Stopping Dirk Nowitzki

Now the Mavs are most certainly not a one man team, but if you can stop Dirk, you are well on your way to getting a W.  The only problem is, you have to stop Dirk.  Dirk has become a legitimate MVP candidate (well, as legitimate as you can be a quarter through the season) by averaging 27.2 points per game, along with 8.5 rebounds per game.  A few times this year Dirk has single-handedly won the Mavs games.  Let’s take a look at some plays involving Dirk, and see what the Nets can do to stop him.

Dirk In The Post:

Dirk’s ability to knock down his fade-away jumper makes him a real threat in the post.  The Mavericks recognize that, and they try to get him the ball there early to get him going.  The beauty of it though is, they don’t usually just run him to the post, they do it out of a set, forcing you to look at a bunch of different things, then boom, Dirk takes his man to the post.  That is a good way to prevent help defense from coming.

Here, Dirk is the second person in a double screen for Rodrigue Beaubois.

The ball goes Beaubois on the complete other side of the court where Dirk is going to eventually post up.  As Beaubois sets up with the ball, Dirk and Drew Gooden rub shoulders, sort-of setting a screen for each other.

To continue with the misdirection, Drew Gooden sets a screen for Beaubois as Dirk picks the spot on the post where he wants to post up.

As Jason Kidd gets the ball, Dirk posts up with Vladimir Radmonovic stuck behind him.  This is because he had to stay in help position with all of the action on the other side of the court.

Dirk catches the ball in the post in a good spot.  Also, look at the rest of the Warriors.  None of them can double really because all of the action before giving the ball the Dirk in the post got the defense all spread out.  Dirk is dangerous in the post, even more so when you can’t send a double team.

Once Dirk catches the ball, his go to move is the fade-away jumper.  He is so tall, when he fades away it is almost impossible to block.  Another reason why his shots don’t really get blocked is because you can’t sell out to try and block it.  This is because he is great at pump-faking.  Check this out:

In both of those plays, he ends up getting better position by using the pump-fake.

Dirk On The High Post:

Dirk is also dangerous on the high post because of his shooting ability.  Again, the Mavs just don’t stick him on the high post and give him the ball.  They use a lot of action to get him the ball.

Here, doesn’t this look familiar?  It looks like the play where they ran a double-screen.

Instead, Drew Gooden just slides over and sets a screen for Dirk.  It doesn’t get him a lot of space, but at his size, Dirk doesn’t need it.

He takes one dribble and rises up.  Look how high he keeps the ball.  There is no way anyone can block that shot.  If they try, they usually end up hitting him on the arm, sending Dirk to the foul line.

Dirk Late:

If the game is close late in the game, there is no question where the ball is going to.  Again, misdirection is the key.

This is from the Mavs-Bucks game, and in overtime the Mavs have the ball.  Here, Dirk is setting a screen for his teammate, Rodrigue Beaubois.

Now that is expected.  Because what teams like to do is have the person getting the ball set a screen, and then screen for him.  Here though, Dirk goes ahead and sets another screen, this time for Jason Terry.  So the Bucks, thinking that the play will probably go to Dirk, now have to turn their attention to Terry, a threat from the outside.

This is just more misdirection though as I think the play was set for Dirk all along.  Kidd makes the pass, and look how good Dirk is defended.  The Bucks’ player is right up on him, but that isn’t going

I mean look at the defense.  Perfect, but Dirk is just better.  Here is the video:

Defending Dirk:

So, how do the Nets stop him?  On the high-post, there isn’t really anything you can do.  You just need to keep him from driving, put your hand in his face, and hope that he misses.  On the low-post though, you have options.  What I think works best if fronting him.  Not a complete front, but front on the high side, and have your help steal any lob pass that tries to get thrown in.

Here Radmonovic is fronting Dirk on the high side, knowing that if his teammate wants to throw a lob pass, Anthony Morrow is right there to steal it.  Look where Dirk is trying to post from, that is important.

Realizing that they can’t get Dirk the ball in the post, he moves out, but Radmonovic still does a good job of denying him.

Eventually after a few fake-backdoor cuts, Dirk finally gets the ball.  Look where he got it though, and now go back and look where he initially posted up.  That’s a win right there for the Warriors.  Dirk knows he has the height advantage here (and this will be the case against the Nets), so by keeping him from catching it on the block negates the height advantage.

Dirk still wants to back Radmonovic down, but he is so far away it is going to take him more dribbles.  Since Dirk is dribbling more, it gives more time for help to come, and in this case, it gets there in time, and Anthony Morrow comes all the way across the court to get the steal.

So who on the Nets can do this?  I think Sean Williams can.  He has the athleticism to challenge Dirk’s fadeaways, not necessarily block them, but keep a hand in his face.  He just needs to be able to stay out of foul trouble, and he can do a good job.  He presents Dirk with more of a challenge then say Josh Boone or Trenton Hassell.

In the end, the best way to stop Dirk is to keep the ball out of his hands.  Because once he gets it, he is probably going to score.  And when he scores, he gets to taunt people, and nobody likes that:

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