Dirk Nowitzki feels Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons has the potential to develop into one of the NBA's best players.

Australian Simmons, the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, appeared in his second straight All-Star Game in Chicago at the Weekend.

The 23-year-old is averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the 76ers, while he also leads the NBA in steals.

Earlier in this campaign he drained his first regular-season three-pointer - with Simmons' shooting from beyond the arc often used as a stick to beat him with - and 2007 NBA MVP Nowitzki believes that is the only facet of his game preventing him from moving into the elite echelon.

"I love Ben. I got to meet him a couple of times. His potential… the sky's the limit," said Nowitzki, who was speaking at the Laureus Awards in Berlin, where he won the Lifetime Achievement prize.

"He's super, super athletic, he's got a great touch. He sees the floor, gets his guys involved. Eventually, I think we all know, he needs to improve his shot.

"If he improves his shot he can be one of the best in the league, best in the game.

"Just right now people are playing off him a little bit and making him shoot.

"He's got the touch, the feel for the game that if he works hard, keeps improving the way he has – he's still young – he's going to be fun to watch for a long, long time."

Nowitzki brought the curtain down on his decorated 21-year NBA career after last season having been named to 14 All-Star Games and also winning the 2011 NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks, where he spent his entire career.

Despite Nowitzki's departure, the future looks bright for Dallas thanks to two other Europeans - 20-year-old Slovenian Luka Doncic and 24-year-old Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.

Doncic has already taken on Nowitzki's mantle as Dallas' star and he was named as a starter for the All-Star Game in just his second season.

"Amazing," Nowitzki added of Doncic.

"He was voted a starter at 20 years old. He's been so much fun to watch and hopefully he'll stay in Dallas for his whole career and we'll have a lot of fun watching him, hopefully for a long, long time.

"The way he plays, the way he reads the game, the way he scores – he's a great all-round player. He's super fun to watch.

"They're young still. Luka's only 20, Kristaps is 24. Hopefully those guys can build something and be together in Dallas for a long, long time and play on a high level.

"Of course, eventually they would like to bring a championship to Dallas, that would be amazing. We'll just see how they play off each other and grow together."

On receiving Laureus' Lifetime Achievement Award, Nowitzki added: "Of course it's a great honour to get the award for my lifetime achievement.

"I played more than 20 years in the NBA. I was trying to move the game forward.

"It's nice to feel that you're respected and accepted for what I achieved during my career. For me it's a huge honour. I'm glad to be here."

The Dallas Mavericks ended the Milwaukee Bucks' winning streak at 18 games after prevailing 120-116 in the NBA.

Despite the absence of injured star and MVP candidate Luka Doncic, the Mavericks stopped the red-hot Bucks on Monday.

Not even Giannis Antetokounmpo's 48 points and 14 rebounds were enough to prevent the Bucks from tasting defeat for the first time since November 8.

The Bucks (24-4) were on their longest winning streak since a franchise-record 20 consecutive victories in 1970-71.

Seth Curry and Kristaps Porzingis inspired the Mavericks (18-8) with 26 points apiece on the road in Milwaukee.

 

Rockets rally sets franchise record

Russell Westbrook (31 points) and James Harden (28 points) combined as the Houston Rockets overturned a 25-point deficit to top the San Antonio Spurs 109-107. It is the franchise's largest comeback since Houston rallied from 23 points down against the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977.

Pascal Siakam had 33 points and Kyle Lowry posted 20 points and 11 assists to lead the Toronto Raptors past the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers 133-113.

Rookie Ja Morant scored 20 points and supplied 10 assists as the Memphis Grizzlies cooled the Miami Heat 118-111.

CJ McCollum recorded 30 points, Damian Lillard finished with 27 and Carmelo Anthony added 23 as the Trail Blazers edged the Phoenix Suns 111-110. Paul became the second player in NBA history with 18,000 points, 9,000 assists and 2,000 steals.

Zach LaVine's 39 points could not stop the Chicago Bulls from falling 109-106 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were led by Chris Paul's 30 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Cavs get little from bench

It was another tough night for the Cavaliers (6-21), who have lost seven of eight games in December. None of the team's bench players reached double-digit points.

 

Lillard with crucial three-point play

The Blazers guard came up big when his team needed him most. With 25.6 seconds remaining and Portland trailing 110-108, Lillard made a bucket and the foul to put the Blazers ahead and for good.

 

Monday's results

Washington Wizards 133-119 Detroit Pistons
Toronto Raptors 133-113 Cleveland Cavaliers
Dallas Mavericks 120-116 Milwaukee Bucks
Oklahoma City Thunder 109-106 Chicago Bulls
Houston Rockets 109-107 San Antonio Spurs
Memphis Grizzlies 118-111 Miami Heat
Portland Trail Blazers 111-110 Phoenix Suns

 

Lakers at Pacers

The LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers show rolls into Indiana for Tuesday's clash with the Pacers. The Lakers (24-3) have won seven straight, while the 18-9 Pacers are eyeing their fourth consecutive victory.

Kristaps Porzingis had little issue with the treatment he received from New York Knicks fans as the Dallas Mavericks star was given a frosty reception on his return to Madison Square Garden.

Porzingis, a first-round pick of New York in 2015, was traded to the Mavericks in January after a meeting reportedly led Knicks officials to believe he wished to be dealt elsewhere.

Thursday's game marked Porzingis' first back at the Garden and a warm welcome was not forthcoming from the home crowd, who loudly booed him as the teams were introduced ahead of a contest the Knicks won 106-103.

"That was pretty loud, their fans are really passionate of course, it was no different tonight," Porzingis told reporters.

Asked if it was fair for him to be jeered given he left in a trade, Porzingis replied: "I don't know if it was fair or not, it's what they know, it's what they've heard, the fans.

"I'm not gonna try to win them over now. It is what it is. I understand where they’re coming from."

Porzingis shook off the taunts to score 20 points and tally 11 rebounds, though Knicks forward Marcus Morris thought the crowd affected the former fourth overall pick.

"It looked like he was a little rattled too," Morris said. "It kinda helped us."

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