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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Underrated Dirk Nowitzki Joins Elite 30,000 Point Club

Dirk Nowitzki joined the 30,000 point club on Wednesday night, scoring 25 points in Dallas' 122-111 win over the L.A. Lakers. Pro basketball fans are on a first name (or nickname) basis with the other six members of that club: Kareem, Mailman, Kobe, Jordan, Wilt, Dr. J.

Julius "Dr. J" Erving is the most overlooked member of the club, because many media outlets inexplicably fail to account for his ABA points--but Erving deserves recognition as the first "mid-size" player to break the 30,000 point barrier, a feat only accomplished by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain at the time that Erving joined the club in 1987; indeed, it would be 14 years after Erving retired before Jordan (in his second comeback, this time as a Wizard) became the club's fourth member and just second "mid-size" player, a feat matched about a decade later by the club's third and final "mid-size" member, Kobe Bryant. Kareem, Wilt and Dirk are/were at least 7-feet tall, while Mailman was a 6-9 power player, a description also befitting LeBron James (who is on track to be the next player to join the club).

While Erving is the club's most overlooked player and is a highly underrated player as well, Nowitzki may be the most underrated 30,000 point scorer. He is perceived by many as "just" a jump shooter but Nowitzki in his prime could score from anywhere on the court. Nowitzki was also a very good rebounder, particularly early in his career when he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record by posting at least 30 points and at least 15 rebounds in four straight playoff games--something that Wilt and Shaq and Moses never accomplished. Think about that for a moment and then also consider that Nowitzki is one of just four players who have averaged at least 25 ppg and 10 rpg in the postseason, joining Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor and Hakeem Olajuwon; he performed even better in the playoffs than he did in the regular season, which is a rare trait. Nowitzki notched 29 playoff games with at least 30 points and at least 10 rebounds, four more than Larry Bird; the career leader is Baylor (56) and the only other players ahead of Nowitzki are Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Olajuwon, Pettit and Tim Duncan. Nowitzki was never a great defender but as he got older, wiser and stronger he learned how to use his length and his foot speed to be at least adequate at that end of the court.

Nowitzki has to be included on the short list of greatest power forwards of all-time. In the post Michael Jordan era, I would rank him behind only Tim Duncan. Kevin Garnett fans may go ballistic after reading that sentence, but Nowitzki did more with less over a longer period of time than Garnett did; Garnett spent most of his career struggling to get out of the first round of the playoffs and when he won a championship he was one cog in the Big Three. Nowitzki was without question a better clutch player than Garnett, who only enjoyed any playoff success when he was paired with someone else who was willing and able to make big shots down the stretch (Sam Cassell in Minnesota, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston).

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:10 AM

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29 Comments:

At Wednesday, March 08, 2017 12:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, interesting last sentence. The same thing could be said about Russell, who always had a plethora of great offensive players around him.

Not a Dirk nor KG fan, but I'd go with KG. And contrary to what Nick thinks about me, defense matters a lot. Dirk was better offensively, but KG was still a great offensive player. Defensively, no comparison. Dirk was below average while KG was one of the best big-man defenders ever. KG was also a much better rebounder. Dirk never averaged 10rpg once and he played upper 30mpg for most of his career. For a 7-footer, that's not good. Dirk had a lot better teammates than KG did. KG had garbage in MIN mostly. And then when he finally had even a remotely decent team around him in 2004, he makes the WCF. Unfortunately for him, Cassell gets hurt in the WCF, or MIN could've gone on to win the title.

KG was the leader on 2008 BOS and the best player. Dirk always had a solid cast until these last few seasons in his twilight years, which still haven't been that bad until maybe this year. If Dirk was still playing like prime Dirk, DAL would be winning a lot more. DAL hasn't won a playoff series since 2011, and they've still had some decent teams. He only made 3 WCF despite playing with AS and solid players for most of his career, and the season after each he ended up losing in the 1st round, including the biggest flop in nba history vs GS in 2007, which he played horrible in that series. He played poorly in the 2006 Finals. He was a little sick in the 2011 Finals, but didn't play particularly well that series either. He needed James to quit playing hard, be only the 4th best player in the series, and Jason Terry outplaying James down the stretch of most games to get a title. I think it's close, but KG seems to have had the better career. Though very good, I don't see him as clutch or as good in the playoffs as you do, despite his playoff averages.

 
At Wednesday, March 08, 2017 1:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

I'd probably take Garnett over Dirk in the regular season but I trust Dirk a lot more in the playoffs.

I think Garnett pretty unimpeachably had a more complete skill-set, but as you noted, Dirk shows up when it counts. You can win with Dirk as your best guy with a really carefully constructed team and a little luck; I'm not sure you can with with KG as your best guy (although a case could certainly be made for him in '08, at least in the playoffs I'd say Pierce was their best player).

There's also the issue of floor-spacing, which we rarely talk about since it doesn't show up in the box score, but matters a ton. Dirk's guards have more room to operate than KG's, and on the right night that could be worth twenty or thirty points by itself, but it's very difficult to quantify.

David, I'm curious where you'd rank Dirk against PFs of previous eras, as he's someone I have a hard time placing historically myself. Is he better than Malone (the answer to this one probably depends how much we ding Malone for his crappy playoff performances)? McHale? Barkley? Pettit? I'm pretty sure I'd take him over Hayes, but even there there's a case that can be made.

 
At Thursday, March 09, 2017 11:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirk, Malone, and Olajuwon have such similar careers. Malone didn't end up winning a title, but neither would've Dirk/Olajuwon if they had to go up against 1997/1998 CHI. They all had roller coaster playoff outcomes, and didn't capitalize as often as they should've, but all found ways to get to the Finals at least 2x each.

I think Malone's 'crappy playoff performances' are getting quite overblown on here at times, and he made 7 WCF over a 7-year span. He averaged 24.7ppg and 10.7rpg for this playoff career. His overall performances in CF and the Finals are extremely good. He put up 31/11/7 on .579 being guarded by Rodman in game 6 of the 1998 Finals.

 
At Thursday, March 09, 2017 7:02:00 PM, Anonymous AW said...

I believe Dirk is underrated because prior to the title, he was considered A playoff choker, which is a huge myth. He always have been a great playoff performer. One bad series vs Golden State doesn't prove he's a choker. Against Miami in 2006 he had his strugggles , but I believe that he was overall good. Wade was just better.

Yes, LeBron struggled in the 2011 finals, but Dirk deserves credit. He His team overachieved that year when you think about it. I don't believe no one expected that team to get farther than the first round. He had one of the best playoff runs that I can remember.

Garnett is a better all around player than Dirk. But I'd still take Dirk. He's a proven better playoff performer. People always talk about Garnett never had good enough teams in Minnesota, but he deserved blame for his teams getting put out in the first round a good amount of times and then went another three years without even qualifying for the playoffs.

Duncan is the only power forward I rank ahead of Dirk. Dirk's 2011 playoff run puts him over Malone.

 
At Thursday, March 09, 2017 8:30:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Ikeda said...

David,

Excellent post. I agree that Dirk was an incredible player that is often overlooked. And, while I have no way of knowing who was actually better between Nowitzki and Garnett, I think the following sentence you wrote is a bit unfair: "Kevin Garnett fans may go ballistic after reading that sentence, but Nowitzki did more with less over a longer period of time than Garnett did; Garnett spent most of his career struggling to get out of the first round of the playoffs and when he won a championship he was one cog in the Big Three."

Garnett played with Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell (who I think is an underrated player with fringe HOF credentials) before he hooked up with Pierce, Allen, and Rondo in Boston. But before that? Terrell Brandon and then Wally Szczerbiak were the best players Garnett played with after Marbury. What talent did Garnett play with outside of those two guys? Kendall Gill. Ervin Johnson. Rasho Nesterovic. Joe Smith. He did play with Billups, before Billups became Mr. Big Shot. Ricky Davis. Marco Jaric...

I'd say Dirk was blessed with a lot better surrounding talent overall. Michael Finley. Steve Nash. Antawn Jameson. Tyson Chandler. Shawn Marion. Jason Terry. Josh Howard. Devon Harris. Jerry Stackhouse. Keith Van Horn. Erik Dampier. Jason Kidd.

Garnett averaged 50 wins a season with the players listed up until Flip Saunders was fired and Ricky Davis became Garnett's second best teammate.

Again, not saying your overall assessment is wrong (that Dirk is better than KG), but I don't think it's accurate to state that Dirk did more with less. Garnett had a lot of help in Boston, but he also got to the Finals twice...something Dirk never did.

 
At Thursday, March 09, 2017 9:34:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Jordan-

Dirk did make the Finals twice. 07 and 11.

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 2:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Russell was the best player on 11 championship teams. He was an elite rebounder, defender and passer (he ranked in the top 10 in assists four times). Although he was not a dominant scorer, he averaged between 14.1 and 18.9 ppg in the first nine years of his career while also ranking in the top five in FG% four times (you can't compare the raw FG% from that era to the modern era because the rules and conditions were vastly different).

So, I am not even going to compare Nowitzki or Garnett to Russell.

Nowitzki won a championship against a Miami super team while playing alongside 37 year old Jason Kidd, three role players who were at least 32 years old (Marion, Terry, Stojakovic) plus defensive specialist Tyson Chandler and offensive sparkplug J.J. Barea. Marion and Stojakovic were very good players in their primes but they were role players in 2011, as was future HoFer Kidd. There is no way that Garnett would come close to winning a championship with that group.

I agree that Garnett was Boston's best regular season player in 2008 but Pierce led the way in the playoffs and particularly the Finals, winning the Finals MVP.

Much was made of KG annually putting up 20-10-5 in the regular season--KG made a commercial bragging about this, in fact--but I believe that it was Scottie Pippen who made the point that KG was not the same player in the clutch and I think that observation was largely correct, though I realize that KG did have some clutch playoff moments (most of which occurred after Pippen made that statement, it should be noted).

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 2:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

I rank Nowitzki very highly on the all-time power forward list. Duncan is number one. Pettit is probably number two. I would take peak McHale over peak Nowitzki but peak McHale only existed for a very short period of time. Nowitzki's combination of longevity with a very high level of play probably puts him number three on my list. Barkley and Malone had more raw physical gifts but Barkley was a defensive liability (Nowitzki was poor initially but after his first couple seasons he was at least adequate and he used his length to good effect) and Malone was horrendous (relative to his skill set and regular season production) in the playoffs, shooting .463 from the field in the postseason compared to .516 in the regular season. Hayes put up tremendous numbers and he won a title; he had a reputation as a coach killer and for not being great in the clutch but I think that both of those criticisms were somewhat unfair. I would not rank him ahead of Nowitzki but I do think that Hayes is somewhat underrated and underappreciated.

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 2:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Malone had an astounding number of first round playoff exits considering that he spent almost his entire career playing alongside a HoF point guard plus a very good supporting cast. Most of his WCF appearances took place after the Showtime Lakers dissolved and before the Shaq/Kobe Lakers and Duncan/Robinson Spurs emerged. Malone played for four teams that won at least 50 games only to lose in the first round of the playoffs, including one 60 win team.

No one in his right mind is taking Malone over Olajuwon and certainly not in the playoffs. Nowitzki over Malone is a pretty easy choice for me as well, though I realize that some people may find that more controversial than Olajuwon over Malone.

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 2:58:00 AM, Blogger Jordan Ikeda said...

@Nick, Doh. Yes he did. #makingmypoinfail. Uh, I think the rest of my post still holds truth.

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 3:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jordan:

Nowitzki led Dallas to two NBA Finals (2006, 2011), three WCFs (2-1 record) and one title for which he was awarded the Finals MVP (2011). KG made it to the NBA Finals twice, winning one title (as mentioned above, Paul Pierce won the Finals MVP that year) and the Conference Finals four times (0-1 record in the West, 1-2 record in the East while playing along two future HoFers).

Nowitzki and Garnett faced each other in the playoffs once, in 2002, when Dallas was the fourth seed and Minnesota was the fifth seed. Nowitzki led Dallas to a 3-0 sweep while averaging 33.3 ppg, 15.7 rpg, 3.0 spg and 1.3 bpg. He shot .526 from the field, including .727 (!) from three point range. KG averaged 24.0 ppg, 18.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.7 bpg while shooting .429 from the field. The team scoring margin in the series almost exactly matched Nowitzki's advantage over Garnett and that makes sense: Billups/Szczerbiak versus Nash/Finley was essentially a wash, as were the role player matchups, so the series was decided by Nowitzki outdueling Garnett.

I already mentioned Nowitzki's 2011 supporting cast when he won the championship. Let's look at his 2006 team that lost to Miami in the Finals: Jason Terry (ably replacing Steve Nash) was the second best player, followed by Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels and Jerry Stackhouse. Switch Nowitzki with Garnett and that team loses in the first round. In 2000-01, KG had Terrell Brandon (a top notch pg), Szczerbiak (no worse than Josh Howard) and Peeler (a deadly three point shooter), with LaPhonso Ellis and Chauncey Billups coming off of the bench. On paper, that supporting cast is better than Nowitzki's 2006 supporting cast but KG needed someone to score down the stretch in big games to carry him, while Nowitzki carried his teams by scoring down the stretch in big games.

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 3:11:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

Jordan-

If it makes you feel any better, I typo'd his first year (it was '06, not '07) so neither of us is having a great posting accuracy day.

David-

I pretty much agree with all that analysis, though I might still take McHale over Dirk. I never really know which way to hedge in those prime vs. peak scenarios. Bill Walton's another guy who's hard for me to "rank" for similar reasons.

I remember Barkley playing passable defense in '93, but I'm pretty sure that was about the only time he did it (and it was only passable). Dirk, once he started playing defense, was a consistently (if mildly) plus defender until he lost too much speed to hang, so I'm with you there, too.

 
At Friday, March 10, 2017 3:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirk's cast still outperformed Wade's cast in the 2011 Finals, as James choked away from the spotlight and Wade took over the #1 role. Dirk was decent, but it wasn't a great performance by any means.

I'd still take KG, but it's close. They each have a lot of failures/underachievement in the playoffs.

Olajuwon over Malone, but Malone over Dirk. Dirk had a lot of 1st round playoff losses, too. 8 to be exact. Malone was an MVP candidate almost every season of his career, Dirk about half as much as Malone. What I'm saying is that it matters who you play against. If Olajuwon had to go up against Jordan, he probably has 0 rings. If Malone's 2 best teams were in 1994-95 or he didn't have to go up against Jordan in 1997-1998, he probably wins at least 1 title. All of this doesn't mean Malone was better necessarily, but this would change a lot.

Dirk didn't have a great #2 nor was he really an MVP candidate in 2011. DAL had a great run that year, but his cast played the best in the playoffs that year, that's all that matters in the end.

David, you're oversimplifying way too much. MIN was the #8 seed in 2001, losing to SA in 1st round as 8 seeds are supposed to do. Billups played a whopping total of 26 minutes, scoring just 3 total points. Ellis/Peeler played like garbage. KG had a solid series, pretty equal with Duncan. Szczerbiak/Brandon are terrible #2/#3 guys to try and beat a #1 seed.

 
At Saturday, March 11, 2017 1:32:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Nowitzki outdid three future HoFers who had teamed up together to win a title. You can nitpick Nowitzki's stats all you want but Miami was a great defensive team and Nowitzki produced in the clutch to lead Dallas to the championship, much like Kobe Bryant did in the 2010 NBA Finals against Boston's tough defense.

You say that I am "oversimplifying" and then you throw out a stat about eight first round losses for Nowitzki without noting that three of those losses came in the last three years at the back end of his career.

Anyway, this is a comments section and not a place for a 3500 word definitive essay. If you want a less "oversimplified" take then do a site search here and you will find that I wrote a lot about both players during their prime years, seasons which largely overlapped with the period when I was covering games with a media credential. I cited Finals appearances, CF appearances and the one head to head playoff matchup because those things seem most relevant to me. I never said that I am holding it against KG that he did not win when Minnesota was the eighth seed. The fourth seed-fifth seed matchup versus Dallas that I cited was a good opportunity for KG to prove himself superior to Nowitzki but that did not end well for KG.

I give KG credit for realizing how much help he needed to win a title and for being willing to sacrifice numbers to get a ring; Marbury, Arenas, Harden and Melo are four All-Stars who never figured out that equation.

 
At Saturday, March 11, 2017 11:00:00 AM, Blogger beep said...

Also of note, Dallas 1st round exits, especially the one against Warriors (was it 2007?), were more on coach than Nowitzki. Avery Johnson seemed to have trouble adjusting (or not) to circumstances when needed.

 
At Saturday, March 11, 2017 1:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I don't think you understand what I'm saying. I'm not saying Dirk didn't play well, but it was below average for him. He probably was the best player in the series, but it wasn't a typical MVP-like performance. Yes, MIA had 3 AS, but yes, DIrk's cast outperformed Wade's cast. Both are true. If Jason Terry is going to outplay James for long stretches and definitely outclutch James, that says a lot to how good Dirk's teammates played.

I'm talking about 1st round losses the same as you are regarding Malone. I looked at one of Malone's 1st round exits, and it was against a 54-win team. Teams with fewer wins have won titles before. That's not exactly fair. I was just pointing it's not fair to blame Malone like that when Dirk is doing the same thing, even worse. Much like it's not fair to blame KG for fairly bad casts for much of his career. KG should've done better probably, but so should've Dirk. I don't think one series between KG/Dirk proves much but I guess you do, especially when both players played like MVPs.

Don't buy that last sentence. Everyone knows they need a lot of help. Just because you don't like some players nor agree with their decisions doesn't mean they don't want to win nor want help to win. KG had 1-2 casts able to win MIN, and his #2 gets hurt in 2004 WCF, that's just not fair to him. When he went to BOS, it was past his prime, and he still led them to a title.

Beep, #1 seeds are true contenders while #8 seeds are average teams. Johnson led them to 67 wins, their best season ever, and only 12 teams(8 won titles) ever have reached this mark. He knew how to coach. You can't just dismiss Dirk's failure on the coach for 1st round anyway. If Dirk played great, you might have a point. But, Dirk just didn't play below average, he played awful.

 
At Saturday, March 11, 2017 3:13:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

Anonymous,

I recommend you read David's posts about this serie. It was coaching failure more than anything else. Dirk worse than average play was affected by it. Could he play better? Probably, yes. But it wasn't on him imho.

On the other hand SA 1st round exits are on players, except for one injury ridden campaign.

 
At Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Beep:

I agree regarding Avery Johnson's coaching. He was a good coach overall but he did an awful job in the 2007 playoffs. It made no sense for a 67 win team to change its starting lineup to face the eighth seeded team. Johnson psyched out his own team by suggesting that they could not beat the Warriors without making that adjustment.

 
At Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:15:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Whether or not you believe that Nowitzki was "below average for him" in the 2011 Finals, he outdueled three HoFers on a super team that was constructed with the express purpose of winning a title. That team eventually won back to back titles. It is not surprising that Nowitzki's individual numbers may have been down since Miami could focus its entire defense on him but the reality is that he came through despite having a vastly inferior team on paper.

Malone was paired with a HoF point guard and a good to great supporting cast throughout his prime but he did not make it to the Finals until the West hit a lull between Magic's Lakers and the Shaq-Kobe Lakers/Duncan-Robinson Spurs. I am not going to analyze each of those losses here in the comments section; Malone had far too many first round losses and his playoff shooting percentage was much worse than his regular season shooting percentage. He was a poor clutch player and that is well understood by just about anyone who watched him play. Almost every superstar had one or two playoff series that were not quite up to par for whatever reason but Malone had a career long pattern of this; that, combined with never winning a title, is a significant mark against him when comparing him to other all-time greats.

Whether or not you "buy" my last sentence, the verification is in the outcomes: KG knew that he needed a lot of help to win and he wanted to win, so he went to Boston to play with two HoFers. The guys who I contrasted him with either didn't/don't understand that they need a lot of help to win or they just don't care very much about winning. None of those guys could/will win a title the way that Nowitzki did, as one star paired with a bunch of role players.

 
At Sunday, March 12, 2017 10:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beep, I know what happened in the 2007 playoffs, but we're each entitled to our own opinions. I put the onus on the players usually, not the coaches. We can gripe about Johnson's coaching all we want, but when Dirk plays poorly, then he has nobody to blame but himself. 19.7ppg on .383 Shooting isn't going to get it done, though he did rebound well. DAL going small shouldn't affect their team or Dirk's offense, actually should improve their offense though hinder their defense. And GS had a below-average defense. DAL won 67 games compared to 42 for GS. It's one of the biggest flops in nba history. This wasn't like in 2008 when #1 seed 57-win LAL played #8 50-win DEN in the 1st round. Both teams are very good teams with comparable records, and DEN probably had the better cast. The difference was Kobe was much better than Melo. Dirk needed to step up and play like the MVP. Instead, he didn't even play like an AS.

David, yes, Dirk conserves a lot of credit for 2011, but the bottomline is that his cast was great and better than MIA's in the Finals. And as we all know, the game isn't played on paper. If James plays hard and remotely like his normal self, MIA probably wins in a rout.

I don't buy it with Malone. At least 4 teams in the West won at least 56 games in 1997 and 1998. And almost every team has to wait its turn, even Jordan's Bulls. Hakeem had to wait his turn, and won in the 'lull', too. Dirk won in a lull year in the West(SA loses 1st round, and Kobe's cast pretty much rolled over in the 2nd round and was going for a rare 4th straight Finals appearance).

Everyone knows they need help and wants to win. KG was traded to BOS. I don't know if he could've vetoed the trade or not, but it was a no-brain decision if he could. MIN was a lost cause for most of his career, and was in the 2nd half of his career.

 
At Monday, March 13, 2017 12:35:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

As Shaq would say, when the general panics the soldiers panic. Unless you were in that locker room you can't say that Johnson's fidgety coaching did not affect how players performed. Nowitzki's poor play in that series was very unusual for him, particularly in the postseason.

 
At Monday, March 13, 2017 2:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, but you can't also say it adversely affected players either. Johnson's small-ball lineup should've been great offensively for DAL, just not great defensively. Dirk had another AS teammate(Howard), a near-future AS(Harris in 2009), a former AS(Stackhouse), another very good, near AS-caliber for much of his career(Jason Terry). He had a lot of weapons.

 
At Monday, March 13, 2017 9:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I believe that coaching matters ("stat gurus" disagree) and I believe that Johnson is a good coach who was outcoached by his mentor in that series.

 
At Monday, March 13, 2017 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, but I'm contesting what you and others are saying about Johnson. I'm not the one saying his coaching or lack thereof affected his players' performances. You seem to be contesting that his 'panic' may have adversely influenced his players. Neither of us were in the locker room, so neither can say one way or the other. We could say that maybe him going small was an unwise choice, which is debatable. However, DAL still had a much better small-ball lineup, too, but their players just didn't play very well. I still wouldn't buy it enough for GS to beat DAL even if Johnson was in 'panic mode.' DAL shouldn't have even needed a coach to win that series, that's how lopsided the difference in abilities between both teams were.

 
At Monday, March 13, 2017 11:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Perhaps you meant your last sentence to be hyperbole but that sentiment is precisely what I am rejecting: the idea that a team can be so good that anyone could coach the team to a championship. MJ and Kobe each had several coaches but they only won titles with Phil Jackson. He may not have been the only coach that could have led them to titles but I disagree with the idea that any coach could/would have won titles with those guys. The coach has to find a delicate balance between challenging his superstar and not alienating him, while also developing the talents of the rest of the roster.

I wasn't in that particular Dallas locker room in that particular series but I have been in many NBA locker rooms and I have developed a sense for how and why coaching matters. I covered that series pretty extensively here, so rather than rehashing it now I will simply say that you can find my real-time take by doing site search. A decade later, I stand by what I wrote at that time.

 
At Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree coaching matters, but we've seen rookie coaches win titles recently. Not every player, but guys like Jordan/Kobe would've won titles with any coach.

What we're talking about with Dirk isn't winning a title, it's beating a 42-win #8 seeded team in the 1st round, big difference.

 
At Tuesday, March 14, 2017 6:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

A poorly coached team is not going to win an NBA playoff series against a well-coached team. Avery Johnson was a good coach but he had a bad series against Golden State. I agree that Nowitzki could have played better but if we are assessing relative "blame" for the outcome I would place much more on Johnson than Nowitzki.

 
At Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we disagree then. DAL was ridiculously better than GS(25 wins difference). I can only think of one other instance in pro basketball history(Spirits of STL over NY Nets in 1975) where this big of an underdog won in the playoffs. I can see your point if Dirk actually played relatively well(but he not only played below average but very poorly) and/or GS was winning with scores like 115-110 as DAL was sacrificing defense going small. But, DAL only averaged 98.5ppg for the series and Dirk was getting pushed around in the series.

 
At Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

We agree that this was a huge upset and that Nowitzki played poorly but we disagree about how much blame Johnson deserves for this outcome.

 

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