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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dirk Nowitzki: Model of Consistency

Remember when I asked Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle if he thinks that Dirk Nowitzki is underrated? Instead of suggesting that Nowitzki deserves more acclaim than he receives, Coach Carlisle diplomatically praised the media for voting Nowitzki to the 2009 All-NBA First Team--but Hall of Fame contributor/two-time NBA Coach of the Year/ESPN analyst Hubie Brown completely agrees with my take on Nowitzki. Late in ESPN's Wednesday night broadcast of Dallas' 100-86 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder--during which Nowitzki scored a game-high 35 points on blistering 13-18 field goal shooting while tying for game-high honors with 11 rebounds--play by play announcer Dan Shulman asked Brown, "Is it possible that a guy who has been as good as he is for as long as he has been that good--is it possible Dirk Nowitzki is still a little bit underappreciated?"

Brown immediately replied, "Oh, I think so and I've always felt that way. I feel that for what he has accomplished--and even the year that he won the MVP (2006-07), a lot of guys questioned (why) he won the MVP--and yet when you back up the stats and see everything that he did, it is just one of those freakish things that happen that certain players, no matter what they do, no matter how consistent, no matter how overwhelming their stats are, people still do not want to give them the total recognition."

Nowitzki has averaged at least 21.8 ppg for nine straight seasons and is well on course to make it ten in a row with his career-high tying 26.6 ppg average this season. During that time Nowitzki has averaged at least 8.4 rpg each year (he is slightly behind that pace with an 8.2 rpg average so far this season). As Brown pointed out earlier in the telecast, Nowitzki has consistently been an accurate shooter from the field, three point range and the three point line; during Nowitzki's aforementioned MVP campaign he joined the elite .500 (field goal percentage)--.400 (three point field goal percentage)--.900 (free throw percentage) Club, whose members include sharpshooters Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller and Steve Nash.

For those of you who think you know NBA basketball (but really don't) and say that Nowitzki is not a clutch player, consider that this season he has shot 55-55 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter/overtime--and remember that his playoff scoring and rebounding averages (25.5 and 11.0 respectively) are significantly better than his regular season scoring and rebounding averages (22.5 and 8.4); for comparison purposes, note that renowned playoff assassin Reggie Miller not only averaged fewer points in the postseason than Nowitzki (20.6 ppg) but that Miller's playoff scoring average is 2.4 ppg higher than his regular season scoring average compared to a 3.0 differential for Nowitzki, who advanced past the first round in six of his first 11 seasons while Miller's Indiana Pacers made it out of the first round seven times in 18 seasons.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:43 AM

10 comments

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10 Comments:

At Thursday, December 17, 2009 10:48:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
That's why it baffles me when media say it is impossible for a white american basketball to succeed in the NBA without elite athleticism. Dirk Nowitzky in my opinion is one of the top 50 players to ever play this game. I'd even go as far to put him ahead of Iverson.
he's a great example on how fundamental basketball ultimately trumps leaping ability. I still think they should have won that Miami series if not for the ghost fouls on D-wade.
Why do you think white american basketball players don't learn the fundamental skills necessary to be an all-star in the NBA? or do you think the stigma has shot their confidence in their ability?

 
At Thursday, December 17, 2009 4:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

I agree that Nowitzki is a Top 50 All-Time player and that he is a greater player than Iverson. However, I disagree with your suggestion that Nowitzki is not "athletic." He is a seven footer who is very mobile and agile, he possesses more than adequate jumping ability and he has tremendous hand-eye coordination. It is true that Nowitzki is very sound fundamentally but it is a mistake to suggest that he is not athletic. There is an inexplicable, incorrect tendency to define athleticism purely by vertical leap and/or broad jumping ability (i.e., the ability to leap from long distances, like the foul line). Nowitzki would not win an NBA vertical leap or broad jumping contest--though he might do better than you think--but there is a lot more to athleticism than just jumping ability. I addressed this issue in a December 13, 2007 article titled Is Steve Nash the Best Athlete in the NBA?

In the past, overt discrimination against black athletes in many sports obviously affected the demographic balance in those sports but today I think that such balance is much more affected by socio-economic factors; for the most part, people have the opportunity to play whatever sport they want to play, so they pursue the sports that interest them the most. Certainly the influx of European, Asian and South American players into the NBA should have forever destroyed any myth about any one race being superior to any other race athletically; another example is boxing, which has been dominated at various times by Jewish, Italian, black and Latino fighters, indicating not that one group is inherently superior at the sport but rather that this particular sport tends to be pursued most ardently by whichever group is at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum during a particular time--and that is certainly understandable: it is not likely that someone from a financially comfortable background is going to enter that sport or is going to have the same hunger and desire to master it as would someone who may have no other realistic path to financial success.

 
At Friday, December 18, 2009 9:07:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I never heard white media say that about any player. Who are you listening to that told you that? Thats just ignorant thinking to say you have to have elite athleticism. If Dirk is top 50, then who do you take out?

 
At Friday, December 18, 2009 3:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I hate to talk about taking someone out of the Top 50; everyone deserved his spot, though even at the time that the team was selected there were other players who were at least equally deserving of the honor (most notably, Bob McAdoo). That said, Nowitzki is a former MVP who has made the All-NBA First Team four times and has made the All-NBA Team nine times overall (First, Second or Third). The only former MVP who did not make the original list is McAdoo (and he should have made it). If the list were redone today and limited to 50 players (as opposed to being expanded to 60 or 70) then obviously someone who did not win an MVP and was not consistently All-NBA First Team would have to step aside for Nowitzki; naturally, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan (to name just two players who were not active when the first list was made) would also have to be included at the expense of some of the legends who preceded them.

 
At Saturday, December 19, 2009 5:01:00 PM, Blogger Tomislav said...

Take Bill Walton out, Robert Parish, Sam Jones and Lenny Wilkens.

 
At Saturday, December 19, 2009 7:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Tomislav:

As I said, I hate to talk about taking anyone out but if a new Greatest Players List were made and it was restricted to 50 players then obviously some of the (relatively) lesser accomplished older players would have to make way for Kobe, Duncan, Nowitzki, etc.

 
At Sunday, December 20, 2009 2:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel
dirk was a great player who fell short in the finals in 06 he was never clutch he was a great regular season player he was closest thing to bird sine he retired top 50 yes if steve nash is there he deserves to be there

 
At Monday, December 21, 2009 5:18:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Did you read the post? I hate having to repeat myself over and over.

Dirk's playoff stats are markedly better than his regular season stats. In previous posts I have talked about Dirk's run of playoff games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds--he had the longest such streak since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1970s! Dirk has come up huge for the Mavs in many playoff games, including 30 points and 19 rebounds in a game seven win versus the Kings in the 2003 playoffs.

 
At Tuesday, December 22, 2009 8:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

in his biggest moment in 06 finals he came up small where was he at then? hes a great regular season player who had some good postseason moments but at biggest moments he didnt show up to suggest he a cluth player like kobe or lebron or wade is comical he was shooting jump shots when he should of gone too basket in that series ome on david

 
At Tuesday, December 22, 2009 10:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

If you are going to judge a player on one Finals, then where was Magic Johnson in the 1984 Finals? He made several key mistakes that cost the Lakers the title. Where was LeBron James in the 2007 Finals? He shot a terrible percentage from the field and committed a ton of turnovers.

I could cite many other examples, but the point is that you have to look at a player's entire body of work, not just one series or a small sample of games.

 

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