As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 16th season, he's coming off his lowest points per game average since his first full year, saw a dip in rebounding and health is now becoming a factor. ESPNDallas.com will explain five reasons why it’s too soon to say Dirk’s demise as an elite player has arrived.
Statistics show that the NBA is evolving into a league geared toward getting a shot at the rim or an open 3-pointer. During the 2012-13 season, 55.3 percent of shots came from at the rim or beyond the 3-point line. The most painful shot, the long-range two-point bucket, accounted for 22.4 percent of shots. That means the mid-range jumper is rapidly becoming a lost art.
The league average for mid-range jumper attempts was 7.6 percent. You may be surprised to hear that the Dallas Mavericks had the highest percentage of mid-range jumper attempts at 11.7 percent.
It makes sense because Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the best shooters in the NBA. Coming off knee surgery and playing with a new set of players, Nowitzki shot 48.1 percent on mid-range jumpers, ranking 10th in the league for players with at least 100 attempts.
Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge did his damage via the mid-range jumper with 323 field goals made in that range, ranking first in the league. In only 53 games, Nowitzki ranked ninth in the league with 210 mid-range jumpers made. Kevin Durant was just ahead of him with 212.
Sixty percent (437) of Nowitzki’s 728 field goal attempts were mid-range jumpers. He shot 48.1 percent on those shots. Of the players who shot at least 400 mid-range jumpers, only Luke Ridnour had a better field goal percentage at 49.9 percent, clearly showing that Nowitzki provides a high volume with great accuracy.
Nowitzki is one of the few players in the league who have a shot that just can’t be blocked. With his seven-foot frame and a shooting touch that isn’t going away anytime soon, he can still deliver.
What is working against him is the fact that opponents know that he’s not going to drive as much, so they player tighter against him. He’s mastered the off-balance jumper. The patented one-foot fade has become the iconic look for mid-range jumpers. Nowitzki finds ways to create space, but more importantly, he takes his time, squares his shoulders and releases the ball at the peak of his release.
He’s made it a point of emphasis to work on strengthening his legs to keep creating space for the jumper. The scare that came with the knee surgery will also likely keep him honest in making sure his legs are ready.
The extension of the one-foot fadeaway in the mid-range makes his jumper today’s modern day skyhook. Nowitzki’s shooting touch will keep him an elite scorer for as long as he wants to be one.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.