In his second NBA season, Luka Doncic has become one of the league’s most valuable players. Not only does his play on the court lead to him putting up astounding numbers, but his play is also translating to wins for the Dallas Mavericks. With a record of 18-9, the Mavericks are currently the third seed in the Western Conference. Doncic won the Rookie of the Year award less than six months ago, but is now on the verge of winning the MVP award.
Doncic is putting up career-highs in multiple categories. He’s averaging a career-high in points (29.3), rebounds (9.6), assists (8.9), and steals (1.2). Doncic’s stellar play won him the Player of the Month award for the month of November. In 14 games, Doncic averaged 32.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 10.4 assists, making him the third player in NBA history to average a 30-point triple-double over an entire month.
Not only is Doncic nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double on the year, but his team is holding their own out in the tough Western Conference. The Mavericks were predicted to finish ninth in the Western Conference in ESPN’s preseason predictions. So far this season, they’ve beaten other top teams in the conference, including the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
What’s most impressive about Dallas’ hot start is that Doncic is leading the team by himself. Kristaps Porzingis made his long-awaited return from a torn ACL injury but hasn’t been playing his best basketball. Porzingis is averaging 17.4 points a game while shooting a career-low 40% from the field. His injury, which caused him to miss almost two seasons of basketball, is likely the reason why his season has been underwhelming thus far. Besides Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry are the only other players in Dallas averaging more than 10 points a game.
Doncic is setting the tone for his team and has become a strong leader at the young age of 20. Not many players can say they’ve been the leader of a contending team at such a young age. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle has enjoyed watching the MVP candidate compete every night.
“It’s a blast. Aren’t you watching?” Carlisle said. “Look, he’s great. And this year, he’s become a great practice player along with being great in games. That’s something that’s helped everything – his game, our team’s game. He was good last year, but he picked it up. He’s more of a leader, more vocal and he has fun competing. And that kind of stuff is infectious.”
After the New York Knicks defeated the Mavericks on Nov. 14, former Knicks head coach David Fizdale praised Doncic and said he may become the greatest European to ever play the game of basketball.
“He’s going to push Dirk Nowitzki for the greatest European to ever play this game when it’s all said and done,” Fizdale said.
Luka Doncic won’t be alone during the MVP race. LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo look like legitimate contenders to win the award. Both players may have a slight edge over Doncic because both the Bucks and Lakers have the best record in their conference. Both James and Antetokounmpo shouldn’t be favored to win the MVP award because their teams are the best in their conference. Both the Lakers and Bucks were expected to be the top teams in their conferences. The Mavericks were considered to be a fringe playoff team. Since the Mavericks are exceeding expectations so far, that should boost Doncic’s chances of becoming the youngest MVP winner in league history.
There should be no doubt in fan’s minds that Luka Doncic is one of the clear-cut favorites to win the MVP award this year. James and Antetokounmpo are doing what was expected of them, while Doncic is putting up career-highs and leading a Dallas team that wasn’t supposed to win many games this year. The season is young, but there are no signs of Doncic slowing down. The NBA should consider the month of November a warning. Luka Doncic is coming.
Photo: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports