Sixteen years into his NBA career, Dirk Nowitzski’s still got it, and so much more.
During the last two seasons, Dirk looked old, tired, and he needed the help of another star to help shoulder the load. Well, Dallas was unable to land Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, or another big name to help out Dirk, but after adding a slough of veterans this offseason, the Mavs have given Dirk another life, like a Super Mushroom in Mario, if you will.
Look at Dirk’s numbers his season:
2014 Dirk: 21.6 points/6.2 rebounds/2.7 assists/23.5 PER
That’s an outstanding stat line, especially for a player who has been in the league for sixteen seasons.
It’s even more outstanding when you compare this season to Dirk’s MVP season in 2006, his best season in the league. Look at those numbers:
2006 Dirk: 26.6 pts/9.0 rebs/3.4 asts/28.1 PER
Those numbers aren’t that close. Obviously, 2006 Dirk is better in every single statistical category, but 2006 Dirk also averaged six more minutes per game than 2014 Dirk. I’d argue, minute for minute, Dirk has been just as good this season as he was in 2006.
Remember how good Dirk was in the 2010 Finals? He looks like he’s found that 2010 form when he and the Mavs upset the Heat and won the NBA title. The only difference is these Mavs needed a little longer to gel than the 2010 Mavs, and these Mavs are missing the big name guys, like Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Tyson Chandler. Obviously, there’s no Tyson Chandler, but the combination of Dejaun Blair, Samuel Dalembert, and Brendan Wright are close to matching Chandler’s production during that Finals run. And like we see every year, once you’re in the playoffs, regardless of the seeding, you have a chance at the title.
After their win Monday night against the Jazz, Dallas has a slight lead over Phoenix and Memphis for the seventh-seed. Dallas and Phoenix each have 31 losses, but Dallas has played two more games than Phoenix at this point. In reality, Phoenix and Dallas are tied, but Dallas does have a slight advantage created by putting wins on the board and forcing Phoenix and Memphis to match.
The Western Conference playoff race is heating up, and Dirk is showing he was made for this kind of pressure. Just two weeks ago, Dirk and the Mavs dropped three straight games, and their playoff hopes started to look slim. In their three next games, Dirk led the way and the rest of the Mavs responded. In those three games, the most crucial games of Dallas’s season, Dirk averaged 25.3 points on 64 percent shooting and 65 percent from three to go along with eight rebounds.
That’s the kind of leadership and perseverance it takes to make a deep playoff run. It’s also something you haven’t seen Paul George do this during Indiana’s slump. With Dirk’s leadership and experience partnered with Coach Rick Carlisle, I don’t see why any team out West would want to play the Mavs right now. Players on this team just made a similar run three years ago. Coach Carlisle has stayed true to his system while dealing with a rotating cast of veteran players over the last three seasons, but Dirk has been the rock. This Mavs team might even be more talented than the Mavs team who won the championship in 2010.
While LeBron and Durant duke it out for the MVP, Dirk has made a strong case for third or fourth in the MVP voting, probably just behind Blake Griffin. Oh, how the turn tables from the beginning of the season when the top-five for MVP was Paul George, Kevin Love, and Steph Curry, along with LeBron and Durant.
It’s so hard to be good in the NBA, but it’s even harder to sustain that high level of play over a long period of time. Dirk has been doing it for ten years and hardly anyone is talking about it, except maybe Conan O’Brien.
Dirk is flying under the radar right now. Within the last week, Dirk moved into 10th in all-time points scored, passing Dominique Wilkins and the “Big O” Oscar Robertson.
But, you know what, none of that matters to Dirk right now. Who knows where Dirk will end up on the all-time scoring list when his career is all said and done. Yet, right now, I guarantee he’s not even thinking about any of the points or the records. He’s focused, along with the rest of the Mavs, on making the playoffs and winning another championship.
It’s time to sit back and enjoy the show, because Dirk won’t be around forever.
*All stats via Basketball Reference