Who is the better player? Dwyane Wade or Dirk Nowitzki?
Well, we know who came out on top in the 2006 NBA Finals when they went head to head.
If you had me asked me who was better at the end of that series, Wade would have been the easy choice. He was ridiculous.
But we cannot base a comparison of these two players on one series. Otherwise, we would be forced to conclude that Chauncey Billups is a better player than Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and Karl Malone.
Surely, none of us would defend that statement.
It's been a few years and Wade has come back down to earth a little bit. Since winning the NBA Championship, Wade hasn't sniffed a second round playoff game.
Actually, since their battle in 2006, Nowitzki has fared better than Wade, averaging nearly 56 wins per season, and at least managing to get out of the first round one time.
So who is the better NBA player? Who would you rather have on your team?
First, lets see what some of the numbers tell us. (All statistics come from here.)
If we take a look at their career Player Efficiency Rating, its basically a wash.
Nowitzki has a career PER of 24.66, while Wade's is 24.04 (Good for fifth and sixth best among active players).
Over the last five years, Nowitzki has an average of 14.02 Win Shares (a statistical analysis that aims to estimate how many wins can be contributed to a player) per season.
Wade's average is considerably lower at 10.64 Win Shares per season over the last five years.
Nowitzki also has a better Offensive and Defensive Rating, averaging 117 points produced per 100 possessions, to Wade's 111.
Nowitski's mark of 103 points allowed per 100 possessions is just slightly better than Wade's 104.
What about the help they've received? Let's look at the PER of their teammates for the year that they met in the NBA Finals.
Dwyane Wade clearly had the best sidekick in Shaquille O'Neal, who had a PER that season of 24.4. Nowitzki's best sidekick was Josh Howard at 19.3
In fact, the third best player on the Heat had a higher PER than Howard. That was Alonzo Mourning at 19.4.
However, if we look at the roster as a whole, the tables turn a little bit.
The 2005-2006 Miami Heat had an average Player Efficiency Rating of 12.42 (using only players that averaged at least 10 minutes per game).
The 2005-2006 Dallas Mavericks had an average Player Efficiency Rating of 14.05.
This indicates that the Mavericks had a more well-rounded roster and more depth.
Overall, the numbers seem to give the edge to Dirk Nowitzki.
While Dirk has a history of failing to produce in the playoffs, Wade hasn't exactly been "Mr. Postseason" himself.
The one year that Wade did succeed in the playoffs (oh, and win a Championship), the Mavericks made it to game six of the NBA Finals.
Outside of that season, when it came down to the wire, Wade and Nowitzki have equally struggled to carry their team deep into the postseason.
No doubt about it, Wade was the better player during the 2006 NBA Finals.
But three years later, the big picture seems to tell a different story.