Dirk Nowitzki continues to pick up votes for the 2013 NBA All-Star game without picking up a basketball in regular season play.
It's a testament to Dirk's greatness, and we'll examine if the Dallas Mavericks' forward has any chance to make his 12th All-Star appearance February 17 in Houston.
First and foremost, we are handicapping O.J. Mayo's odds of representing Dallas on the Western Conference All-Star team.
O.J. Mayo's Competition for 2013 All-Star Game
Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs
Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder
Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors
Jeremy Lin Houston Rockets
James Harden Houston Rockets
Bryant and Paul currently lead the fan voting that will determine the West's starting backcourt. Barring injury, Kobe and CP3 have to be considered All-Star locks.
However, there is a chance that an undeserving Jeremy Lin could be voted in as a starter by the fans. That scenario would have a ripple effect, beginning with Paul slipping to a reserve-guard spot.
In the name of sanity, we will assume (always dangerous) that Lin won't be voted in by the fans.
That would leave the coaches with five good options for three backup-guard slots: Parker, Westbrook, Curry, Harden and Mayo.
Parker and Westbrook were two of the backups to Paul in last season's All-Star Game. It's likely to be deja vu all over again. Curry has led Golden State to a terrific start, but the Warriors won't have a better record than the Spurs or Thunder.
The West actually went with four point guards last season, including Steve Nash. However, this season, the coaches will likely choose a shooting guard to back up Kobe.
That leaves us with another Texas shootout between Harden and Mayo, both looking for their first All-Star berth.
Mayo outscored Harden 40-39 in the Mavs' 116-109 win at Houston December 8. Should there be similar results in a rematch at Dallas on January 16, Mayo may have a legitimate All-Star claim.
However, O.J. is fighting an uphill battle.
Harden has an edge over Mayo in most of the key statistical categories through Sunday's games.
James Harden O.J. Mayo
Points 25.0 20.4
Assists 5.3 3.5
Rebounds 4.4 4.0
Field Goals 42.8% 48.2%
3-Point Shooting 33.3% 51.2%
*PER 21.1 18.3
During the Mavs' slump last week, Mayo's PER dropped from 19.5 to 18.4, according to ESPN's John Hollinger. O.J. now ranks No. 4 among Western Conference shooting guards in this all-encompassing category.
Bryant's 25.8 PER is best among his Western peers, and Harden ranks second at 21.1. Kevin Martin, the key principal in the Harden trade from OKC, has just moved into third place at 18.9.
Personally, I don't consider Martin a threat to Mayo. The Thunder's shooting guard is often left wide open due to the attention demanded by Kevin Durant and Westbrook.
However, if the season ended today, neither Dallas or Houston would even be in the NBA playoffs. This is another bad sign for O.J.
Mayo's chances for the All-Star game will be greatly diminished if Dallas is still neck and neck with Houston, the youngest team in the league.
Therefore, Mayo needs a quick return by Dirk to have a real shot of representing the West. Even in that scenario, I think the odds of Mayo being an All-Star this season are 3-1.
Obviously, those odds come down substantially should there be a major injury to Bryant, Paul, Parker, Westbrook or Harden. Mayo clearly deserves to be next in line.
What about Dirk's chances? He currently ranks No. 11 in the fan voting among Western Conference frontcourt players.
Dirk has garnered over 63,000 votes without hoisting one shot this season. It figures that total will go way up when Dirk starts pouring in a plethora of his unstoppable jumpers.
Of course, it's probably going to be too little, too late. At the moment, I consider Dirk a 20-1 dark horse to make the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.
* statistics are accurate through games of Sunday, December 16
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