a knee ailment that caused him to undergo arthroscopic surgery in mid-October. Nowitzki's rehab took longer than originally anticipated, as he was expected back in six weeks.
The Dallas Mavericks are currently 12-13, which has them in 10th place in the Western Conference. Considering that the Mavs have never missed the postseason with Nowitzki, it's safe to say they are missing their franchise player.
When Dirk does return to game action, he will have to adjust to playing with a new cast of teammates.
After the Oklahoma City Thunder swept the Mavs out of last season's playoffs, it became clear that the franchise needed to get Nowitzki help.
That sentiment was echoed by Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, as he said the following about Nowitzki and the team when their season ended (via ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon):
I think you saw during the course of the playoffs that [Nowitzki] was fighting tooth and nail and he needs help. He needs help, and we plan to give it to him.
The Mavericks' first option was to sign free agent point guard Deron Williams, but he decided to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
Since the Mavs did not possess the assets to trade for Dwight Howard and the market was void of other bonafide stars, the front office decided to bring in a handful of veterans on affordable contracts.
That group included Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Darren Collison and Mayo.
Out of that group, Mayo has made the biggest difference as he has been Rick Carlisle's best player. While the Mavericks are in the bottom-half of the conference at the moment, they would be far worse without Mayo.
The Mavs are paying Mayo $5.6 million this season, which would be an incredible bargain if he maintains his current level of play.
According to HoopData.com, Mayo's Usage Rate is 24.71, which is ranked 41st in the league. Mayo is not even leading his team in Usage Rate, as Kaman's 25.53 is higher.
Looking at Usage Rates is a good way to determine how many possessions a player needs to control in order to reach their current level of production. You would be hard pressed to find another player who can match Mayo's production while using so few possessions.
James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook, who are the three players ranked directly above him in scoring, have Usage Rates of 28.224, 26.85 and 30.59, respectively.
This is meant to show that Mayo doesn't need to dominate the ball in order to score, which is good considering that Nowitzki had a Usage Rate of 29.28 during the 2012 season.
While he has always been a good shooter, Mayo has been even better this season. Through 25 games, he has converted on 48.8 percent of his field goals and 51.9 percent of his three-pointers.
When Nowitzki returns, opposing defenses will have to formulate defensive game plans that slow him down. This will create open looks for his teammates, especially Mayo.
There is a distinct possibility that Mayo's production could improve when Nowitzki returns as defenses will not be able to key on him, which is something that has been happening recently.
Once Nowitzki gets back into game shape and finds his rhythm, the Mavs will have two No. 1 options.
All the statistics were taken from HoopsData.com and are current as of December 17th, 2012, 7 pm EST.