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Rick Carlisle: Dirk Nowitzki will finish among top-5 all-time scorers

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki shot his way into the top 10 of the NBA’s all-time scoring list last season and isn’t nearly done yet.

How high can the big German go?

“He’s going to be one of the top five scorers of all time, I would guess,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said on Sirius XM NBA Radio.

Nowitzki enters his 17th season with 26,786 points. Wilt Chamberlain, the No. 5 scorer in NBA history, scored 31,419 points in his career.

Can Nowitzki score another 4,633 points in his career? That could largely depend on two issues that are directly related: his health and how much longer he plays.

Nowitzki, 36, signed a three-year, $25 million deal this summer. He certainly hasn’t ruled out continuing to play after that contract expires, particularly if he’s still performing at a high level on a team capable of contending for a title.

“Obviously, I’m looking to complete that contract in three years and then re-evaluate and see how the body is holding up,” Nowitzki said earlier this month. “I’m looking forward to having three good years.”

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Nowitzki, who should move past Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone this season and Shaquille O'Neal in 2015-156, could pass Chamberlain before this deal is done.

Nowitzki scored 1,735 points last season, averaging 21.7 in 80 games. His scoring numbers will likely dip as he continues to fight Father Time and the Mavs try to trim his minutes. He’d need to average 1,544 points over the next three seasons – with an extra free throw mixed in somewhere during that span – to catch Chamberlain by the end of this contract.

With good health, Wilt could be well within Dirk’s reach.