We know Dirk isn't going anywhere. I therefore am using this article to try to determine what we can expect from Dirk next year. As you will read below, this is an impossible task because last season's stats are as worthless as a Haywood post-up. I still have to try though because Dirk would feel left out if he wasn't included in my series. (Of course Dirk is an anonymous member of our website, and he absolutely reads every word on this blog, and he is so sensitive that I must do this for him lest he go into a funk for next year. We all have our roles to play.)
There is no way around it, Dirk was only extremely great on offense rather than breathtakingly amazing. 46% overall, and 37% 3pt. The overall is very low for Dirk, and the 3pt% is average. His points were down, but remember he played very low minutes. His rebounding total has the same story. 20% defensive rebounding rate is right on par for him, even though his total rebounds declined. Adjusting for the in season training camp dirk took, his 3pt% jumps to a very nice 42% though. Why the lower shooting % inside the arc? The answer lies in a variety of factors.
The biggest factor is the lack of ability of other players to make teams pay for loading up on dirk. Our shooting was horrendous as a team this year, and teams began compensating by doubling dirk even more than normal. Anyone's stats will suffer in this situation. Dirk is also very dependent on being methodical and routine. His methodical and routine may be unorthodox to everyone else, but it is routine and methodical to him. This past season was played after a very long and grueling post season, followed by the Olympic Qualifier for Germany, followed by an unnatural and extensive layoff from basketball by Dirk. Add in the fact that there was no time between games to do normal season routines, and to evaluate and adjust your game as the season goes along, and it is not impossible to expect decline. There also was the knee issue early on that limited Dirk's driving game and rebounding.
An overlooked issue is the level of competition faced as well. We were scheduled to play Boston, Miami, and New York twice. We only got to play the terrible east teams once. Dirk usually gets an additional game against Cleveland, Charlotte, Washington, etc... It is reasonable to assume his stats would be a little better playing against these worse teams. Our west schedule was harder than normal also. We played OKC 4 times, and they are not even in our division. On the other hand, we only played Houston and New Orleans 3 times instead of 4 for division teams. Take a game away from OKC and replace with either Houston or New Orleans, and Dirk's stats would increase slightly and our record might have improved. I think this is one of the most overlooked things about this season is that the scheduling was not done fairly. I mean would you rather have 2 back-to-back-to-backs against crappy teams, or 9 games in 12 nights against crappy teams. The 9-in-12 ruined our season; there is no way around it. When you have weird quirks in the schedule they can make a slight difference, and if there are enough, they combine to make a huge difference.
With all that said, take this season's stats with a grain of salt. Dirk's stats did diminish in some areas, other areas stayed the same, and one interestingly improved (3pt%). The conclusion is this: Dirk is the same player, and will continue to be that player for what should be at least 3 more years, before decline is significantly noticeable. Shooting ages better than anything else. So many shooters can still stroke the 3 up until 40 and hit it just as effectively. The difference is in the space they create for their shot. Here is where Dirk has an advantage. He doesn't get space from being athletic. He also doesn't depend on others creating space for him. He does use screens to get open, but he usually holds the ball on the catch anyways. His shooting touch is based upon supreme shot-making ability. He is unblockable because of his release point, not his jump. His fadeaway will not fade over time. In fact, the fade away is something you develop as you age because of this reason. He may struggle taking people off the dribble, but Dirk only does that occasionally anyways. Also consider the impact of another elite offensive player. Then Dirk can feast on open 15 footers on the weak-side from a kick-out. This will also improve his longevity. His rebounding won't be affected much because he rebounds solely based upon timing and positioning, not athleticism and strength. His defense is what it is; he can't get much slower.
So with all that said, who knows how much he was affected by all this, or if it was decline? What do you guys think?