NBA players are basketball fans too and Dirk Nowitzki is a fan of Kevin Durant’s.
Dirk recently shared with Marc Stein of ESPN how he feels about Durant:
“KD,” Nowitzki says, “is way ahead of my curve.”
“He’s arguably the best player in the league right now,” Nowitzki told ESPN.com over the weekend. “I see a guy that really has no holes.
“He’s a 6-10 guy with a 7-4 wingspan who can shoot it from the parking lot. He’s posting up now. In transition he’s so long that, when he gets a pass from the 3-point line, it’s a layup or dunk with one step. He’s got the one- or two-dribble pull-up, which you need to be a great scorer, because you can’t just shoot 3s or go to the basket if you want to be a great scorer, ’cause sometimes you can’t get all the way to the bucket. He can go both ways, one or two dribbles and up.
“And he’s clutch, too. He’s hit big shot after big shot all season long. He made three game winners on us this year. I thought he’s always been clutch, but now it’s almost like you know he’s going to make them. He’s phenomenal.”
Dirk isn’t done, either.
“He’s way more of a 3-man than I ever was,” Nowitzki continued. “He handles the ball way better on the break than I ever did. He’s got deeper range. And he’s doing all this at 23. He’s won the scoring title three times in a row, so that he means he won the first one at 21. I barely got through my rookie year. When I was 21, Gary Trent was still killing me in practice.”
It’s no surprise Dirk loves Durant’s game so much. The two are very similar players with similar skill sets but Dirk is right that Durant has more potential than him.
Durant can learn a lot from Dirk and how his game evolved over the years. Dirk started off a more perimeter based offensive player, shooting a lot of threes. Last season when the Mavericks won the NBA title, Dirk did most of his work in the low-to-high posts.
Durant has more ball handling skills than Dirk but still could spend some more time in the post. He has demonstrated this season a determination to emulate Dirk with his patented one-footed stepback jumper but Durant still has a long way to go with that shot and his post game in general.
In 2006, we saw Dirk struggle mightily in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. The defense was very physical on him as Dirk was often playing with his back to the basket but from about 18 feet out.
Durant plays that way a lot this season and for the pessimists, the comparison with ’06 Dirk might seem kind of likely.
Win or lose in these Finals, Durant should go to school watching Dirk’s career arc. Dirk became the perfect championship leader last season with Dallas and if Durant strives for that, he can’t go wrong.