Thursday, September 19, 2013
How much is left in Dirk's tank?
By Joe Kaiser
If the rebuilt Dallas Mavericks are going to make the playoffs in 2013-14, it's not going to be because of all the new pieces -- it's going to be because Dirk Nowitzki led them there. But coming off a rare injury-plagued season that limited the 35-year-old to 53 games, does the Mavs' leader and future Hall of Famer still have what it takes to make that happen?
Nowitzki came in No. 16 on SI.com's rankings of the top 100 NBA players of 2014, a higher mark than some might have expected, and Rob Mahoney explained the reasoning behind that.
"In coming off his worst statistical season since 2000, Nowitzki is sure to have his doubters -- particularly among those who didn’t keep a close eye on his year-long progress," Mahoney writes. "But most every micro-level indicator available suggests that this is still the same old doggedly efficient Dirk.
"His overall numbers don’t reflect that, having been shaded by Nowitzki’s slow return from the first knee surgery of his career. But by February the longtime Maverick was more or less in full form, averaging 21.1 points (on 50-40-90 shooting percentages), 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and just 1.6 turnovers per 36 minutes after the All-Star break. Those marks all compare pretty favorably with Nowitzki’s career numbers, an amazing feat, given the quality of his teammates."
The big question is whether the sharp-shooting 7-footer can still hold up for a full season after all the wear and tear on his body, having played in at least 76 regular season games an amazing 12 times. If he can stay on the court and be the Dirk of old, this is a Mavericks team with a shot to compete for one of the final two or three playoff spots out West. If not, it'll be a second-consecutive trip to the draft lottery and the window will have officially closed on Dallas ever again being a contender with Dirk as its No. 1 guy.