Fact Checking Rick Carlisle: Is Dirk A Top 10 Player?

By Or Moyal, CBS 11 Sports

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) –  Dirk Nowitzki’s performance during this year’s playoffs has drawn wide praise and helped land the team in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While much attention was paid to Charles Barkley’s statement that Nowitzki was a better player than the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, the highest praise came from Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who tagged Nowitzki as a top ten all-time player.

While Carlisle’s words were mostly seen as hyperbole, the topic was discussed Sunday on CBS 11’s “The Score.”

Here’s a graph of the top five scorers of all time, their point totals right now and their averages per season until the age of 32, Nowitzki’s current age.

screen shot 2011 05 15 at 9 46 30 pm Fact Checking Rick Carlisle: Is Dirk A Top 10 Player?

Top five scorers of all time in the NBA, their point totals and their averages per season until the age of 32, Dirk Nowitzki's current age. Click to enlarge.

Assuming Dirk follows this path, he’ll have seven years left in the league. Here’s how these players aged during their last seven years.

screen shot 2011 05 15 at 9 37 25 pm Fact Checking Rick Carlisle: Is Dirk A Top 10 Player?

Here’s how these players aged during their last seven years in the league. Click to enlarge.

If O’Neal retires after being severely limited by injuries during the latter half of this season, these players will have finished playing at an average age of 39.

If Dirk’s career follows the same blueprint, he’ll average 1,132 points over the next seven years – retiring with 30,720.  This would place him ahead of O’Neal and fifth all-time.On average, the top five performed at 64.6 percent of the level they once played.

For the sake of thoroughness and curiosity, we ran the same numbers on Kobe Bryant. Under the same calculation, he would finish third all time, sandwiched behind Karl Malone and ahead of Michael Jordan. This would push Nowitzki to a mere No. 6 slot.

screen shot 2011 05 15 at 9 39 24 pm Fact Checking Rick Carlisle: Is Dirk A Top 10 Player?

Here's the NBA's all-time top scoring leaders, including a hypothetical Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant if they retire at 39. Click to enlarge.


One Comment

  1. Coretta says:


  2. Or says:

    Sidenote: While this research is heartening, the calculation is contingent on the assumption that Dirk will age as well as the five most elite scorers in the game’s history. If we expanded the sample size and charted the top 10 or 15 players, the model would be altered and Dirk’s anticipated regression would be more pronounced.

  3. Damon Gochneaur says:

    Dirks game will hold up better over time than those mentinoed above. He takes better care of himself, score’s more with less contact and is a set shooter for the most part, in that he doesn’t elevate as much as Kobe or Jordan to get his shot off. Coupled with his lack of serious knee injuries, I could see Dirk going strong with no significant drop-off for another 4-5 yrs.

  4. Max-El says:

    All the players in this discussion do more than simply score points — except for Dirk. all-time great players have more than one dimension to their games. If you’re arguing Dirk’s place among all-time great SCORERS, than you’ve got a great argument. Otherwise, bollocks.

  5. Or says:

    Sure, Max-El. But at that point, we start discussing a lot of stats that are very hard to quantify. Basketball-Reference has a stat called “Win Shares” which measures overall offensive and defensive performance, factoring in not only surface stats like points and rebounds but peripheral, unconventional ones like Adjusted +/-.
    Believe it or not, DIrk’s actually considered an excellent defender under those evaluations. He’s currently 17th in NBA history (Kobe’s 18th) with plenty of room to go.
    Obviously, a lot of advanced stats are difficult to understand and it’s easy to question. But be assured NBA teams use these metrics or very similar ones.

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