It is hard to believe that Luka Doncic is still only 20 years old.
Doncic, who won’t turn 21 until February, has become not just the face of the Dallas Mavericks, but arguably one of the faces of today’s NBA.
The superstar Slovenian has turned the NBA into his personal playground this season with his jaw-dropping, record-breaking performances en route to becoming a legitimate MVP candidate.
Doncic’s incredible play has captivated the imaginations of NBA fans and observers across the league as he puts up dizzying numbers night in and night out.
ESPN’s NBA Insider Tim MacMahon who covers the Mavericks recently told Adrian Wojnarowski,
“He’s legitimately an All-NBA caliber player, an early MVP candidate, and he does it in a way that’s a lot of fun to watch…”
The ease at which Doncic plays the game is astonishing given his youth and what is being asked of him each night as the primary ball handler and scorer for the Mavericks.
In only his second season, Doncic leads the NBA in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) 32.9 while being 3rd in Usage Rate at 35.8%.
Leading the Mavs to a 9-4 record during the month of November, Doncic averaged 32.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 10.4 assists, becoming only the 3rd player in NBA history to average a 30-point triple-double in a calendar month (Elias Sports Bureau).
Doncic’s month of November included back-to-back home games against the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors of at least 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists.
His outstanding play during November earned him his first career NBA Western Conference Player of the Week award (Nov. 18th-Nov. 24th) in which he led the Mavs to a 4-0 record while averaging 37.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 11.8 assists.
Doncic posted at least 30 points and 10 assists in all four games, becoming the youngest player in NBA history (20 years, 269 days) to record four consecutive 30-point, 10-assist games. The previous youngest player to have four such straight games…Oscar Robertson (22 years, 34 days).
The humble star has downplayed his massive production as he continues focus on the task at hand and improving game in and game out.
Doncic tied his career high with 42 points in a win in their last game of November against the Phoenix Suns and when asked about his feelings about being the MVP conversation he said,
“Obviously I don’t really care the conversations about MVP, you know just got to focus on us and our team getting the wins like this and just keep going like that.”
Wise beyond years, Doncic has displayed a maturity befitting a 10-year veteran, not one that is only in his second year in the league with the spotlight firmly upon him.
His value to the Mavericks can not be understated as some of the numbers bare out just how ‘valuable’ Doncic really is.
Currently, Doncic leads the NBA in win shares (2.5), offensive win shares (3.2), and win shares per 48 minutes (.312) this according to Basketball Reference.
Another example of his dominate month came after his 2nd 42-point game of the month against the Suns in which Doncic had his 3rd game of at least 40 points and 10 assists this season. Every other player in the NBA has combined to have 2 such games this season.
While not the athlete that LeBron James was or ever will be, Doncic’s game certainly reminds observers and fans of King James’s all-around game.
Doncic’s recognition off the dribble, his incredible vision, and his willingness to get his teammates involved all serve as points of reference to the best player of his generation, James.
In a loss at the beginning of November to the Los Angeles Lakers at home, Doncic went toe-to-toe with his idol in an OT thriller where Doncic had 31 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds.
James had 39 points, 16 assists, and 12 rebounds out dueling the young superstar, but James recognized Doncic’s greatness afterwards when they embraced on the floor.
James embracing Doncic in a hug in recognition of and astonishment of Doncic’s talent called Doncic,
“…a bad motherf*er!”
James’s recognition of what Doncic had accomplished that night officially marked the arrival of Doncic on the national stage and to Doncic’s credit he has not shrunk from the responsibility of that stage.
His dominance this season has been recognized not only by the current greats of the NBA, but from Hall of Famers such as Tracy McGrady who in late November on ESPN’s The Jump said,
“[Doncic] is the best point guard in the game…”.
Luka Doncic is the only player in the NBA currently in the top 15 in points (3rd), rebounds (15th), and assists (2nd).
His incredible skill combined with his unique disposition has placed Doncic in rarefied air with the game’s current best and it isn’t going unnoticed.
He went toe-to-toe and out dueled James Harden with a dominant 41 point performance shooting 50% from the field in a win over the Houston Rockets on the road.
Doncic’s game against the Rockets further proved that the stage isn’t too big for him and he is more than willing to go blow for blow with the game’s best players.
Even in Doncic’s toughest game in November when he was held in check by Paul George, Patrick Beverly, and Kawhi Leonard, he scored 22 points, with 14 of those coming from the free-throw line, albeit in a loss.
The respect that Doncic commanded from George was evident in George’s post-game comments after the Clippers 114-99 win when he said of Doncic,
“Its going to be scary when he fully figures it out and starts to hit his prime…”.
Players, insiders, and fans realize the special talent that Doncic possesses and that he is only scratching the surface of what he will ultimately become.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle when asked in mid-November if Doncic was in the MVP conversation emphatically said,
“I don’t get into awards stuff, but yes.”
That conversation will only continue to ramp up as Doncic continues to put together eye-popping performances, especially as the Mavericks continue to win.
Doncic understands that the recognition of his game, especially with respect to the MVP conversation, will hinge on how much his team continues to win.
His predecessor, Dirk Nowitzki, who is recognized as the franchise’s greatest player, was synonymous with winning, and winning big.
It is rare when a franchise is able to make the transition from one superstar to the next and for the Mavericks they couldn’t have asked for a better successor to Nowitzki than Doncic.
It is hard to imagine that the Mavericks knew that Doncic would be this good, but credit owner Mark Cuban, President/GM Donnie Nelson, and the Mavericks scouting department for remaining steadfast in their belief in Doncic.
The Slovenian was initially drafted 3rd overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but was traded for star G Trae Young.
In a rare deal that worked out for both teams, Doncic went on to win NBA Rookie of the Year last season, while Young has gone to stardom in Atlanta.
Doncic has rewarded the Mavericks front office’s confidence in him with a sensational start to his sophomore campaign and appears to be on his way to his first All-Star game appearance.
As the month turns from November to December, Doncic and the Mavericks look to continue their strong start to a season where expectations have increasingly grown toward a playoff berth.
For Doncic, it will be business as usual as he continues to take the NBA by storm with his craftiness, deft skill and increasingly unstoppable step back three-point shot.
One thing is clear, the Mavericks will go as far as Doncic is able to take them.
So far, Doncic has led the Mavericks to a 12-6 record, 1st place Southwestern division, and 4th overall in the Western Conference.
Not too bad for a guy in just his second season.
Remember, he’s only 20.
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Flip the pages to see highlights of Doncic’s incredible month and more.