Did Anyone Notice That Dirk Nowitzki Just Had One of the Best Old Guy Seasons Ever?
Dirk Nowitzki’s 2013-14 season was exactly the type of wunderbar campaign we’ve come to expect from the now 36-year-old, 16-year NBA vet. It landed him on his 12th All-Star team and put him in the conversation for his 13th All-NBA selection, even if the glut of outstanding forwards in the league right now kept him at a measly 12.
NBA pundits certainly do their fair share of appreciating Dirk’s career, but did everyone overlook just how awesome his performance last season was for his age?
Of all the seasons of players aged 35 and up in NBA history, Dirk’s 10.9 win shares was the ninth-highest total ever. The company he keeps on that leaderboard represent some of the most respected iron men ever to run back and forth on an NBA court. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant are all active NBA players than might be right there with Dirk on most all-time lists at their advanced ages, but Dirk might be aging the best of all of them.
There are essentially only five players that have ever had a season as good as Nowitzki’s 2013-14 after turning 35 (according to win shares) and they are all Hall of Famers and all-time greats. There's little doubt that Nowitzki is headed in that same direction, but he'll only further cement his case if he manages to keep his play at such a high level as he gets even older.
In 15 years of our own in-house data, there have only ever been six seasons in which a guy over 35 has scored in the double-digits in nERD. Nowitzki had the fourth-best one of those last year.
If win shares and nERD aren’t your cup of Teagschwendner, there were plenty of other areas in Dirk's stat line that were plenty impressive. His 6.2 rebounds per game may have been his lowest average since his rookie season, but the 21.7 points per game represented his best in the last three years and was on par with some of his prime seasons from back in his 20's (and in his third-lowest minutes per game to boot).
The one area of his game that was better than ever was his shooting efficiency, as he set a career best effective field goal percentage (weighted two and threes) of 54.9% last year. Most players decline across the board as they advance in age, while Dirk keeps managing to find new ways to be effective. The improved efficiency should certainly help him sustain this kind of success for a few more years.
For now, here’s a look at where Nowitzki’s other stats from last season ranked among guys over 35 in NBA history:
|Dirk Nowitzki 2013-14||Averages||35+ All-Time Rank|
|Free Throw %||89.9%||8th|
|True Shooting %||60.3%||23rd|
Dirk just took one of the biggest pay cuts in recent memory, going from earning $22.7 million last season to an estimated $7.97 million in 2014-15. By doing so, he allowed his Dallas Mavericks to reload through free agency and trades and they now look like a team that could surprise people in the competitive Western Conference. At the very least, if Dirk can continue playing at or near the level he did last season, he'll make that new three-year contract look like one of the more valuable multi-year deals ever given to someone at age 36.