In the Dallas Mavericks' current four-game winning streak, Dirk Nowitzki has looked every bit like the player we've growing accustomed to watching for the past 10-plus years. He certainly hasn't looked like a player who should be labeled as "past his prime."
The 33-year-old Nowitzki appears to be hitting his stride to this lockout-shortened season, and it's coming timely, as the Mavs are in the thick of fighting for playoff positioning in the Western Conference.
Nowitzki got off to a slow start this year, but much of that should be attributed to a bad knee he was battling in the season's opening stages.
Now, he surely looks like he deserved last month's All-Star selection, which was the 11th of his career. In his past 10 games, he's pouring in 26.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting. Those numbers don't reveal signs of rust on Dirk's aging body.
With this in view, it's time to consider how many quality years Nowitzki has left in the tank.
Will his career quickly slow down in the next couple seasons? Will he encounter injuries and be forced to play more limited minutes for the remainder of his career? Or, does the outlook favor Dirk contributing at a high level for three, four or five more years?
The truth is that the outlook on Dirk's future looks bright, for numerous reasons.
First of all, Nowitzki's game has never relied on athleticism. He's never played "above the rim." It's not like his game will entirely fade as he loses "pop" in his step, like once uber-athletic All-Stars Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady.
Dirk relies on finesse and his unending amount of ways to splash his jump shot, and these uncanny abilities won't quickly fade as he gets older.
This makes him such a unique player and there's reason to believe his career can last longer than expected because of this. Dirk can still find ways to play at a high level without alarming athleticism, because he's always found ways to play at such a level without alarming athleticism.
Secondly, Dirk's career doesn't feature a detailed history of injuries. In fact, he's played in at least 73 games in every season in his career (aside from the 1999 lockout season). Injuries, as always, could arise and inhibit the latter stages of his career, but he hasn't spent much time at the medical center in the past, so there's no reason to believe he will in the future.
Lastly, Dirk's a future Hall of Famer and a proven fiery competitor. Less than a year ago, he carried the Mavs to an epic title run, undoubtedly revealing that he remains an elite player in the league. Considering his competitiveness and what he showed in just last year's playoffs, there's no reason to begin to think his career is waning. There's still plenty left in the tank of Dirk Nowitzki.
What's important to consider in all of this is the future of the Mavs. With the rumor of Dallas-native Deron Williams joining the squad in the offseason, there's certainly the thought of Nowitzki and Williams forming a dynamic duo.
If such a duo is formed, the hope of Nowitzki playing at an All-Star level is optimistic. In fact, Dirk may actually have a few more All-Star seasons left and potentially a couple more title runs.
If we haven't already learned, we shouldn't be surprised at what's up Dirk's sleeve. Last year, who would've thought he could lead the Mavs past Kobe Bryant's Lakers, Kevin Durant's Thunder and the Big Three in Miami to reach the NBA pinnacle?
But he amazed us all and did just that.
Don't be surprised if he amazes us more in the future—potentially for a good five more years.