Dirk Nowitzki is having the best postseason of his career, averaging 28.4 points per game, while leading the Mavericks back to the NBA Finals. Nowitzki’s newfound dominance can be traced back to a plan hatched by his coach before the regular season even started.
This year, Nowitzki averaged just 34.3 minutes per game. That was down over three minutes from 2008-09 (37.7 min/g) and 2009-10 (37.5 min/g), and was his lowest amount of playing time since his rookie year (20.4 min/g).
The fewer minutes led to Nowitzki’s lowest scoring output (23.0 ppg) in seven years. But the benefit appears to be a Dirk with fresher legs in the NBA’s second-season. So far, Nowitzki’s playing time in the playoffs is up to 38.9 minutes per game, which is in line with previous postseasons. Last year he averaged 38.8 minutes and in 2008-09 he average 39.4 minutes. And despite nearly identical playing time, his scoring is up 2.0 points per game over the last three years, when he averaged 26.7-26.8 points.
In his older age, the fresher legs have made Nowitzki a better shooter. His effective field goal percentage (eFG%; which weighs shots based on their point value, a 3-pt shot is worth more than 2-pt shot) was at a career-high this season (.545) and has continued at nearly the same rate into the postseason.
All data via Basketball-Reference.com