Have you heard anything about Dirk Nowitzki this year? We haven’t, and it feels weird. Dirk is still one of the game’s best shooters. He’s still averaging 21.3 points on nearly 50/40/90 shooting splits and has a PER of 23.49, good enough for 10th-best in the league. Dallas is looking like a playoff team at 18-13. And even Mark Cuban, always outspoken, believes the big German is still one of the NBA’s 10 best players.
But is he really better than Blake Griffin? Not last year… not four years ago… but right now? Griffin is having, by far, the best season of his career. However, he’s a melting pot for criticism. Can’t score in the post. Can’t defend. Can’t block shots. All of his faults are scrutinized just a little too much, considering he’s putting up nearly 22 points and 10.5 rebounds a night, while upping his freebie shooting to 70 percent.
Both can be the best player on the floor on any given night, despite their differences. But who would you rather have, right now, for one game? Dirk or Blake? We argue. You decide.
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It’s a bit ironic to see Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki being compared to each other as far as who is the better power forward in today’s game, especially as one is 24 years old and in the early stage of his prime years, while the other one is 35 and getting closer to the final stop of his career. Another drastic difference between Dirk and Blake is how they play basketball, which will be discussed shortly. However, these two are considered two of the best power forwards in the game today, and by the time this analysis is complete, it should be clear that Dirk Nowitzki is better than Blake Griffin.
First, let’s talk about offense. Nowitzki has proven to be one of the most consistent shooters in the league for the past 15 seasons. Unlike his Los Angeles counterpart, Dirk is an offensive threat from anywhere on the court, from the low post to beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Griffin is still trying to develop a consistent midrange game. This season, Dirk’s shooting accuracy has increased, as he is shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from downtown. He’ll have a chance to join the 50-40-90 club, as he is shooting 91.9 percent from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Blake is shooting 51.8 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, and 70 percent from the free throw line. It should be noted that despite the contrast in their shot selection (Blake is closer to the rim while Dirk has more range), the difference in their field goal percentage is just nearly two points.
Another major difference between the two is how they generate their offense. While Blake’s contribution is impacted by the playmaking of Chris Paul, Dirk remains capable of being his own shot creator. The addition of Monta Ellis and the beautiful two-man game that has been born with his arrival has made the game easier for Dirk. At the age of 35, that is a welcomed development for the German native. That is something that Dirk and Blake do have in common, as Chris Paul makes the game easier for Blake. However, Blake simply does not have the consistent ability to create his own shot. When you have a known signature shot named after you, as Dirk does with his one-legged, fadeaway jump shot that is extremely difficult to guard, you automatically have an offensive advantage.
While Griffin can turn heads and get the fans on their feet with his explosion and athleticism, Nowitzki remains one of the craftiest players in the game. As said before, the Dirk shot is one of the most unguardable shots in the game today. Heck, even Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have used Dirk’s signature jumper in a game or two. While Blake has often been labeled as a one-trick pony, Dirk is the furthest from that, as he can do damage in the post, the midrange, and from beyond the arc.
Nowitzki also has an advantage of being a closer, which he continues to be after 15 years of NBA experience. According to Bloomberg Sports, Dirk has the fifth-best statistics in “closing time” – the score differential of three points or less and with less than 24 seconds left on the game clock – with a shooting percentage of 50 and an effective shooting percentage of 56 over the last three seasons. Dirk’s consistency with his shot, his dependability at the free throw line, and his calm demeanor under pressure makes him a credible clutch player and one of the league’s best closers. Although he has improved at the free throw line, Blake’s inconsistency from the charity strip often makes him a liability for the Clippers to have on the court in crunch situations.
As far as defense, Nowitzki also holds the advantage over Griffin, according to Synergy Sports. Overall, Dirk gives up .81 ppp (points per possession) in total defense, while Blake gives up .88 ppp. That may not sound too drastic at first glance, but if you look at the percentage of shots they give up to their opponents, it becomes clearer. Dirk’s defense allows 36.3 percent of opponent’s attempts to score, while Blake’s defense allows 41 percent of shots to score. Dirk is the best isolation defender (.38 ppp) in the league as well as the eighth-best post-up defender (.61 ppp) in the NBA. Griffin does not rank in the top 10 of any defensive play category.
As you can see, Dirk Nowitzki remains as strong as ever. Of course, Blake Griffin is 24 years old and has a ton of potential, but the 11-time All-Star from Germany is once again keeping Father Time at bay this season. Dirk continually proves to his fans and the NBA that he is one of the best international players to play in the NBA, if not the best. Simply put, Dirk is better than Blake right now.