(This article is a beefed up version of a comment I left on a Slam Online piece this morning which stated that a straight up trade of Dirk and Bosh is what is needed to solve the Mavericks’ playoff problems.)
For some reason there has been a lot of internet chatter surround the subject of a Dirk Nowitzki for Chris Bosh trade. (The above mentioned article and here, as well as various message boards are what are fueling much of the malarkey.) After Dallas’ recent exit from the post season it would seem that the Mavericks have problems on their team. They do, but so does every team in the Association. No team is perfect. Much of the blame, after Rick Carlisle became the initial scapegoat, has now been shifted to Dallas’ perennial All Star. Logically, it has been concluded, that Nowitzki must be shipped elsewhere for the team to start fresh. He has been labeled as soft, not clutch, and a player who consistently chokes. Those that have levied these slanderous remarks clearly have not watched Nowitzki play basketball in recent years and perpetually harp on notions that have been put to rest long ago.
It pains me to know that people will actually agree with the notion that a trade involving Bosh and Nowitzki is a good idea. This is the sort of knee-jerk reaction that many have after a team exits the playoffs early in consistent years but for one second replace Dirk’s name with Carmelo Anthony’s. Go ahead, do it. Denver has not been to the finals recently and until last year were bumped from the playoff in the first round regularly. They were again sent home in round one this year by an undermanned Utah squad. Is it then time for the Denver Nuggets to part ways with Melo? Honestly, what team would willingly give up their best player for little in return? (Remember that when the Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol they gained valuable draft picks and have subsequently built a good young team with them.) This is not to say that Bosh is a bad player, he is far from it. However, he is nowhere near the caliber of player that Nowitzki is. Nowitzki is a former MVP winner and has continually led his team to the playoffs.
That being said, what about the claims that Nowitzki is a soft player. Let us take a look at Dirk’s “soft” playoff numbers over the past three years. This year he averaged 26.7 points and 8.2 rebounds against the Spurs. I do not know if you watched the series, but Dirk was not the issue when it came to the Spurs winning in six games. He was the best player on the floor and in game one he only missed two field goals. San Antonio had no defensive option other than shutting down the players around Nowitzki, which they did, because he could not be stopped by any one man on their roster and even beat their double-teams. In 08-09 Dirk averaged 26.8 points in the playoffs and 10.1 boards. The year before that he averaged the same amount of points (26.8) and 12 rebounds per game. If these are soft numbers then what are hard physical numbers? He has averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds in his career during the playoffs. Dirk is not the problem. The problem this year was that other key players were shut down or didn’t perform as they should have (Terry, Kidd, and Marion).
His reliance on an indefensible jump shot has also been a target of attack by some who continue to throw the soft label around. So Dirk has a one-legged jumper, what’s your point? Kobe Bryant has a legs kicked out jumper that he relies on. Carmelo Anthony has perfected a jumper from all areas of the floor. The jump shot is the most basic building block in basketball and it is also an essential element, if not the most important, to any player’s game. If an unstoppable jumper was not such a crucial piece in a player’s offensive arsenal then the NBA would be filled with Darius Miles-esque players and it would be called the And 1 Mix Tape Tour.
Still convinced that Bosh would be a fit in Dallas? Well, it must be because of his defensive prowess since Dirk is such a soft player and looks lost defensively on almost every possession. It is a silly notion that Bosh is a better defender than Dirk. Take a look at their regular season defensive ratings from the past three years. Dirk has had ratings of 104 in 07-08, 108 in 08-09, and 105 this season. Fairly solid numbers for a soft player who is never recognized for his improvements on defense which he has worked hard on are they not? So what are Bosh’s numbers over the same time span? In 07-08 he had a rating of 105, in 08-09 it was 108, this year it was 111. If I read that correctly it looks like his defense is getting worse by the year. Hmm, so that makes him a better defender, right? Over that same amount of time Dirk’s defensive rebounding averages are 7.3 in 2007-08, 7.3 in 08-09, and 6.7 this season. He also averaged a block and a steal during these seasons. Bosh’s defensive rebounding averages most recently are slightly better than Nowitzki’s but they are certainly nothing monumental. In the 2007-08 season he averaged 6.1 defensive boards, 7.2 in 08-09, and 7.9 this past season (these are all down from the 8 he averaged in 2006-07).
I do like the idea of bring Bosh back home to Dallas but it will not happen. It especially will not happen in a straight up trade between these two All Stars. Do you think that either one would like to go into a situation where they were the lone best player on a team again? No, they would rather be teamed up with other star players. Another big man is not what the Mavericks need. They need a real two guard, not a converted small forward. Therefore that rules out the possibility of Bosh coming home. What are Bosh’s options then? He recently tweeted for suggestions as to where he should play next season so it seems as though his time with Bryan Colangelo is coming to a close. Chicago would be a good destination for him. A frontcourt that includes Joakim Noah and Bosh would be formidable in the East and with Derrick Rose in the backcourt the Bulls would have a nucleus for success now and for the future. Many have also speculated that a pairing in Miami with Dwyane Wade would also be a good fit for Bosh but first Miami must try and resign Wade before any other free agents will pack their bags for South Beach.
Dirk is not the problem in Dallas. The problem for the Mavericks has been getting other players to consistently play at the level that Nowitzki does when it matters most. He might not be a vocal enough leader for all his detractors but in their eyes he can never do enough. Leaders lead by example and the way they play. Nowitzki’s play during his tenure with Dallas has been a loud and clear example of leadership. It is time to stop referring to him as soft because to do so only groups one into the majority of sports writers that still think it is 2003. Wake up Rip Van Winkle.