Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
“The Dagger.” “The Big German.” “Swish.”
Dirk Nowitzki has been called a lot of things over his 17 year tenure with the Dallas Mavericks. This will be the first year he is called something new. Old.
It’s time to face facts. Dirk is battling Father Time, and so far, has done an admirable job. Knock on wood, but Dirk has avoided any major injury that, at this stage in his career, could possibly mean the last of the Dirk as we know him.
Last season, Dirk averaged 29.6 minutes per game, playing in 77 of the Mavericks contests. And, for only the second time in his career, was not the player that led the Mavericks in scoring. Dirk, while averaging a modest 17.3 ppg for the 2015 season was outscored almost nightly by his counterpart Monta Ellis, who put up 26 ppg.
It’s a story we have heard told again and again on Sports Center and by local analysts: Dirk is too old to carry this Mavericks team. Gone are the days of putting up 50 points in a playoff game or leading a 15 point comeback with under five minutes to play. Dirk may have a few magical moments left, but for Dallas to have any hope in an already stacked Western Conference, Dirk must play a supporting role for the cast of characters around him. That’s why it hurt so mightily that DeAndre Jordan spurned the Mavs in free agency.
Without Jordan, Dirk lacks a center to man the middle and protect the rim. Yes, the Mavs signed Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee and Samuel Dalembert. But none of them are Jordan, and none of them are certainly Tyson Chandler, who was without question the best center in franchise history.
Dirk needs help from those around him. Wes Matthews and Chandler Parsons are coming off serious injuries and the timetable for their return is unknown, which doesn’t exavtly bode well for a Dallas lineup that lacks any sort of depth or scoring threat.
So, what does this mean for Dirk in 2015? Well, it means a few things:
Dirk’s minutes will decrease: I foresee Dirk averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of Tim Duncan minutes, which should be right around 25-27 a game. Considering he only averaged 29.6 mpg in 2014, it shouldn’t be that noticeable.
Dirk’s scoring will increase: Yup, you read that right. Dallas doesn’t have the depth it did last season, and even though Dirk may be on the floor a few less minutes per game, it seems only logical he will be forced to shoot the ball more, which should lead to an increase in points per game.
There will be night’s Dirk doesn’t start: In the past, Dirk has simply not played in a game following a back-to-back, but I fear Dallas won’t have that luxury in 2015. Instead, Dirk will ride the bench for a while before coming on for an offensive boost. And at this stage in his career, that’s exactly what Dirk is. He’s an offensive specialist that should be used as such.
Dirk will pass Shaq for 6th on the All-Time Scoring List: Dirk only trails Shaquille O’Neal by 477 points, and will easily pass him at some point in the season. He trails Wilt Chamberlain by around 2,000 points for 5th on the list, and depending on the kind of year he has, could pass him by the time he retires.
Dirk will miss the playoffs for only the 5th time in his career: Believe me, this hurts me way more than it hurts you. The unfortunate reality for Mavs fans everywhere is the West is absolutely stacked, and if you don’t win 50+ games, you probably won’t make the playoffs. Golden State, Houston, San Antonio, Memphis, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Oklahoma City, with the return of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka should all be considered locks in the West. That means Dallas will be duking it out with New Orleans and Phoenix for the final two playoff spots. And with Phoenix signing Tyson Chandler and New Orleans a young up and coming squad featuring Anthony Davis, I think Dallas will be the odd man out come April.
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