This is hardly great timing.
Fourteen player previews have been written. One left, and who else would the final preview be but Dirk? He's the star, the champion, the clutch shot maker and the moral-boosting leader.
And, of course, he's injured. He might have surgery and miss over a month. That same knee from last year is screwing around with him again.
Remember, as you're reading my analysis of Dirk, that I'm not trying to rub it in your face. If it helps to forget how amazing Dirk is until we're sure he's healthy so you don't burst out in tears if the Mavericks take the court without him, nobody is going to make you read this. Better yet: bookmark it and come back when he is -- and hopefully, that's in few days, not a few weeks.
I'd imagine most of you guys are still with me, because taking advice from a talking voice on the internet is probably a bad idea from the very smart. That's fine. You've been warned about possible side effects.
Here is Dirk's career numbers.
And video of one of his better games last season, a 40 point outing against Utah.
The stats don't lie -- Dirk had an off-year last season. Between the short summer, crazy lockout schedule, and the nagging knee injury, his excuses are solid. The thing is, he was still really, really good.
Barring some serious setbacks due to his knee, Dirk is primed to continue his superstar play. He was able to get away from basketball for a good 3 1/2 months, but this year, didn't slack on his cardio. At this point in his career, Dirk doesn't need to be slaving away in the gym to add a feature to his game or refine a skill. He's proven himself, wouldn't you say? That summer break is just what he needed.
He is getting older, something nobody can change. The decline is slow, but already evident. Expect five or six rebounds on an average night, low for power forwards but acceptable when considering the Mavericks' starting small forward grabs seven a night. Adding Kaman to the fold to help out Marion and Dirk should keep Dallas right at the top in defensive rebound (their rebounding issue is on the offensive end).
Dirk is not going to get as many freebies, anymore. Aggressive drives into the lane are great for some players, not so great for other 34-year old seven footers. Dirk will still get some trips to the line, as his pump fake commands as much respect as anyone's. Many of his drives to the lane, however, won't end at the rim, but in a pull-up jumper 10 feet away. To be honest, that shot might be even more accurate than his layup.
So yeah, Dirk isn't perfect (anymore). He's still going to be slow on defense, because his lateral movements didn't impress at 24 and certainly don't look any better ten years later. There's other things I could nit-pick on. But seriously, enough is enough. This is Dirk we're talking about.
That jump shot.
Pencil Dirk in for another year of 22 or 23 points a game, with shooting percentages returning to form (because 45/37/90 was such an embarrassment last year). Kaman and Brand down low means fewer minutes and fewer shots in quarters one, two and three. When it gets down to game time? Nothing's gonna change, there. When gifted with the deadliest jump shot in the game, there's not much to speculate about. He's going do Dirk things with his Dirk jumper, and people are just going to shake their heads and say, "Well...it's Dirk."
Get that knee well, Dirk. The season's coming. There's coaches out there that need to have sleepless nights trying to prepare for the Mavericks.