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Nash and Nowitzki

In the course of a long article about the two, Marc Stein tries to deny what seems fairly obvious to me -- that these are two great players who play better apart from each other. I think you can see this from the fact that even though Phoenix and Dallas both have excellent offensive efficiency -- 109.4 and 108.7 respectively in the regular season, good for the #1 and #2 spots -- they have very different offenses. Phoenix's 19.7 assist ratio is the highest in the league, while Dallas' 14.8 is second-lowest. In the playoffs, Phoenix is at the top of the list and Dallas is at the bottom.

I think we have good reason to believe that for either guy to be at his maximum effectiveness, his team needs to tilt strongly in one direction or another. That's not to say that putting them together would make a team worse. Tim Thomas has a sort of Dirkish game but he's way worse. If you put Nowitzki in Thomas' place on the Suns' roster and the team kept playing Nash/D'Antoni-style basketball, the team would almost certainly improve. But Nowitzki himself wouldn't be living up to his potential, which is best maximized by lots of isolation plays.

June 1, 2006 | Permalink


And that's only on the offensive end of the court. Defensively, neither of them is very good. If you surround one mediocre defenders with a lot of good ones you can still have a good defensive team (see Dallas, and Pheonix when Kurt Thomas was playing). But if you have two poor defenders you're pretty much up a creek.

Posted by: Noah Snyder | Jun 1, 2006 2:27:49 PM

An off-topic request, that I thought I'd drop in an out-of-the-way corner of your blog empire: After being a exasperated by your blogging on Darfur at TAPPED, I was pleased to see Rob Anderson a TNR take a few shots at you on the subject. Are you planning on replying? I feel a little like a teen-ager goading two dudes into a rumble in the school parking lot, but it seems to me that the views that you articulated are gaining steam elsewhere (yesterday's Kuperman op-ed in the NYT and the Rieff piece in TNR) and would sincerely be interested in hearing your thoughts as the argument develops.

Posted by: Thurston Domina | Jun 1, 2006 3:56:59 PM

You are right - a motion offense would do nothing for Dirk who scores by simply shooting over whoever happens to be guarding him. And what a tremendous shooter he is.

But I think what is overlooked a lot about Dirk is what a solid rebounder he has become. I used to hate Dirk because he was a wus - we called him Irk - because he had no "D" whatsoever. He will never have the footspeed to guard smaller players or the bulk to effectively guard bigs, but his focus on rebounding is proving to me that he really is playing his ass off. I think his new aggresiveness would benefit Nash's style of play better these days and would more than make up for any setbacks in his offensive numbers.

Posted by: MP | Jun 1, 2006 4:34:50 PM

They don't mesh perfectly, largely because they both 'need the ball' to be effective - this is why Marion is such a good fit with Nash (and with Diaw), and same with Bell, and Barbosa and, to a degree, Thomas.

Dirk is effective when you throw him the ball, and as MK says, he uses his gifts to score.

Nash is effective when he has the ball, and he probes and probes until he is able to find a teammate in an advantageous position (and then Diaw teabags Nowitzski and I spill my beer all over my couch...)

Posted by: Pooh | Jun 1, 2006 5:14:31 PM

and then Diaw teabags Nowitzski

I've only seen one game of the series (my parents don't have cable), so I didn't see that! It would certainly make me spill my beer too.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 1, 2006 6:17:20 PM

"In the course of a long article about the two, Marc Stein tries to deny what seems fairly obvious to me -- that these are two great players who play better apart from each other."


In Stein's defense, he does have a section entitled "In what areas has the split been beneficial?" But he doesn't really get to the point in that section.

Posted by: Petey | Jun 1, 2006 7:28:51 PM

I'm not sure what "play better" is supposed to mean here. Is it that a putative team that included both would win fewer games than either of their teams won this year? Is it that each has a larger responsibility for victory? Or is it that each has better statistics now?

I'm willing to believe that each is better by himself, as judged by any of the above questions; I just want to know which questions are being asked.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jun 1, 2006 7:47:02 PM

The most important point is that even Mark Cuban can't afford two MVP's in their prime on the same team.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 1, 2006 7:50:26 PM

SCMT, my interpretation of "play better" was that if the Suns had had an average point guard at the beginning of the season, they would have lost X more games, and if the Mavs had had an average replacement for Nowitzki, they would have lost Y more games, but if Nash and Nowitzki had been on the same team, replacing Nash would cost fewer than X games and replacing Nowitzki would have cost fewer than Y.

I tend to believe that by my definition at least, the loss in efficiency of having both Ns on the same team is a lot smaller than most people, Matt included, seem to think.

Posted by: zw | Jun 1, 2006 8:47:55 PM


I use the term rather generously to include dunkinyoface as a synonym.

Posted by: Pooh | Jun 1, 2006 8:58:07 PM

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