Boston Celtics legend and color analyst Tommy Heinsohn, who won 10 combined titles with the organization as a player and as a coach, knows a thing or two about the game, and he says 24-year-old Kelly Olynyk has “the potential to be better than Dirk Nowitzki,” the Dallas Mavericks’ career leader in scoring and a future Hall of Famer.
Heinsohn made the comment after Olynyk’s 13-point second quarter against the Phoenix Suns last Friday night, and three days later Nowitzki responded after he helped down the Celtics 118-113 in overtime with a game-high 31 points.
“Yeah, I mean, I like the kid,” Nowitzki said, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I’m just not sure about all that. But I really do like him. He’s a good shooter. He’s improved from year to year, so I do wish him the best. He can be a really good player, but I don’t know if his ceiling is all the way up there. He’s got a long way to go.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, not one to hold back his opinion, also chimed in:
Mark Cuban on Tommy Heinsohn’s claim that Kelly Olynyk’s ceiling is to be better than Dirk: “He’s talking hairstyles, right?”
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 19, 2016
Olynyk, who was selected 13th overall in 2013 by Dallas then traded immediately to Boston, is having a career year from 3-point range at 42.6 percent, and he’s been locked in from deep in the month of January with 50 percent of his long-range shots going in. Against the Mavericks, Olynyk made a career-high five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points off the bench.
There’s only a handful of seven-footers with range like that, and Olynyk happens to be one of them. But comparing him to the NBA’s sixth all-time leading scorer might be overdoing it. Nowitzki’s style is one of a kind, and most seven-footers would kill to have it. He’s hit a lot of big shots and been in a lot of big games. As Nowitzki said, Olynyk has a long way to go.