Making the Choice: Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph

Hey folks, hope all is well with you. I’ve got to apologize for not bringing you this last week. A lot of personal issues came up and I had to handle them. But all is well now, lets get into it. Zach Randolph or Dirk Nowitzki? That’s a tuff question for some, for others it doesn’t seem to be that hard. The newest NBA champion or one of the NBA’s step children that just haven’t been accepted until today. Doesn’t seem like that hard of a choice does it? Well lets look into the numbers and their values, we’ll find out today.

Each player comes from totally different circumstances and have had their own expiriences throughout their NBA careers. They are two totally different players who produce in very similar ways.

Dirk has played for the same Dallas organization for his whole career. He finally reached the pinnacle of his career winning the NBA championship this season. Many people had picked his Mavericks to lose in the first round to the Portland Trailblazers. The Mavericks gave up a 23 point lead in game 4 vs the Blazers, then Dirk caught fire. He didn’t look back. For the playoffs he averaged about 27 points and 8 boards. He also shot 48 percent from the field and shot 46 percent from three. Dirk even shot 94 percent from the free throw line. I know we all will never forget that 24 free throw game he had vs. OKC. Dirk was amazing.

Now, switching sides, lets go to Zach Randolph. He played for Portland for a long stint, then was shipped to New York; from there, Zach was sent to the Clippers, then he landed in Memphis, which is his home today. Zach has been a near 20 10 guy for his whole career, he has just had problems with most of the teams that he has been on. From problems with the law to problems with the league, he’s had it all. I’ve heard from voices around the league that people were afraid to sign him long term because of the company he keeps and how he acts. That’s saying something about a person. It seemed like Zach grew up a little bit and figured out what he was doing in this short stint with Memphis that he’s having. He seems to be that piece that can take Memphis to the promised land. He was a key cog in the 8 seed Grizzlies taking down the Spurs and he also gave Oklahoma City a run for their money. He averaged 22 and 10 in the postseason and pushed the Thunder into a 6 game series.

Now, lets break down their individual numbers last season. We’ll start with their scoring, which is something that power forwards need to be able to do in the league these days. They are less counted on for defense than ever, defense either starts at the perimeter for teams or its all funneled toward a team’s ultra defensive center. I digress though. So, starting with scoring, Dirk averaged 23 points this season to Zach’s 20 points. I think that even though the scoring numbers are close, when you break it down Dirk takes this hands down. I’ll start with the blocked percentage, which is the percentage of a players shots that get blocked. Dirk’s shot is blocked about 2 percent of the time. I think this is a product of how he gets his shot off, with that quick, high release. It’s almost impossible to block when you add his height into the equation. Dirk is 7’1 shooting from ANY spot on the floor. He can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim in 2-3 dribbles from about 20-23 feet out. He uses his length in unique ways and that’s definitley a plus when it comes to his scoring.

Now, Zach Randolph is a different type of scorer than Dirk. Almost 10 percent of his shots are blocked, to Dirks 2 percent. This is because almost 40 percent of his shots are taken at the rim, or inside 9 feet. At 6’9, Dirk has 4 inches on him that he can work with to get his shot off better. Zach also isn’t as good at scoring anywhere on the floor like Dirk his. While he can play in the post, at his best relatively deep in the post, he doesn’t have as many moves as Dirk does. I don’t want to take anything away from Zach, he’s a pretty good post player and a pretty good scoring threat. Watch the tape. But at a smaller size for a power forward, its harder for him to get shots off and also not get them blocked. He can face up and take that midrange jumper, and also is capable of stepping out and taking that 3 point shot (even though he only shot 18 percent from 3 this season). He just doesn’t take long range shots a lot in the Grizzlies system. Their perimeter game is a good one, so that isn’t really needed.

So, off of that alone, Dirk is the better scorer. He can get shots off from anywhere on the floor, he also takes those shots from anywhere on the floor. He is a big threat in making them, and his height and length gives him the perfect, indefensible shot. Zach isn’t as big and doesn’t get up enough to be as good of a scorer as Dirk has been. This is why Dirk’s true shooting percentage is consistently over 60. He can create his own shot anywhere on the floor and also draw fouls.

Lets move on to the rebounding aspect of the game. Looking at the numbers this isn’t close at all really. Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t been the best rebounder over his career. Last season he grabbed about 7 per game, but I think at 7’1 you should be able to grab so much more than that. You’ve got to get big in the paint, and that’s one of the knocks on Dirk that I have. He doesn’t rebound as well as he should. I think he could be a candidate for 12 to 14 rebounds every year at that height, but that’s not his style of play. He only grabs about 12 percent of his team’s rebounds. Being the tallest, biggest player on that team including Chandler, I think that’s a problem.

Now, Randolph on the other hand, is one of the best rebounders in the NBA. He doesn’t have elite athleticism, but he has a high rebounding IQ. He knows where shots are coming down from when they go up, and he times his jump perfectly. He rebounds 20% of his teams total rebounds. That’s 1/4 of a teams rebounds; also, I can’t forget to mention that he is only 6’9 and plays in a frontcourt with Marc Gasol who is a pretty decent rebounder himself. Almost 30 percent of the defensive rebounds are his and 15 on offense are his. He is just blessed with rebounding ability that is extremely hard to find.

Lets move on to defense. This one is a total push. Neither of these guys are class A defenders, by any means. Dirk’s defensive rating last season was 1.19 and Zach’s was 1.23. They both have a lack of blocked shots and steals, and that’s the way it has always been. I think this should dispell some myths about each player. I don’t think Dirk is nearly as bad of a defender as everyone thinks that he is, and I know Zach Randolph isn’t as good of a defender as everyone thinks that he is. They both allow 105 points per 100 possessions last season, which is pretty average for NBA defense. I wish I had a better statistic for you all but I don’t. When I get synergy one day I promise it’ll be better guys.
Now, who would you choose off of those stats I just threw at you? Dirk is by far the better scorer between the 2 but Zach is a better rebounder. If you want to go off of expierience then you’d choose Dirk. He has a ring and a championship to his name. That has to speak for something. Both of these guys have been through the ups and downs of the league in different ways, and they are pretty good leaders for their teams. These guys are pretty even statistically, it’s a hard choice for anyone to make.

I think that Dirk has been taking some of the NBA finals hype to his name, and a lot of people are picking him as the best player in the league. I disagree with that, but he is great. On the other hand, I think you could say the same for Zach Randoloph. He can do some of the same things that Dirk can and more. Its a pretty even match up.

If I had to pick, I’d pick Dirk. I think that while rebounding is a rare skill, you can create extra possessions as a team. The way that Dirk scores the ball is a way that is difficult for most players to be able to do. There is no way that there is a better scorer than Dirk in the NBA. No one can get their shot off like him, and he can score in volumes. The closest player to his scoring level, to me, would be Kevin Durant. Being almost 7 feet would put him right up there with Dirk. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Thanks for reading today. I’ll have another comparison for you all in a few days along with some other posts. Be sure to follow me on twitter @Mike_Nasty11 and follow @uptownsportsmag on twitter. Check out and I’m a proud contributor to each site, if you want more posts like this and more writers like me, that’s the place to be.


6 responses to “Making the Choice: Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph

  1. First of all I’m glad all is well with you. Second though the stats are somewhat even you have to take Dirk because of the matchup problems and his new found 4th qtr clutchness. I’ve always liked Zach he’s played for 2 of my favorite teams but I love mismatches and that’s what Dirk is. Good writing bro

  2. Nice comparison

    I have to go with Dirk. He is clutch even though Randolph carried Memphis within a game from the Western Conference Finals. If he can keep up this level of play, the Grizzlies can do something in the West. However, Dirk proved a ton in the NBA Finals and he has a great skill set. Give me Dirk!

  3. Nice column. I may be limited in my NBA knowledge, but in any sport, I take the clutch guy. These guys win championships. Dirk basically won the Finals, heck every series by carrying the Mav’s on his back and refusing to lose. You either have that ability or you don’t and those that do are both rare and indispensable. In my experience, Mark Messier in hockey had that quality, which equalled 6 Stanley Cups.

  4. Dirk for me, but I like where ZBo is headed and in a couple years i think Zach will be top notch.But Dirk is a crazy 7 foot shooter, ans he beat the Heat, lol thats enough for me.

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