Opening Tip: Comparing Dirk to elite PFs

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki’s initial reaction is a long sigh.

“I mean, you’re putting me on the spot there,” Nowitzki said.

The question: Who is the best power forward in the NBA right now? After a moment of thought, Nowitzki mentions three names: Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin.

“Love is putting up some unbelievable numbers night in and night out,” said Nowitzki, who faces Griffin tonight when the Mavs meet the Clippers in Los Angeles. “I was always a huge LaMarcus Aldridge fan, and he’s finally getting all the credit he deserves. Blake is a freak of nature. That stuff that he does usually only exists in video games.

“I guess you’ve got to go with the young guys. I guess LaMarcus is like 28, so I guess we’ll go with Blake or Kevin just because of the age.”

An old man was a notable omission. Nowitzki didn’t put himself in the class of the league’s premier power forwards.

“They can do it a little bit more consistently when you’re younger, but I try to be,” Nowitzki said. “I prepare a lot. I work out a lot, and that helps me still play at a high level. The other night in San Antonio was a tough one for me as a competitor – to get blown out, have a bad night and just have nothing in the tank. I don’t think I would have felt like that 10 years ago.”

How far from the cream of the elite crop is the 16-year veteran at this point of his career? Let’s see what the stats say.