Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's German for paint?

Dirk Nowitzki likes to shoot jumpers. If I haven't floored you with that basketball knowledge and insight yet, just wait.

While everyone's favorite jump shooting German is once again having an MVP caliber year, I believe there is a dirty secret that no one has really talked about, especially given the Mavs success over the last two weeks: Dirk isn't taking it into the painted area with success nearly as much as he could/should be doing.

While Dirk has never been the type of guy to bang around in paint (a la Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard), since Avery Johnson coached the team in 2005, Dirk had a significant change in his basketball-ing philosophy. Now looking at free throws can get you intro trouble. Because if free throws = playing in the paint you are somewhat mistaken. Sure, most players who do their damage close to the rim have significantly higher free throw attempts to say a, Peja Stojakovic, BUT, once Dirk hit his 20 points per game plateau in the 2000-2001 season, he averaged about 6.4 free throws a game over the course of 2000-2004

Looking at that, you could say that Dirk has always been favorable to contact and playing down low and getting easy buckets. But if you actually watch the games, you'll know that Dirk was in his chuck-iest mood ever during the four season stretch of 2000-2004. Some numbers help too, as Dirk averaged 4.5 three pointers during the Nellie run-and-gun era. In fact, those four seasons are the four highest seasons for attempting three pointers for Dirk.

My point being (if I have one) is that Dirk has always had a knack for getting to the free throw line because of his spins, head fakes and ball fakes. Since Avery took the reigns and now to Rick Carlise, Dirk has slowly but surely practiced those spins, head fakes and ball fakes at the rim with more frequency and success as evident by his spike in free throw attempts (career high 9.4 in 2004-2005). Wait, didn't I just argue free throws aren't the be all, end all for shot selection?! Let me continue.

Since 2007, Dirk has averaged three shots at the rim per game, making about two for 60 percent. That may not floor you, but consider Tim Duncan over that same span makes only about three to four shots at the rim and shooting the same percentage. One of the greatest low post players of our generation (and maybe all time) only makes one to two more shots at the rim than our 'jump shooting' German over the last four seasons. Funny, huh?

Now to what concerns me: While Dirk has learned how to get to the rim for lay-ups and dunks (more dive cutting, more rolling on pick-and-rolls, awesome spin moves. Yeah, they're awesome.) Dirk really has never shown the knack for backing a player down for the trusty hook shot. Dirk only averages about 1.3 shot attempts under ten feet that excludes shots at the rim (dunks and layups). What's even more troubling is Dirk is only shooting in the low 40's on these shots. But an area of the floor that can be considered the paint (or paint-ish) is from 10-15 feet. That's when Dirk usually takes the awkward one-legged leaners or side way runners in the paint. The problem is Dirk is shooting an alarming 42% from that range this year. I can't help but wonder if that low shooting percentage is causing Dirk to take more longer two's (he's taking 8.4 a game this year, highest in the last five years).

Now by no means do I want Dirk to do something he's not comfortable with. We've all seen Dirk try to attempt a Kareem sky hook or jump hook shot. It's awkward. And Dirk knows where his bread is buttered: the 16-23 feet range. I'm just ecstatic with more longer two's he still isn't attempting more three's (1.4 three attempts per game, his lowest since his rookie year).

In the end all I'm asking for the Uberman is to raise the percentage when he gets closer to the rim. And his attempts. We know he can do it at will sometimes (29-point 4th quarter against Utah was basically a showcase of Dirk in the paint). I can understand that during the hellacious Mavs run with little time to rest or practice, Dirk probably wanted to save his body with easy soft jumpers.

Just look at last night's game against Denver. Only 7-17 shooting. How did he get 34 points? How about 16-17 from the line. That's what I like to see.

Just know when it comes April I want Mr. Nowitzki in the Farbe

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  1. Completely inane article. ALL NBA players shoot a low percentage on 10-15 foot shots (my guess is they are more contested than longer twos that tend to be open). Dirk is in the TOP 10 in the NBA on fg% from 10-15 feet. So there goes your thesis buddy. Do some research next time.

  2. It's ridiculous a guy his size doesn't use that size to force more contact. Statistically, and obviously Dirk is an excellent FT shooter, free throws are an easier means of scoring. If he played more like a four, it would force the opponent to play their four on him because a two or three couldn't handle him if he decided to get close. Also, he could make those chippies all day if he decided to. The NBA would really have to wake up and the Lakers would need to start lookin' over their shoulders if Dirk did that.

  3. lol FARBE...nice try but that's what you paint your walls with! The right expression would be Zone. Nice article though.

  4. hässlicher, fauler, feiger Dirk..hat er angst er könnte sich ein au-au holen..statt dessen den fade-away-ich-falle-wie-eine-Bahnschranke-nach-hinten-und-keiner-kann-mich-blocken-weil-ich-groß-wie-die-angst-bin-jumper zu nehmen..dirk ist eine Wurst!!!da habt ihr´s

  5. @cthulhu

    I understand that all NBA players don't shoot great percentages in that range. BUT

    Here are Dirk's shooting percentages from the 10-15 feet range from 2007-2010

    47, 49, 49, 43.

    Is it so much to ask that he raise that 43% to the 49 he was making?