- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki averaging his fewest shots since his rookie season is definitely not by design.
But it’s not a reason of significant concern, either. Not yet, at least.
The Dallas Mavericks are the league’s second-highest scoring team with an average of 107.0 points per game despite Nowitzki hoisting only 13.1 shots and putting up 18.1 points per game. That’s way down from his career average of 16.7, although he dropped to 13.7 during his injury-riddled 2012-13 season.
“I’d like him to get as many good shots as possible,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’d like him to be averaging 15 if possible, but I do think there are going to be times where a lower number is going to work for us. We’re in a little different territory that we’ve been in in past years and we’re trying to strike a balance, so I don’t think the answer is to force-feed a minimum number of shots because that can backfire on you sometimes.
“In our flow game, the universal rule has always been that the ball’s got to find the best players, so we’ve got to be looking for him. When defenses load up, other guys have got to be looking to step into shots. In those instances, he’s not going to get as many shots.”
There are still plenty of Dirk iso sets in the Mavs’ playbook. However, Carlisle would rather not disrupt the offense’s rhythm and slow down the tempo by calling for those very often.
That’s not to say the Mavs don’t want Nowitzki, one of the great mismatches in NBA history, attacking a lot in one-on-one situations.
“We’d like to get as many isolations off of movement as we can, and the best ones are the ones that happen off of our random flow movement,” Carlisle said. “It’s a delicate thing. Guys have to understand nuance. They have to understand the areas to throw it so he can catch and go, catch, fake, one dribble, things like that. We’re going to get better and better at that. We’re not a finished product.”
The bread-and-butter of the Mavs’ offense is the pick-and-pop with Monta Ellis and Nowitzki. If Ellis keeps attacking the rim as relentlessly and successfully as he has so far this season, Nowitzki could benefit from how opponents adjust their defensive schemes.
And there have been times that Nowitzki, who is adapting to a roster loaded with newcomers, has appeared hesitant to pull the trigger, opting to pass to open teammates instead of launching when he’s had a good look.
“Look, he knows he’s got to take open shots,” Carlisle said. “In terms of midrange shooting, he might be the best to ever play the game. When those shots are there, he’s got to step into it.”