Dirk Nowitzki

At some point, every franchise player becomes redundant  or at least not as important as he was. Dirk Nowitzki, after missing nearly half the season and missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, has become that type of player for the Dallas Mavericks, who’ll be looking for someone else to take over the “number one” slot for the team, hopefully as soon as possible.

Maybe they thought O.J. Mayo is going to be that guy, but he ended up averaging 15.3 points per game while shooting 40.7% from beyond the arc, while not posting the kind of number you want to see from your best players – win shares. Mayo finished the season with a 4.2, while Dirk Nowitzki, despite playing in only 53, had 5.0, averaging 0.145 per 48 minutes, his lowest since his second season in the NBA.

Nowitzki is the Mavs’ all-time leader in games played, minutes, points, field goals, three pointers, free throws and rebounds. Finding someone to replace his contribution is pretty much impossible. The last time he played a full schedule (2010-2011, the NBA title season) he posted 11.1 win shares. Only LeBron James, Kevin Durant,Chris Paul, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Marc Gasol and Stephen Curry posted a higher one this season. Not one of them is going to be playing for the Mavericks next season.

And yet, head coach Rick Carlisle thinks that relegating Nowitzki to a secondary player is the way to go.

It’s definitely a goal. I think it’s a great goal for any team to have a new best player and have their present best player become their second best player. That’s something logical. I think any team would want to have that goal. Is it possible? Yeah, it’s possible. Now, how likely is that? I can’t tell you for sure. But you know Mark (Cuban), you know Donnie (Nelson), and I’m an aggressive guy to and we’re going to do everything possible to facilitate that happening. I can’t name any names, but we’re going to be into this, and we’re going to be aggressive. 

Meanwhile, Nowitzki is making more than $22 million next season, which means finding an actual superstar, not that are too many available to be signed, is going to be quite difficult. The Mavs, on the other hand, are potentially clearing a lot of space with Elton Brand, Mike James, Chris Kaman, Shawn MarionO.J. Mayo, Anthony Morrow and Brandan Wright becoming unrestricted free agents, quite a few of them not returning.

The Mavericks will at least try to make moves at the likes of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson. Maybe, just maybe, Nowitzki also wouldn’t mind starting to become less of a central focus of the Mavs’ offense, hoping it gives them a chance to contend for more than just an 8th seed in the playoffs once again.