The Mavericks find themselves in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference standings behind the elite play of MVP candidate Luka Doncic.
While Doncic has carried the majority of the offensive burden for the Mavericks this season — averaging a league-leading 33.6 points per game — Dallas’ energetic cast of role players have chipped in across the board.
Last week, they welcomed back Australian Josh Green from a 20-game absence due to an elbow injury. The third-year wing was playing the best basketball of his young career in 2022-23 — a player Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki says has the potential to make a big impact in their playoff push.
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“Really happy for Josh, great kid, love spending time with him and seeing him develop,” Nowitzki told The Sporting News. “He’s just a hard worker and you just gotta root for him.”
JOSH GREEN DROPS NORMAN POWELL 😱 pic.twitter.com/59uSUtxK7v
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 22, 2023
While Green’s athleticism and energy have been the hallmarks of his game thus far in his NBA career, his much-improved shooting has opened up the rest of his game — especially from the 3-point line.
After shooting 35.6 percent from deep last season, Green has lifted that number to a scorching 45.3 percent in 2022-23 and is knocking down 46.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s.
“I think it’s always up and down with his shot and since his shot has now improved, I think he has more confidence,” Nowitzki said.
“I think the game has slowed down for him a little bit, he reads situations better, when to cut, when to play, when to go hard, when to settle down a little bit and he just gives it all out effort at all times.
“He always plays hard and he’s just a dream for every coach and now his shot has gotten more consistent.”
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Green’s increased confidence has been rewarded by head coach Jason Kidd, who isn’t satisfied with him just being a shooter and cutter on offense. He has put the ball in his hands more often, entrusting him as a key playmaker off the bench.
As he continues to leverage the threat of his improved shooting, the Aussie is unlocking the rest of his game on the foundation of his trademarked energy and hustle.
“I mean, it’s great you know he’s just out there. He comes with a lot of energy,” Doncic said. “The energy he brings it’s just really good so he just really helps us a lot.”
Next level Luka
With a freshly minted statue outside American Airlines Center, Nowitzki, the greatest player in franchise history, keeps a close eye on the Mavericks, serving as a special advisor to the team.
Nowitzki’s final season in Dallas marked the passing of the baton to Doncic, who has gone on to rewrite the franchise’s record books this season.
Doncic now has the most 40-point and 50-point games in franchise history. He also has, perhaps, the greatest performance from a Mavericks player ever, delivering a 60-21-10 triple-double masterpiece in December.
While he informally serves as Doncic’s mentor, Nowitzki says with a laugh, that it’s probably the easiest job anyone can have.
“My job is easy, I don’t have to do much, I just watch him and enjoy,” Nowitzki said.
“I’m amazed still at what he does. I played with him my last year, got to see him, got to spend some time with him and saw he was a really special talent.”
Despite being just 24 years old, Doncic has established himself as a top-five player in the league, with his rapid development even leaving Nowitzki surprised.
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“He’s so good, how he reads the game already is on another level at this age,” Nowitzki said.
“Usually, this comes when you get older, when you have more experience. How to read a pick-and-roll, how to read certain situations on the court, but this kid has no holes in his game.
“Whatever you throw at him, whether you trap him, whether you go under, whether you play one-on-one, he has all the answers in the book.
“I think last year he averaged a triple-double for an entire month, I mean, the kid is just built different. He’s got all the skills, all the size, he’s got the will and the killer instinct, so the kid’s the full package.”
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