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Is Dirk Still A Top 10 Player?

Over at CNBC, David Berri, the economics professor and pioneer of the controversial "Wages of Wins" book and the "Wins Produced" statistic, calls Dirk, who made $17 million last season, overpaid:

"He doesn't rebound, block shots, or get steals," he said. "Consequently, his productivity is no longer consistent with this pay or reputation. ... Once you look past his scoring totals (totals driven by above average shot attempts), Nowitzki is no longer a top NBA player."

Of course, Dirk never blocked shots or got steals, yet he's obviously been a top 10 player for most of his career.

What makes him such a special player goes right to the heart of the problem with Berri's philosophy: his ability to create efficient shots at the basket against any defense in the NBA. Berri would have you believe that shot attempts are mostly a reflection of NBA coaches unnatural obsession with creating a hierarchy on a team, and taking a lot of shots isn't reflective of any particular skill.

In reality, most NBA players can't create open shots for themselves against NBA-level defenders, and they depend on stars like Dirk to command so much defensive attention that it creates open looks for everyone else.

The key with Dirk is whether he's being efficient with his touches. In 2011, he shot 52% from the floor, the best mark of his career, but it slipped to 46% last year.

You can call that regression the effects of "Father Time" (like Charles Barkley) or you can blame the lockout and the insane schedule which wrecked Dirk's knees and his timing. Either way, Dirk needs to shoot a lot closer to his 2011 mark than his 2012 one in 2013 or Berri may end up being proven correct.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.