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Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  100 responses

Top 50: Dirk Nowitzki, no. 21

The sharpshooting power forward looks to find his Championship form.

by Jay Wallis / @Jay Wallis

It was the summer of new for the Mavs starting power forward.

Dirk gained another new pair of guards and a new center in his starting lineup. Dirk appeared in a new embarrassing singing performance. Dirk made a new commercial spoof. Dirk became a new father of a baby girl.

As the Mavs move forward with “Plan B,” though, there won’t be a new “No. 1 Option.” Mark Cuban has made it clear: his 11-time All-Star won’t be going anywhere unless he decides to do so. And Dirk has made it clear: The town that took him in as a young 20-year-old foreigner will be the town that sees him out of the League.

So, no matter whether or not you think the Mavs should trade Dirk or attempt to tank, this team is here to compete for the ’13-14 NBA season. And Dirk will be expected to play at a level that takes them into May basketball.

Last season, Dirk averaged 17.3 points—his lowest number since his rookie year—on 47.1 percent shooting to go along with 6.8 rebounds. This reduced production was in large part due to the first 27 games he missed as he recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery. It took him some time to get back into his groove, which he did find later in the season.

During a 23-game stretch in February and March in which the Mavs went 14-9, Dirk averaged 20.0 ppg and 8.6 rpg while shooting 53.5 percent from the field, 51 percent from deep and 93.7 percent from the free throw line. He also added yet another enduring moment to his career during the stretch.

Looking at the season on a larger scale, his play at the end of the season clearly showed improvement.

Pre-All-Star break: 23 games, 15.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 42.3 FG%, 38.8 3PT%, 79.8 FT%

Post-All-Star break: 30 games, 18.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 50 FG%, 43.3 3PT%, 91.3 FT%

And even with this poor play to start, Dirk made at least 50 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet for the third straight season, a range players usually struggle with or avoid all together. When he gets the ball from midrange and his back is to the basket, his offensive repertoire becomes incomparable. He can spin baseline, back down the defender, pump fake to draw a foul or simply rise up without even squaring his shoulders to the basket.

Whether or not the beard played a role in this higher level of play is debatable; however, what we do know is Dirk can still be Dirk. From his humble demeanor to his relentless work habit, Dirk is a rare commodity—there are very few players in professional sports comparable to the 7-footer. The guy actually wants to take a pay cut this upcoming summer. Yeah, weird.

During his 15 offseasons, Dirk has always kept himself physically and mentally prepared for the grind of an 82-game season—with two exceptions. After he finally reached the top of the mountain and claimed his ring, he did something out of the ordinary—he took a breather from basketball. This led to a season in which he struggled to keep up and was forced to sit out a stretch of games to get back in shape. Following that season, he underwent surgery on his right knee after it had already been drained twice, keeping him out of a third of the season. Upon return, he never seemed to find the right chemistry with Darren Collison, OJ Mayo and the rest of his new roster.

These two exceptions happened the past two seasons.

So based on this recent history, it seems that Dirk should continue to decline, right?

Apparently, Dirk is doing everything he can to reverse that trend. How he’s preparing for the upcoming season is somewhat of a new experience compared to these past two offseasons. Along with playing five-on-five before training camp for the first time since the Mavs won the Championship, Dirk was one of the first Mavs to start training at the American Airlines Center. Nowitzki began his usual cardio and weight training in early July, but he also started getting extra time on the court to get as ready as possible for the season.

“He’s had a phenomenally conscientious summer with his workouts,” coach Carlisle said. “There are never any guarantees with health, but he’s done everything that you can do to put yourself in position to have a good year that way.”

To add to this physical training, Dirk continues to improve upon his game without letting his exceptional efficiency waver. Once solely a three-point flinger, he has constantly worked to understand angles, footwork and spacing to develop his game, never becoming content with his abilities. Because of his competitiveness and resolve to become a better and more complete player, Dirk will eventually go down as one of the most difficult players to guard.

Nowitzki has clearly shown a willingness to continue working on his shape and his game, feasibly turning back the clock just a little bit. He has the legitimate opportunity to remind everyone of the player who became the second player since 1991 to score over 40 points with 15 or fewer field-goal attempts in a playoff game when he racked up 48 points on 15 attempts against the Thunder. He can remind people of the player who led the last team to beat the Miami Heat in the Playoffs. (All of this happened just two calendar years ago.)

His new point guard will play a large part in deciding just how close he can get to this past form. From Steve Nash to Jason Kidd, Dirk has worked well when paired up with a pass-first point guard who knows how to run an offense and where to get him the ball. There’s no reason to think Jose Calderon can’t be exactly that for the Mavs and for Dirk. After being traded from the Raptors to the Pistons, Calderon continued to rely on his strengths, leading the League in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.1) and three-point shooting (.461). Calderon might be on the downhill side of his career, but being in a similar place didn’t stop Jason Kidd from helping take Dirk’s game to another level.

(The glaring defensive concern for this team is a discussion for another time…but if anything derails the Mavs this upcoming season, it will be their defense or lack there of.)

After positions are filled by the West’s elite six teams (Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors, Rockets), the last two playoff spots are up for grabs. The Mavs, Blazers, Lakers and Timberwolves all have a solid chance to make the cut, pending any long-term injury bugs. How do the Mavs grab one of these spots?

Dirk. As much as Cuban wants to talk about Monta Ellis taking some of the pressure off Dirk’s shoulders or Samuel Dalembert becoming an interior force, this season is all about Dirk and his team. They will go as he goes.

If he becomes the enforcer once again that consistently takes and makes shots most opposing coaches would be happy to see their defensive players force, this season will be a new story. That deceptive pump fake followed by an awkwardly smooth one-legged fadeaway can give Dirk a new chapter to his playoff career.

Last season didn’t go quite as planned for the Mavs leader. But once late October rolls around, it’s a brand new season for Daddy Dirk.

Where should Dirk Nowitzki rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5
26 Joakim Noah Bulls C 5
25 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 4
24 John Wall Wizards PG 9
23 Chris Bosh Heat C 3
22 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 5
21 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 4

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Dirk Post All Star Break,

    30 games, 18.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 50 FG%, 43.3 3PT%, 91.3 FT%

    Horford Post All Star Break,

    26 games, 19.7 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 55 FG% and he played defense.

  • shockexchange

    Horford ain’t never caught a rabbit though.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Dirk Nowitzki, #21….
    .
    uhm, why?
    .
    “well……he caught a rabbit.”

  • shockexchange

    Prior to winning the chip, Dirk and Steve Nash did damage in the playoffs before Nash went to Phoenix. The top 20 or so is where we get down to discussing the hunting dogs, where stats and team results could be used as differentiators. Al Horford is not a hunting dog so he shouldn’t be in the convo.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    that was 10 years ago……
    .
    last year, Dallas missed the playoffs, and Dirk was just good. Nothing great.
    .
    last year is more important then 2003. Hate to break it to you.

  • Junior Taylor

    37yr old Duncan > 35yr old Dirk. I don’t care which way one looks at it, Duncan was better last season and will be better yet again this season. Duncan’s entire season was better than Dirk’s Post All-Star run (which seems to be the reason why he is ahead of TD).

  • shockexchange

    “that was 10 years ago …” is a re-direct of the conversation. SE’s point is (i) Dirk led Dallas to the chip just two seasons ago and (ii) it wasn’t a fluke because he came close years prior. Dirk would have won another chip if Cuban had not broken up the team.

    Dirk is not where he was a few years ago, and that’s why he’s ranked #21 instead of #7. However, when it comes to catching some vittles, Gramma gives Dirk the nod over a dog who looks, and barks like a hunting dog, but ain’t never caught a rabbit.

  • Quinton231

    This is about this upcoming season, fellas. You take into account what is potentially going to happen. This upcoming season, 21 seems right. He’s preparing.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    and then Dallas misses the playoffs again, Dirk plays good, but not great. And your hunting metaphor’s will continue to not carry any weight ad infinitum

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange will end the convo here. This is way too much back and forth over a dog who ain’t never caught a darn thing.

  • i_ball

    I actually enjoy the hunting dog metaphors. But Dirk ain’t coming close to catching another rabbit again.

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange doesn’t disagree. He’s just trying to explain why Dirk would be ranked higher than Horford who is more of a “show dog.”

  • LakeShow

    #21 is a good spot for Dirkus.

    He will play in the top 25 players this year if injuries are kept at bay.

  • LakeShow

    I actually understand your POV here.
    Sorry fellas… It might not have the same mathematic intelligence as PER, but Shock has a point… I don’t think Al Horford could ever be #1 on a championship team.

  • davidR

    going off what ben explained in the duncan post, dirk is expected to do very well this season. #21 is fair

  • davidR

    ben explained it pretty well in the duncan post. duncan will miss a ton of games during the regular season. dirk probably won’t, and will therefore have a more productive regular season.

    makes sense. plus dirk should be fully healthy, so he’ll return to form

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    guess what? that doesn’t matter. this isn’t about their careers.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    And while the rabbit proved to be elusive for Dirk these past 2 seasons, Dirk Daddy did successfully manage to get some tail!

  • LakeShow

    I know, I thought this through.

    I think Dirk would give Atlanta just as strong of a team if he replaced Horford this coming season.

    As you know Dirk is a really special offensive player. His impact far out reaches his “nice” #’s. While his defense is not nearly on par with Horford’s he is very much so the more potent, intelligent, offensive player.

    They are very comparable as over all talents imo.

    I understand you disagree.

    I expect Horford to make me believe this year(according to you that should be easy). I’ll try and watch those boring ass games in the ATL this season lol.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    haha that’s all i ask

  • LakeShow

    Yeah I think people are more upset about certain players (Horford/Conley/Monroe) not getting as high of a ranking as they expected, so they are upset when Dirk and other guys are getting the nod, but Dirk should have a great year.

  • LakeShow

    I will! I am interested in what i’m missing…

  • shockexchange

    nbk and Al Horford at the dog show:

    nbk: “Look at his nice shiny coat. Isn’t that beautiful? Look at his pearly white teeth. Al brushes them 3 times per day. His overly large mouth is also designed carry rabbits in it. Look at his muscular front legs … built for hunting, while his springy hind quarters are built for jumping.”

    Judge: “Has he ever caught a rabbit?”

    nbk: *crickets*

  • shockexchange

    Ha ha. Dirk has nice taste in women.

  • RobertTime

    I don’t get the concern. Jay makes point to bring up P-ALB numbers along with summer preparation and impact of Calderon. And how many times has Dirk bounced back in his career? The guy has a game that doesn’t require athleticism. It’s about the 13-14 season. Seems right to me. He deserves 21 at the least.

  • LakeShow

    Haha, You have upped your game recently SE.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    just wondering, how many dogs in the NBA even have caught rabbits?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    good, then you will see.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    and just for the record, my point wasn’t to show that Horford is better than Dirk (even though i believe he is), it’s to show that Dirk is ranked like 10 spots too high.

  • LakeShow

    Somehow i’m sure Kobe Bryant has evaded Shock’s “Hunting Dog” list lol.

  • shockexchange

    Haha, you sir is what Webster would describe as “clairvoyant.”

  • Sérgio

    I enjoy it, too. Write a book about it, shock.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i’m sure Shock doesn’t even have an idea what he means by hunting dog

  • shockexchange
  • Saleem Rainman

    but this is based off of predictions for this coming season, not Duncans entire season which has already come to pass. Duncan should be at least in the top 15,if not top 10, but Dirk probs deserves this spot, if not the top 20 for this coming year.

  • ChosenOne

    Is it true you had an altercation with Shaq once back in his Orlando days outside a club? Lol, tell me more. (Yeah I used to read probasketballtalk too). ;)

  • Saleem Rainman

    For THIS coming year, he could very well be better than 21st. Definitely one of the best go to guys in the L no question.

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange’s Gramma used to have a farm with a kennel full of dogs. Hunting dogs were our best friends. During hunting season, whether those dogs “could hunt” or not determined how well we ate.

    Some always caught a rabbit – they ate the best and got the most praise. Some dogs were “question marks” and Gramma would give them a chance to prove themselves. Others never caught a rabbit and Gramma left them behind.

  • shockexchange

    Actually it’s in the book. The Shock Exchange is still in therapy over that. LOL. Nobody ____ blocks SE.

  • LakeShow

    I’m sure he could come up with something on the spot.

    “A hunting dog is a player who doesn’t need word on the Streets, two sever footers at the same time, or exceptionally more talent the the rest of the L.” So basically Hakeem only lol.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    loooool

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange is a fair contributor on here but all he gets are shade and ridicule. You all are the worst.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    that actually didn’t sound like shade or ridicule. it sounded exactly like your reasoning.

  • Junior Taylor

    Lets just ignore the fact that Dirk has missed 20 and 29 games respectively the past 2 seasons.

  • shockexchange

    SE’s previous comment was “tongue-in-cheek.” *Welp*

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    oh wait, so you do realize that you aren’t a fair contributor on here? or are you saying you don’t get shade and ridicule? do you know what tongue in cheek even means? or was what you said, half tongue in cheek half serious? either way, either way’s fine.

  • ChosenOne

    You have to cool off and stop with the “exceptionally more talent” thing though. Shaq alone doesn’t’ constitute to that theory. Shaq was very thankful to have Kobe on his team.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    why not right?

  • davidR

    trruuuu. but it was mostly due to dirk being fatigued playing in the playoffs then europe hoops. he never had rest and he eventually broke down.

    he’s finally had some rest this off season, so we’re all gonna assume he’s good. other than the last 2 seasons he’s pretty durable. i know age plays a factor but i’ll give him the benefit of the doubt

  • Evan Boland

    Don’t be a prisoner of the present. Would you have said this in 2012, after Dirk won the chip?

  • davidR

    nice lol

  • shockexchange

    Yeah you’re right. Shaq needed someone to hit all those wide open jumpers while he was being quadruple-teamed.

  • ChosenOne

    Yep, and someone able to defend the screen roll and the perimeter which Kobe did brilliantly.

  • shockexchange

    Who is this “Kobe” person you keep referring to?

  • ChosenOne

    Lol, I bet that was a challenge for you to type. Bottom line, he caught rabbits, and plenty of ‘em.

  • spit hot fiyah

    yes better numbers, and then add defense to the equation it is not even really close

  • shockexchange

    If you’re referring to Horry Jr, (i) He played his role on offense by hitting wide open shots (just like other Lakers) and (ii) he was very aggressive on defense because he knew when he was beaten he had Shaq back there to block/alter shots.

  • spit hot fiyah

    he peaked at the right time and got a Chip for it. it’s downhill now, this might be slightly too high. if he regains his health it might be an alright ranking. he just doesn’t have the impact he did before they won it all, he seemed somewhat satisfied after that.

  • i_ball

    He referred to Horry Jr

  • shockexchange

    Okay. ChosenOne should call that man by his name then and quit being disrespectful.

  • LakeShow

    That’s my biggest problem with Dirk. He was totally satisfied after winning that ONE chip.
    I know it was an impressive one and a long time coming, but he doesn’t seem to care about winning now.

  • i_ball

    Dirk is obviously too high. But I would still rather have him on my team than Horford. It’s not about the rabbits or whatever.

    I still think Dirk is better offensively (skill set wise) and the Hawks and Mavs aren’t going anywhere this season so who cares about defense.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the Hawks are probably going to the playoffs……….again.
    .
    Dallas, might.
    .
    who cares about defense? well, we are rating basketball players based on their ability to play basketball. idk about you, but in my 20+ years of playing competitive basketball, i have yet to play just one side of the court.

  • LakeShow

    Can you name other “role players” in history who have done what Kobe has?

    Multiple 40 and 50 point games in a row.

    Being a #1 and #2 option on 5 championship squads.

    Top 5 in scoring throughout 90% of his career.

    Top 5 all time in points in RS and Playoffs.

    81 points in a single game.

    62 points in 3 quarters.

    4 other 60 point games.

    A regular season MVP.

    A two time Finals MVP.

    Olympic Gold Medalist.

    15 all NBA teams.

    10 time first team.

    4th in free throws made.

    12 all defensive teams.

    Led the NBA playoffs:

    win shares: 2001 (3.8)

    points: 2004 (539), 2008 (633), 2009 (695), 2010 (671)

    points per game: 2003 (32.1), 2007 (32.8), 2008 (30.1)

    minutes played: 2002 (833), 2004 (973)

    field goals made: 2004 (190), 2008 (222), 2009 (242), 2010 (234)

    ……………………………………………………………………………………

    No?

    Didn’t think so.

  • shockexchange

    Out of respect, SE would like to keep the conversation focused on Dirk and his hunting prowess. There will be more than enough time to discuss Horry Jr. By the way, it’s bout time you start calling the guy by his real name.

  • i_ball

    I meant that both are going out in the first round maximum.
    So if you are a GM and your goal is instant success which one would you take?
    That’s what this ranking is about, right

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    This season, I take Horford. It’s only about this season, what Dirk did 3 years ago is great, but that was 3 years ago. If he isn’t dominating games offensively, he’s in no way shape or form better than Horford. Just my opinion

  • LakeShow

    I’m sure you would…

    Leave Big Shot Bobs’s son outta this.

  • Dagger

    You know, last season he came back from injury to rejoin a horrible team with zero chance of winning a championship and limited prospects of future improvement.

    How many 35-year-old players would have worked their way back into shape midway through the season and insisted that nobody shave until the team climbed above .500? How many young, healthy guys would have played as well as Dirk did in leading the Mavs to .500?

    The season after he won the title, yeah, you could say he pulled a James Hunt and coasted. But after last season, I don’t see how you can accuse him of not caring.

  • LakeShow

    I agree with you 100%.

    I’m just saying he has to prove some stuff this year. He was injured so I can’t be to hard on him, but the year previous was quite disappointing to me.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    Lol, yep that dog hunts!

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange has exquisite taste in women, but Lola Falana, Jayne Kennedy and Pam Grier weren’t interested. *Welp*

  • Dagger

    For sure. I expect better numbers from him this year, although I don’t know how much more than Mavs will win with such a (potentially) porous defense. And I still think Duncan should be ranked higher.

  • danpowers

    i think people underestimate under what strain dirk has been ever since. he didnt even play the main guy for the mavs for maaany years. his engagement for the german national team was insane, too. he hardly ever rested and you cant compare his national apearences with the us-boys as he was the main guy on that team, carrying an inferior german squad through almost every tournament they attended. just ask kaman how skilled bigs get treated by defenders on the national stage: quite nasty and rugged. in other words: he never really rested throughout his whole career.

    i think its only human and understandable that he was totally jaded after he finally reached this long time goal. i dont really think that he has still anything to prove to anyone – but he will still try to win, book it (i read you also admitted that alrdy). i think everybody who saw his whole career really understands this bad post championship year.

  • LakeShow

    Dirks’ the sh*t. Best player out of Europe imo.

    But Kobe is my favorite player. He just makes everyone else look weak-minded lol.

    Of course Dirk is great. One of the all-timers.

    I was just hoping for a little more juice post that chip.

  • 3Chainz

    But I understand now sooo…lets sit back and watch as the NBK nut huggers choke on Lebrons hairline while the sun rises in the west and sets in the east on friday the 13th due to a overdose of Breaking Bad season 3 on netflix yesterday around 2 pm central time before daylight savings…. u follow me primetime?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Not at all. Never watched that show, and don’t understand where you are even coming from

  • 3Chainz

    hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog…….

  • 3Chainz

    You must be from Atlanta?….

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Not even close.

  • danpowers

    i understand what you mean very well. i just tried to make a point, why it shouldnt be a suprise that he had something like a basketball burnout that year.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I really hope you are right.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Champagne taste on a beer budget?…. zoinks Scoob.

  • Caboose

    Dirk will put up like 20-7-2. With some p!ss poor defense. That’s like lower 30′s to me.

  • BugEyes

    Jaaaa

  • swissflix

    The comparison does not matter. Both are fantastic players who hopefully play for another two seasons.

  • shockexchange

    You had to go there didn’t you?

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  • Max

    I once did, I had 4 fouls in the first half and our team only had 5 players that day.
    I wasn’t allowed to cross midcourt so I was some kind of striker (from soccer/football).
    It was pretty funny to see.

  • Max

    lmao

  • Max

    *Two seven footers at the same ____ time.

  • Max

    Whoa, do you have that list saved up somewhere?

  • LakeShow

    Naw, just listed the ones I knew then went to wikipedia lol.

  • shockexchange

    Exactly. He’s got it tattoed across his thigh.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Sorry Shock but we’re all allowed to dream a little dream…

  • BCoops

    I can just imagine this, would be hella funny to see!

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