Danny Bollinger/Getty Images
By Rob Mahoney
September 13, 2016

There is an understandable tendency with aging players to dwell on all that they can no longer do. Nowitzki suffers from those same deficits—in volume shot creation, in rebounding, and, frankly, in anything that demands he match speeds with an opponent around the floor. The vision of a peak Dirk is vivid enough to bring all of these elements into contrast. Yet even at 38 years old, Nowitzki operates from the same basic foundation of skills and production that have long made him one of the best players in the league. Classifying Dirk by his aging game misses the fact that he still compromises the structure of an opposing defense with his shooting. It glosses over the fact that he rates as one of the most efficient post players in the game and can fire over the top of the majority of his opponents. It undersells the value of him creating so much and turning the ball over so little. It misses the powerful through line of his gravity and how that transforms the games of the guards around him. Playing with Nowitzki makes the game of basketball easier. That’s exactly the quality that made him such a steadying influence over the course of his career, and its inevitable shift in magnitude does not convey a shift in flavor. Dirk is still Dirk—and that’s enough. (Last year: No. 28)

+ A cultural anchor whose value to a franchise extends well beyond the court
+ Solid passer well-versed in solving a variety of coverages
Can be targeted in the pick-and-roll and forced to defend in space
Now necessary to mind his minutes and games played to endure the long regular season

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