One Team, One Stat: Mavericks get buckets with Dirk Nowitzki at center

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Dallas Mavericks, who had a small-ball option to get buckets.


Last season, the Dallas Mavericks outscored their opponents by 6.7 points per 100 possessions in 276 minutes with Dirk Nowitzki playing center.


That’s a small sample size, but it was a look that the Mavs started with for a few games late in the season as they fought for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference. Though normal starting center Zaza Pachulia was healthy, Nowitzki started there alongside three guards – Deron Williams, Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews – and Chandler Parsons for three games in mid-March.

The Mavs had four point guards in the rotation, giving them the ability to consistently put two ball-handlers on the floor at the same time, swing the ball after an initial action, and attack weak-side rotations. And playing Nowitzki at center allowed their offense to get even more dynamic.

The players on the floor for a majority of the minutes in which Nowitzki played center were Felton (201 of the 276), Matthews (197), Williams (158) and Parsons (157). J.J. Barea (138) was on the floor about half the time. That’s a lot of guys that can shoot, pass and put the ball on the floor. The 116 points per 100 possessions the Mavs scored with Nowitzki at center are more than any lineup scored in at least 200 minutes last season.

Felton and Parsons are gone, but beyond Nowitzki, the bulk of the Mavs’ offensive talent is still on the perimeter. Newly acquired Harrison Barnes and second year man Justin Anderson give them versatility and defense at the forward positions, allowing Rick Carlisle to use a variety of configurations around Nowitzki.

Andrew Bogut will help a defense that has been below-average for the last four seasons. The Mavs have a couple of more athletic bigs – Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri – backing up Bogut and Nowitzki, allowing them to push the ball with their second unit.

Playing Nowitzki at center isn’t sustainable over long stretches. At this point in his career, he’s a serious defensive liability. But like the Warriors did to get to their “Death Lineup,” the Mavs can sit Bogut and slide Nowitzki to the five to get a lineup that will be able to space the floor and get buckets at a high rate.


Have been an above-average offensive team in 17 of Nowitzki’s 18 seasons, with the only exception being the season after they won the championship, the lockout-shortened, 2011-12 season. They’ve reached the playoffs in 15 of the 18.

One of two playoff teams (Memphis was the other) that was outscored in the regular season.

Averaged 1.0 fewer possessions per 48 minutes fewer than they did in 2014-15. That was the biggest drop-off in the league and they were one of only four teams that saw a decrease in pace. They were also one of only four teams that got less than 10 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock.

According to SportVU, the Mavs averaged 3.41 passes per possession, the fourth most in the league and up from 3.16 (12th) in 2014-15.

Only 27.1 percent of their shots came from the restricted area, the lowest rate in the league.

Lineup of Williams, Felton, Matthews, Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia scored 115.2 points per 100 possessions, the second highest mark among 53 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.

Outscored their opponents by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in 1,644 minutes with Matthews and Nowitzki on the floor together, but were outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions in 1,719 minutes with only one or the other on the floor.

Played a league-high 12 overtime games and shot 25-for-44 (57 percent) from 3-point range in overtime. Deron Williams was the only player who shot at least 50 percent on at least 20 clutch 3-point attempts last season.

Matthews ranked second in the league with 227 “wide-open” 3-point attempts, according to SportVU.

Andrew Bogut assisted on 29.7 percent of his possessions last season, the highest assist rate among centers who played at least 20 minutes per game in at least 40 games.

NBA TV’s Mavs preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 13.