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Dirk is the Difference Between Have and Have-Not

Imagine, for a moment, that the Charlotte Bobcats have Dirk Nowitzki. It's gorgeous. Dirk does Dirk things out of the power forward spot. He's covered defensively by Emeka and Wallace, and complemented offensively by Richardson's outside game and Wallace's slashing. The team is hampered by a sub-optimal point guard situation, and there's no one that's a true offensive force on the block, but replacing Jared Dudley in the starting lineup with a perennial All Star like the Diggler puts Charlotte in the playoffs. Find a top fifteen point guard (Kirk Hinrich?) and a post scorer to come off the bench (an aging Brad Miller?), and, with only three upgrades, only one major, the Bobcats are a title contender.

Of course, it's fantasy because guys like Dirk don't get away from their teams anymore. There are a couple of recent exceptions, but Steve Nash wasn't this Nash when he returned to Phoenix, and Kevin McHale is simply an idiot for handing over Kevin Garnett. By the time Nowitzki hits free agency and the Mavs won't want to re-sign him, it'll be because he's past his prime.

For tonight's game, the Bobcats should take the tack that's been successful in the past and put Gerald Wallace on Dirk. The big German loves to drive past defenders his size, and the smaller men have tended to discourage him from that tactic and stay on the perimeter, where he's still a cold killer, but more manageable. Think about what Tracy McGrady and Stephen Jackson did guarding him. Then again, that requires Larry Brown to think outside the position box and trust Jared Dudley to handle Josh Howard. I'm interested to see what Morrison can do covering Howard, but I'd have a quick hook if he simply can't do it at all, and I'd relegate him to covering guards from then on.

In the back court, just let Jason Kidd hoist away. Last season, he shot 38% from beyond the arc, the same as his percentage this season, but his true talent level is probably somewhere closer to just below his career mark of 33%. Either way, I'd rather let him shoot from downtown than let him get on the break or in the lane.

On offense, the Mavs will probably be smart enough to have Dirk cover Sean May, Jared Dudley, or whomever else is the least threatening force the Bobcats throw out there. The Cats should make it a priority to attack Dirk, make him work hard on defense, and fight for foul calls on him. It will be a dance between adjusting to the Mavs' schemes and strategies, and dictating how the Mavs must defend.