Dirk Nowitzki is one of the 50 greatest scorers of all time. Why? His jumper is undefendable.
Dirk Nowitzki's jump shot brings to mind the sky hook, Jordan's turn-around, fall-away jumper in the post, Wilt’s ugly little finger roll and George Gervin’s beautiful finger roll.
Nowitzki’s release is at the highest point his arms can reach over his 7'0" frame. His jumper makes me think of the aforementioned shots because Nowitzki might make it, or he might miss it, but the efforts of a single defender have little bearing on the outcome.
While Dirk Nowitzki belongs high on a list of the 50 greatest scorers of all time, he was recently ranked eighth on a list of "The 50 Greatest Power Forwards of All Time," and that notion begs arguments to the contrary.
When someone is GREAT as a position player, they have to do all the things that position requires. Players that excel at just two dimensions of a position such as Dennis Rodman can be extremely valuable and can certainly attain a measure of greatness but can hardly be ranked in the top 10 greatest of all time.
The following is a list of attributes that comprise the power forward position:
Defense: interior, help defense and pick-and-roll
Throwing the outlet pass off the defensive rebound
Filling the lanes on the break
There have been very few that were great at them all, but let's assess Nowitzki's proficiency in these categories.
We know he is one of the great scorers of all time. He is a good rebounder, but certainly not in the class with the greatest of all time. He can throw an outlet pass but is he in the class with the greatest outlet passers of all time like Karl Malone? I think not (Bill Walton and Moses Malone were the best ever, but they were centers).
Nowitzki is slow of foot, which relegates him to "spot-up shooter" rather than the guy who finishes strong with the high-percentage dunk on the break.
However, the principal reason Dirk Nowitzki can never be discussed with the greatest power forwards of all time is that he can't guard anyone and that makes him a fatal liability to his team.
He is too slow to guard small forwards and he's not strong enough for power forwards. Centers? Did I mention that he's not strong enough for power forwards?
All players have flaws and weaknesses. Scoring deficiency at the power forward position is a forgivable sin because a proficient power forward can get scoring opportunities without being a great shooter. If a power forward is an offensive rebounder and fills the lanes on the break they'll score without the advent of a jump shot.
A team's best player must be on the floor during critical moments of a playoff series. Any coach worth his salt will attack a team's best player causing him to work at both ends of the floor. This strategy is especially effective when a team's best player cannot defend his position.
Any team that is forced to help a player that must be on the floor will wear down over the course of a seven-game series. The Mavericks record in the playoffs is all that's required to validate this assertion.
The 2010-2011 Mavericks are the best team in the Dirk Nowitzki era. The Mavericks have fielded many great regular season teams but if they can't win a championship with this team, they can't win a championship with Dirk Nowitzki and they need to think about building a team around someone else.
A player who cannot defend his position can hardly be considered one of the all-time greats.