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Germans making NBA impact like never before

With Isaiah Hartenstein signing a multi-year contract with the Houston Rockets, Germany's presence in the NBA is greater than ever. And unlike before, these players could have an impact.

It has been a good week for German basketball players.

After signing a new one-year, $5 million (€4.3 million) deal with the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, Dirk Nowitzki is set to become the first ever player to play 21 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the same team.

On Wednesday, his compatriot Dennis Schröder was traded from a lackluster Atlanta Hawks team to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has made the NBA playoffs in each of the last five seasons.

To cap it off, Isaiah Hartenstein, who spent last season in the NBA's developmental G-League, signed a three-year contract with the Houston Rockets, a Western Conference finalist last season. In fact, the only German player who had a bad week was Paul Zipser, who may go back to Bayern Munich after being cut by the Chicago Bulls.

As it stands, seven German players are on NBA rosters, which is more than there has ever been. And unlike previous years, where only a handful of Germans were consistently contributors, several of these players can make a real impact.

Dirk Nowitzki (picture alliance/dpa/AP/A. Kudacki)

Dirk Nowitzki (right) is no longer the only big German name in basketball

Not just Dirk

Nowitzki has been the flag bearer for Germany in basketball for two decades. But as his career winds down, he is no longer the only German making headlines.

Schröder has shown flashes that hint at stardom already, and after five seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, he now can play a significant role on a playoff team. The 24-year-old may not start every game, especially since Russell Westbrook, a former NBA Most Valuable Player, is the main act in town. But he could still get significant minutes while coming off the bench, and may even pair with Westbrook late in games.

Daniel Theis and Nowitzki's teammate Maxi Kleber, two front court players from Germany's basketball league (BBL) who signed with the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks respectively before last season, could play an important role next season.

Theis became a valuable part of the Celtics' rotation before missing the end of the regular season and the playoffs with a knee injury, and could be again as Boston contends for an NBA title. Kleber has seen standing with the Mavericks has diminished after they signed DeAndre Jordan, but could still be a valuable rotational piece as Dallas hopes to return to the playoffs.

Basketball Isaiah Hartenstein (picture-alliance/nordphoto/Dostmann)

Isaiah Hartenstein has signed a three-year deal with the Houston Rockets

Young prototypes at the ready

Though German basketball is set to lose Nowitzki to Father Time, there may be some new mini-Dirks set to take his place.

The hottest name at the moment is Moritz Wagner, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of June's NBA Draft. After leading the Michigan University Wolverines to the college basketball championship game, the 21-year-old averaged 10 points and eight rebounds in three games at the NBA's summer league. If Wagner, who, like Nowitzki, is 7-feet (2.13 meters) tall, outplays some of his teammates ahead of him on the depth chart, he could be starting next to LeBron James by the end of the season.

And then there's Hartenstein, a highly touted power forward who averaged 22 points and eight rebounds in four summer league games for the Rockets. Houston lost several role players from last year's team, which reached the Western Conference finals, so the door could be open for the 20-year-old to impress. 

So even as Nowitzki's stardom fades — his 12 points-per-game average last season was the second lowest of his career — Germany's presence in the NBA has arguably never been greater.

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