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Monday, December 30, 2013
Cuban: Dirk still a top-10 player

By Tim MacMahon

The Mavericks will face arguably the NBA’s premier power forward in Minnesota tonight when Dirk Nowitzki matches up against Kevin Love.

You don’t need to scan the list long to find the 35-year-old Nowitzki.

Love, who ranks third in the NBA in scoring (26.1 points per game) and leads the league in rebounding (13.8), is an All-Star lock. Nowitzki, whose 11-season All-Star streak was snapped last year, is putting together a strong case to return to the NBA’s midseason showcase, ranked 13th among the league’s scorers with an efficient 21.5 points per game.

“I don’t know if he’ll make it, but based off of everything, he should,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said.

Nowitzki has never been voted in as an All-Star starter, and that won’t change this season. He ranked 10th among the West’s frontcourt players in voting released last week, behind power forwards Blake Griffin, Love, Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis and Pau Gasol. (Two things worth noting: Fan voting only impacts the starters, and the league no long differentiates frontcourt positions when selecting All-Stars.)

As far as Cuban is concerned, however, Nowitzki still ranks among the league’s top 10 players, period.

“If you look at all of the analytic stuff, he’s top 10,” Cuban said. “Not even close. Is he LeBron? No. But he’s definitely top 10.”

A sampling of Nowitzki’s ranks this season in various analytic categories: eighth in Player Impact Estimate, ninth in Player Efficiency Rating, tied for 10th in Estimated Wins Added, 11th in Value Added.

That’s a geeky way of saying that Nowitzki has bounced back from a couple of down years by his standards to re-establish himself as one of the league’s elite players. Nowitzki’s advanced statistics are comparable with the numbers he produced three, four or five years ago.

“I think he’s different,” Cuban said. “I think he’s calmer. He’s more precise. He’s more fundamental. He’s not quite as spry as he was. I mean, you lose a little bit. There’s a difference between a 16-inch vertical and an 11-inch vertical, you know?

“He is definitely as impactful. In 2008, we didn’t have as good a team as we have today, but the Western Conference is better today. He’s definitely as impactful, if not more.”