Commentary

The true value of Dirk Nowitzki

Numbers show that the Mavs star is as valuable to his team as any player in the league

Updated: May 7, 2011, 11:23 AM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
 Dirk NowitzkiNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesHow do you stop Dirk Nowitzki? No one knows.

He is a 10-time All-Star and an MVP award recipient. He is regarded as the toughest matchup in the league. He is the best-shooting 7-footer to ever play the game.

His name is Dirk Nowitzki, and he is the most underrated star in basketball. Up 3-0 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nowitzki is putting together a playoff campaign that rivals anything he's done in his career. Against the Lakers, the 32-year-old is averaging 28 points and 10 rebounds per game, along with 53 percent shooting. Nowitzki remains one of four players in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 rebounds in his playoff career (Hakeem Olajuwon, Elgin Baylor and Bob Pettit make up the other three). Put it all together, and his 26.3 PER ranks among the NBA's best here in the playoffs.

Perhaps Nowitzki's metronome-like consistency has numbed our senses, but each prolific performance in the playoffs reminds us that he is essentially unguardable. He may not be as quick as he used to be, but he can still get his shot off anytime he pleases. He does it with patience and craft, playing the angles like a pool player. While watching Nowitzki's performance in Game 2, Tracy McGrady said it best on his Twitter account: "how do u defend a lonnnng seven footer that shoots the ball behind his head AND fades away #dirk."

No one knows.