If you were starting a franchise and you had to choose between Luka Doncic in his prime and Dirk Nowitzki in his prime, you shouldn't have to think too hard.
Luka Doncic will one day be better than Dirk Nowitzki, according to “the Logo” Jerry West. As savvy of a mind as L.A. Clippers consultant West has, he got this one wrong. Luka Doncic is already better than Dirk.
Of course, Dirk Nowitzki is an all-time great. He’s sixth on the all-time scoring list. He played a record 21 seasons with the same team. And he helped revolutionize the NBA, showing big-men all across the world that they can make a living shooting from 18 feet and beyond. But if you were starting a franchise and you had to choose between Luka Doncic in his prime and Dirk in his prime, you shouldn’t have to think too hard.
While Dirk was an elite shooter, he was basically an expert at that one thing. Yes, he could also rebound well, but he will forever be known for his step-back jumper and his sweet stroke from three. So far this season, Luka is equaling, if not surpassing, some of Dirk’s greatest shooting seasons ever. His effective field goal percentage (eFG%) is at .547. Dirk’s highest-ever eFG% was at age 35 when he shot .549. The difference is Luka is making over three 3-pointers a game. Dirk has never made more than two per game.
But Luka is doing things Dirk never did. He’s playmaking at an elite level with nine assists per game. He’s currently tied with Dirk’s career-high free throw attempts per game at 9.1. His rebounding numbers are right up there with Dirk’s best seasons, and Doncic is doing this all in just his second season. If you just compare the two players’ second seasons, it’s not even remotely close. Luka is arguably having the best season that a 20-year-old has ever had in the NBA.
To top it off, the Mavericks are winning. They’re 23-13 despite some preseason predictions that they were just a fringe playoff team. They’re tied for the second-highest point differential in the league with the Boston Celtics, and Luka is leading the charge. His defense leaves something to be desired, but so did Dirk’s. Luka is already a more well-rounded player with dimensions to his game that Dirk could only see in his dreams.
It’s not like Dirk doesn’t have a case here. He’s one of the best power forwards ever. And most importantly, he’s proven that he can win at the highest level. We still don’t know how Luka’s game will translate to the playoffs because he’s never made it. While Luka attempts and makes many more threes than Dirk, he’s never been as accurate from deep. Dirk was a bonafide marksman, shooting 38% from three for his career.
He was also a guy that could get you a bucket whenever you needed it. His step-back jumper was nearly as unstoppable as Kareem’s skyhook. Dirk has been able to get his even amid a playoff grind when teams were solely focused on stopping him. Luka Doncic’s game seems like it will translate to the playoffs, but we don’t know yet.
And Dirk has one thing that Luka may never be able to match no matter how much he practices: an excellent sense of humor. When asked to describe his signature step-back shot, Dirk said,
I came up with a shot where I just have to basically lean back, don’t be athletic at all, and just hoist it up.
I came up with my own ‘Dream Shake’ I guess — the white version.
Dirk is one of the funniest players ever, so even he would probably laugh if you said he was better than Luka Doncic.
This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.
Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:39 PM UTC