NBA All-Star Game 2012: 5 All-Stars You Don't Want on Your Team - Bleacher Report

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There has never been a seven-footer like Dirk Nowitzki. When hitting his mid-range jumper, the 14-year veteran remains impossible to guard to this day. His performance against the Thunder in last season's conference finals was one of the all-time great offensive displays (scoring 48 and 40, respectively, in key Game 1 and Game 5 wins). 

He may, however, finally be showing some hint of mortality. His 45-percent shooting ranks as the lowest mark since his rookie season, and his 28-percent three-point shooting is far below his standards. 

In almost 33 minutes a game, Nowitzki is also averaging fewer than seven rebounds, which is consistent with a downward trend in inside production over the last few seasons.

The rest of Dirk's game leaves something to be desired, as well. The Mavericks must consistently hide him on defense, rotating him on to non-factors instead of legitimate scoring threats. Dallas gets by, thanks to Rick Carlisle's defensive genius, and 2011's championship team benefited from the long arms of Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler. For his part, though, Dirk does not resemble an elite defender.

The kicker is that Nowitzki is due $20.9 million next year and $22.7 million the year after that. As a gesture of appreciation for his iconic contributions to Dallas, perhaps he is worth every penny. From the perspective of building a team, however, that salary severely limits financial flexibility.

If the Mavericks ultimately prevail in their pursuits of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, Nowitzki becomes the perfect complementary piece. With Howard defending the interior and Williams distributing the ball, Dirk would be free to score at will on overwhelmed opposition.

For most payrolls, however, Nowitzki would be a difficult investment. If he earned something closer to Steve Nash's $11.7 million, he'd be the best value on the planet. Like Nash, Nowitzki is the very best at what he does, but incomplete in important ways.

Under the defensively stumped Don Nelson, the Nash-Nowitzki era Mavericks could never close the deal. As offensively talented as any duo in recent memory, the team simply could not stop an opponent from scoring.

Even now, Dirk is, of course, one of the game's very best, and few teams would turn him away. The problem is that few teams could actually afford him.

26 Feb, 2012

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