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Dirk Nowitzki named best international player in the NBA

Dirk Nowitzki is the best international player in the NBA. Don’t ask me. Ask a GM.

That’s exactly what NBA.com did, and more than half the respondents named the Mavericks star No. 1. It’s not exactly a shock; Nowitzki has been named best international player in the NBA every season except for one since 2004. Dirk reclaimed the title from Tony Parker, who was named best born outside the States after an impressive 2013 Finals performance in a loss to the Miami Heat. Nowitzki finished third last season behind Parker and Marc Gasol, as he was coming off a knee injury that cost him a third of the 2012-13 campaign. Parker finished a distant second to Nowitzki this season, with the German capturing 53.6 percent of the votes and the French point guard just 28.6 percent.

Nowitzki’s ascension back atop the list should not surprise. Last season was perhaps his most efficient last season, and it led Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry to name him the best shooter in the NBA. He scored 21.7 points per game in the 2013-14 season, leading the best offense in the NBA after the All-Star break to 49 wins and a near-upset of Parker’s Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. Nowitzki narrowly missed out on his second 50/40/90 season, coming about as close as one can — he hit 49.7 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from three-point range, and 89.9 percent from the free throw line. Oh, and he was 35 last season.

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New additions mastering Mavs’ pick-and-roll play

The Mavericks run lots of pick-and-rolls. So many, in fact, that the team led the league in pick-and-rolls last season. No other club in the NBA relies on the most common play in the NBA more than Dallas, and Dallas executes the set better than just about anyone. These are facts.

So what the Mavs did this offseason was find players who can fit into the pick-and-roll offense Rick Carlisle prefers. Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson, Greg Smith, and yes, of course Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler all excel when playing that style. Building a roster isn’t as simple as just signing the best players available. Especially in the NBA, it’s all about fit. Always.

It’s still preseason, sure, but the Mavs are running the pick-and-roll at a high level. It’s impressive, too, just how well they’re running it, given that many players on the team are new. I haven’t even mentioned Charlie Villanueva or Al-Farouq Aminu, two players who have enjoyed serious playing time thus far. Most of the 19-man roster is new, but for the most part it doesn’t appear that way. Remember, though: It’s all about fit. These pieces fit.

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Chandler Parsons demonstrates how dangerous he can be in Mavs’ flow offense

It didn’t take long for us to see how Chandler Parsons can influence the Mavs’ offense.

The 6′ 9″ forward led the team with 14 points in Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Houston Rockets, his former team. Parsons knifed his way to the rim again and again throughout the game, leading to the new Maverick drawing three shooting fouls and making two layups. This season’s Mavs offense will be built upon its perimeter players’ collective ability to drive to the rim — Dallas has five of the top 51 lane-drivers from last season — and, though it was just one game, Parsons’s first performance demonstrated that he’s going to be awfully dangerous this season.

Last season’s Rockets scored 1.21 points off of Parsons drives, 11th-best in the league. The forward is bigger than most small forwards and extremely quick for his size, creating a mismatch against nearly every defender he faces on any given night. And if there’s one thing ingrained in his mind from his three years in Houston, it’s this: Either shoot the three or drive to the rim. Don’t pull up, ever. That certainly could change this season with the Mavericks, but for one game, at least, Parsons was unstoppable. His six free throws tied for third-most on the team, behind Monta Ellis (12) and Al-Farouq Aminu (8). Parsons and Ellis are two of the premier rim-drivers in the NBA, but they can each spot up, too. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he’s looking forward to watching them work together.

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Monta Ellis feels at home in Dallas

Monta Ellis is a pretty good basketball player. We know that now after having seen him fit seamlessly into Rick Carlisle’s system last season, playing All-Star-caliber basketball for most of the season and saving his best for the playoffs, when he dominated the San Antonio Spurs in a season-saving Game 6 win. Ellis was an under-the-radar signing last season, but he’s anything but an under-the-radar player today. If you didn’t believe in Ellis before last season, you do now.

However, that’s about all we know about him. He’s a pretty reserved guy, especially with the media. After games, he answers a few questions, takes care of business, and heads home. He doesn’t do a bunch of interviews. He doesn’t live his life in the spotlight the way many other athletes do — not that there’s anything wrong with that lifestyle, either. Ellis just prefers to do things his own way: watch old movies, hang around the house, play one-on-one with his son, Monta Jr. The younger Monta is aptly named, as well: He’s a total clone of his father.

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Grantland ranks Dirk Nowitzki as the best shooter in the NBA

As part of its 2014-15 season preview, Grantland ranked Dirk Nowitzki as the No. 1 shooter in the NBA. Dirk finished just ahead of Stephen Curry (No. 2) and third-place Kevin Durant, the reigning league MVP.

The shot chart above, created by Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, details just how excellent a shooter Nowitzki has become. His shot chart is just blistering (in this case, red is above league average). And just how far above-par was Nowitzki during the 2013-14 season? According to NBA.com, Dirk shot at least 10 percentage points better than league average from seven of the nine two-point zones in its shot charts. His ’13-’14 campaign was an exercise in absolute efficiency from everywhere on the floor — except for the left wing, where he hit 32.2 percent of his three-point attempts, a contributing factor in his narrow miss at a 50/40/90 season.

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Charlie Villanueva hopes strong training camp carries over into preseason

It looks like Charlie Villanueva might get his chance tonight.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is always reluctant to reveal any specific strategy-related items to the media, especially on the day of games, but we do know that Dirk Nowitzki will sit out tonight’s preseason opener against the Houston Rockets. That means there are a couple dozen minutes available at the four spot, and Villanueva, who signed with Dallas within the last couple weeks, is prime to get his chance to shine.

Villanueva is a protoypical power forward in today’s NBA. He’s a moderately big body who can shoot the three-ball — 34.3 percent for his career. Schematically, he’s a logical backup for Nowitzki, as he can slide in to that role alongside Brandan Wright with the second unit. In fact, Villanueva’s three-point tendencies almost mirror Nowitzki’s — less than 14 percent of the former Piston’s 315 three-point attempts across the last two seasons combined came from either corner. And while Carlisle wouldn’t openly admit it, Villanueva is probably the best fit in the starting lineup in the team’s opener, where he’d be taking the floor with former Rocket Chandler Parsons. Parsons said the pair worked out together in Los Angeles this summer and he was impressed with the big man’s ability.

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Mavs fans get first chance to interact with players at annual Fan Jam scrimmage

The fans weren’t the only ones who enjoyed Fan Jam.

Four groups of Mavs players, divided evenly across the Platinum level at the AAC for an autograph session on Saturday, all enjoyed the opportunity to meet the fans and have a laugh doing so. Monta Ellis sat with his son at one table, right next to Jae Crowder and his daughter. Monta Jr. clutched a sharpie just like his dad, as if he was waiting for his turn to sign a jersey or picture. Dirk Nowitzki was obviously a star attraction, chatting with fans about everything from his tweaked shot to their favorite soccer teams.

Chandler Parsons was probably the most photographed Maverick of the day. He shared a table with Richard Jefferson, who hand-drummed along with music blasting from his phone. Although the sociable Jefferson declined comment when asked what the strangest thing he’d ever signed is — “you don’t want to know,” he said — he did enjoy the chance to meet and greet with Mavs season ticket holders and other fans.

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Sharpshooter Richard Jefferson ecstatic to land with Mavs

Richard Jefferson isn’t your typical basketball player.

That’s an awfully common statement, one that you see all the time. Players have Twitter and Instagram accounts in today’s NBA, giving fans a glimpse into their personal lives. It makes unique players even more unique than we thought they were. For example, this summer Ekpe Udoh hosted a meeting for his own book club made up of fans he met on Twitter. That’s crazy, and Twitter made it happen.

But that’s not why Jefferson isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill kind of guy. He’s not on Twitter. He’s not on Instagram. He’s not on Facebook or Vine or any other social media platform. It doesn’t mean he’s boring, and it certainly doesn’t mean he’s old-fashioned — though, at 34 years old, he’s definitely a veteran in NBA years.

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