Unrestricted free agent big man Dirk Nowitzki agreed to a two-year, $40 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks that was eventually raised to $50 million, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. Nowitzki had a player option for the 2016-17 season worth $8.6 million on his last contract, but declined it in favor of pursuing a new deal.
The second year is only guaranteed for $5 million, according to Stein.
This contract is a major step up after Nowitzki agreed to a hometown discount deal of three-years, $25 million in 2014, although the $20 million he'll make annually is still significantly less than the $31 million max deal he could've gotten. The second year of this new deal is expected to be a player option, which will allow him to decide after next season if he wants to keep playing or retire.
Nowitzki has talked about how good he felt after last season with the Mavericks and showed little interest in retirement despite being one of the league's oldest players. Dirk turned 38 years old on June 19 and has already logged 18 NBA seasons, but you hardly would've noticed watching him.
In 75 regular-season games last season, Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He continues to be a serious threat from three-point range (36.8 percent made) and one of the league's best free throw shooters (89.3 percent made).
It was enough to make Nowitzki one of the Mavericks' most effective players despite his decline. When Dirk was on the court last season, the Mavericks outscored opponents by 3.6 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. When the German big man went off the court, Dallas got outscored by 3.9 points per 100 possessions. That swing of nearly eight points shows that Dirk, even at his age, was a big part of why the Mavs went 42-40 and made the postseason.
Nowitzki played well in the 2016 playoffs, too, even though his team was eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. Dirk averaged 20.4 points on 49 percent shooting in the series, although he was unable to attack the rim and draw fouls like in past playoff performances.
Still, Dirk showed there's something left in the tank. He hasn't missed more than seven games in each of the past three seasons, and while he's not the rebounder or defender he once was, there's just just enough lift and length to make that step-back jumper a legitimate weapon.
I was 2 for 2 with some spectacular defensive plays. So needless to say I got robbed of the MVP.....— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) June 11, 2016
While it's always possible Nowitzki retires before the end of his new contract, his recent performance hasn't given indication that he'll be forced off the court soon.
That's why it was presumably an easy call for the Mavericks to bring back their greatest player in franchise history. Not only is it a chance to help make sure that Dirk is one of the rare modern athletes to ply his trade with one franchise for his entire playing career, but he was a key part of the team last season and figures to be again in 2016-17.
The Mavericks missed out on their top targets in free agency in Hassan Whiteside and Mike Conley, while Chandler Parsons is headed to the Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas has started to pick up the pieces, however, by adding Harrison Barnes and trading for Andrew Bogut to help the Golden State Warriors clear space for Kevin Durant. The Mavericks also added Seth Curry on a cheap deal and brought back Deron Williams and Dwight Powell.
With much of the team in transition as they figure out how to rebuild from the Dirk era into a new contender, Nowitzki will help bridge that gap with his steady play and affable personality.