Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can him on twitter @NBAandNFLInfo or on the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page, and for more NBA basketball news and rumors visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues – a fantasy basketball blog
Dirk Nowitzki has become one of the toughest match ups in the NBA during his 16-year career. With his signature shot that seems to never miss, he has been a threat to opposing teams ever since he stepped foot in the NBA. A couple of years ago, people started to question how much he has left in the tank due to his increasing age. So we’re left to ask, how much longer can Dirk be elite?
According to the deal (three years, $30 million) the Mavericks reached with Dirk, they believe he has at least three years of stellar play left in him. He ended up taking an enormous pay-cut in order to open up cap space. This was done in hopes to land another All-Star caliber player to the team. If that happens, there is no doubt they will be contenders for the championship next season.
Before getting into his future, though, let’s first take a step back and take a look at his career so far. The main thing to focus on here is his consistency year after year, which has been one of his biggest upsides since his Hall of Fame career began.
Dirk Nowitzki was drafted in the 1998 NBA Draft with the 9th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He was then traded to the Dallas Mavericks during the draft. Ever since he started his career in Dallas, he has never once thought of playing for another team.
In his rookie season, he didn’t see a lot of action. He was limited to only 47 games throughout the lockout shortened season. He averaged 8.2 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, 1.0 assists per game, 0.6 blocks per game and 0.6 steals per game. He shot 41 percent from the floor, 21 percent from long-range and 77 percent from the free throw line. After his rookie year, he exploded on the scene and never looked back.
During his sophomore year, he enjoyed his first real dominant season. He played in every game of the season and started all but one of them. He averaged 35.8 minutes per game. He also averaged 17.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game, 0.8 blocks per game and 0.8 steals per game. He shot 46 percent from the floor, 38 percent from long range and 83 percent from the free throw line. Over the next 14 years after that season, he would only dip below 21 points per game once.
After Dirk’s sophomore season, the 1999-2000 campaign, Dirk went on an incredibly consistent run. For twelve years straight, he averaged over 21 points per game throughout the season. His two best scoring years came during the 2004-2005 season and the 2005-2006 season. For the 2004-05 season, he finished with 26.1 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, 1.5 blocks per game and 1.2 steals per game. He shot 46 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 87 percent from the free throw line. The following year, he posted a career-high 26.6 points per game, along with 9.0 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game, 1.0 blocks per game and 0.7 steals per game. He shot 48 percent from the floor, 41 percent from long-range and 90 percent from the free throw line.
After those twelve straight seasons of averaging over 21 points per game, he saw his first and only dip below during the 2012-2013 season. Granted, he only played in 53 games that season due to knee surgery. He ended that year averaging 17.3 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game, 0.7 blocks per game and 0.7 steals per game. He shot 47 percent from the floor, 41 percent from beyond the arc and 86 percent from the free throw line.
After that year, people thought for sure he was on his decline. However, this past season he proved everyone wrong. He got back in his groove and had a tremendous season; he averaged 21.7 points per game to go along with 6.2 rebounds per game, 2.7 assists per game, 0.6 blocks per game, 0.9 steals per game. He barely missed out on his second career 50-40-90 season, shooting 49.7-39.8-89.9 this season.
Overall in his career, he has played in 1,188 games and averaged 35.9 minutes per game. He holds career averages of 22.5 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists per game, 0.9 blocks per game and 0.9 steals per game. His career shooting numbers are 48 percent from the floor, 38 percent from three and 88 percent from the floor.
There’s no question that Dirk has had an amazing career so far. Going into his 17th season in the league, it’s common to question how much he has left. After all, it’s rare for a player to play at such a high level during their 16th season. Yet, Nowitzki was able to fight of Father Time and have another All-Star caliber season, which we could use as a building block going into next year.
I realize he saw a decline in production during the 2012-2013 season, but he came back last year and redeemed himself. His play-style and the way the Mavs use him are the main reason he can still play at a high level, much like Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, whose career is also winding down. Like Dirk, he’s still producing tremendous numbers, with the Spurs system being a part of it.
Dirk doesn’t need to be the most athletic player on the court – he never has – and doesn’t need to be moving constantly. He can simply post up on the block and use his fadeaway shot, which still never seems to miss. Or, he can get the ball at the top of the three-point line and shoot over his defender, or even take a few dribbles and step back. Simply put, his play style is fit withstand many more years in the NBA.
I think the Mavs new contract is spot on with how many years of elite play Dirk Nowitzki has left. I see him posting 20 points per game over the next three years and if not that, close to it. Not to mention, if he still wants to play after that, he can still be a valuable piece to a team. Much like Shaq was near the end of his career. He didn’t post the same numbers, but he still helped out on the boards and defensively.
Simply put, Dirk Nowitzki has many more years ahead of him, including a couple more years of elite play.