5 Facets of Dirk Nowitzki's Game That the Dallas Mavericks Need the Most
Although the Mavericks are just 1-5 since Dirk's return, having him back in the lineup can only help them in the long run in their push toward the postseason.
The Mavericks have a long way to go to keep their consecutive postseason streak alive, but having a healthy Dirk Nowitzki back in the fray is a good way for them to start.
Even if Dirk is not at his best, which he clearly isn't yet after knee surgery, just having him available to be in the lineup helps the Mavs offense.
Based on reputation alone, opposing coaches and defenders have to adjust their defensive strategy when Dirk is on the floor.
Dirk will assuredly be getting some double-teams in the post, especially if his shot is on that night. Even at his age and health, Dirk can score with the best of them and having teams forced to adjust their defense around him will open things up for other Dallas players.
O.J. Mayo should particularly benefit from having Dirk back, as he has struggled with his shot as of late. Hopefully, with Nowitzki back, Mayo won't have the pressure of having to score 20-25 points every night and will just let the offense come to him like he was in the beginning of the season.
Admittedly, Dirk has never been known for his defense or rebounding in his NBA career.
Still, Dirk is a seven-footer and is at the very least a capable rebounder inside. Dirk has averaged eight rebounds per game in his NBA career, and although he has seen a steady decline in his rebounding, the Mavericks need all the help they can get on the boards.
Dallas has been one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA all season and ranks last in the league in rebounding difference at minus-4.7 per game.
Having Nowitzki down low consistently has to be an improvement over Brandan Wright and Chris Kaman, who have both struggled on the boards, and the undersized Elton Brand and Jae Crowder, who have also seen time at the power forward spots.
Few players have been more clutch in their NBA careers than Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk, a Top 20 all-time scorer in the league, wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line and has shown the ability to hit the game-winner when necessary.
Furthermore, he puts the team on his back in the fourth quarter when his team really needs a bucket. As recently as Wednesday, it was Dirk who hit the game-tying shot against the Heat to force overtime against the defending champs.
Dallas has been abysmal in close games this year. It is 3-4 in games decided by five or fewer points and 0-6 in overtime games.
Having Nowitzki back should propel the Mavericks to more wins in close games, as his clutchness should allow the Mavs to hold on in more overtime and tight games this season.
As I mentioned, Dirk Nowitzki is a Top 20 scorer in NBA history and Dallas is in desperate need of his offense this season.
Although the Mavs haven't struggled scoring all the time, they have been very reliant on the fast-break score and the three-point shot to be successful—two unreliable scoring options.
Also, O.J. Mayo, their top option on offense, is struggling big-time as of late, as the wear of being the team's top scoring option seems to be getting to him.
Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Darren Collison have all been up-and-down in their scoring production. The Mavericks need a consistent 20-point scorer.
Enter Nowitzki, who has increased his scoring each of the last three games, including 19 on Wednesday against Miami.
Once Dirk gets to 100 percent and reenters the starting lineup, his numbers should reach where he is accustomed to them being—amongst the top in the league.
Having Dirk to rely on will significantly upgrade the Mavericks' half-court offense and allow them to slow the game down and still be successful.
More than anything right now, the Dallas Mavericks need to stick together.
Dallas is going through its toughest stretch of the season, having lost 10 of its last 12 games to fall back to 13-20 on the season.
Although the Mavs still have over half the season left, it would be easy for the team to give up now and fall into a sense of complacency for the rest of the season.
It is up to Dirk Nowitzki to ensure that does not happen.
Many of the players on the Dallas roster are playing for individual expiring contracts, but as the veteran leader and NBA champion he is, Dirk will have to try and keep the chemistry of the team as high as possible and ensure that winning is each player's primary goal.
Dallas has to find a way out of this slump before it gets too late, but in order to do that, Dirk Nowitzki will need to use his authority and presence in the locker room to inspire his teammates to turn their season around.