Oh, you thought Dirk Nowitzki was done? After an injury plagued season that saw him post his lowest scoring average, usage rate, and win shares per 48 since his second season in the NBA, it seemed as though Dirk Nowitzki, chief and greatest calamity of our age, was finally starting to slow down. His 53 games played was easily his lowest total since his rookie season, and the general consensus held him as a second-tier power forward in this league. Still good and still dangerous, but a step behind the Blakes Griffin, Kevins Love, LaMarcuses Aldridge and the like. Dirk’s decline reflected the standing of his team, who missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Dirk himself failed to secure an invite to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2001. Less than three years after one of the most dominant playoff runs in the past two decades, the Age of Dirk had ended, and peace had returned to the lands of men and power forwards.
And then, just as suddenly as he left, he returned to wreak havoc upon opposing frontcourts once again. In 52 games this season, Dirk has scored nearly 200 more points than he did in 53 games last season, and is posting per 36 averages of 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals and just 1.5 turnovers on .492/.412/.910 shooting. His true shooting is above .600, a truly remarkable number for someone who takes over 80% of his shots from 16 feet and beyond (what’s even more remarkable is that this season would be the FOURTH times Dirk’s TS% has been over the .600 mark). Dirk’s 7.0 Turnover Rate this season ranks as the lowest of his career, and his .210 WS/48 ranks right with his best seasons, specifically his mid 2000s heyday. His Offensive Rating is at 120 or higher for the first time since 2006. At a certain point, words cannot do justice to what must be seen to be believed, and with that, I present to you, Dirk Nowitzki’s 2013-14 shot chart.
For as much love as LaMarcus Aldridge has gotten this season, Dirk is outpacing him at the thing he’s supposedly untouchably good at. Since both his attempts at the rim and his free throw rate have steadily declined over the last few years, the days where Dirk scores 48 points on 15 shots may be a thing of the past (reminder, Dirk Nowitzki once scored 48 points on 15 shots), but that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly become less efficient. Of the 10 times he’s attempted at least 20 field goals, he’s failed to reach the 27 point mark only twice. The Mavericks are 6.7 points better when Dirk is on the court than when he is off, a marked improvement over the +1.6 margin last year saw, though nowhere near the +20.4 mark of 2002-2003.
Whether or not Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest power forward of his generation, or where he ranks on the all time list is irrelevant. What is important is that Dirk Nowitzki is back the form that made him one of the most terrifying shooters of this or any generation, and, more importantly, Dirk Nowitzki is an All-Star.