Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic may collect another award to add to his growing collection. Saturday, it was announced that he’s a finalist for this season’s Most Improved Player.
It’s only the 21-year-old’s second season in the NBA, but he’s shown dramatic improvement in nearly every aspect of his game. Almost across the board, his statisitcs dwarf the numbers he put up in his first year in the league—when he was named Rookie of the Year.
“I’m not surprised,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “I saw one publication* had him as the winner of the award. It was speculation, but it’s certainly legit. t’s not a stretch. It does tend to be younger players, but not younger players of this level.
“The improvement in his game has come in really every facet. He’s become more seasoned. Every aspect of his game has been refined—his leadership skills and command he has on the floor as a leader of his teammates and of the game. It really points to the fact that he is a very special player. As much as he’s improved, he’s going to keep improving more.”
Doncic’s scoring average shot up this season. He’s averaging eight more points per game, going from 21.2 points last year to 29 points now. His rebounding and assist numbers have also improved. He’s grabbing 9.4 rebounds and dishing 8.8 assists. Last season, he averaged 7.8 and six, respectively.
His scoring numbers are indicative of the shots he chooses to take now compared to his first year in the league. Doncic lives in the paint and at the rim now. Over 49 percent of his shots come within 10 feet of the basket. What’s more, he’s an assassin from within three feet, where he connects 75.7 percent of the time.
If there is one knock to his game it’s his three-point shooting. He’s seen his average from deep fall this season. He’s shooting just 31.6 percent now compared to 32.7 percent last year.
Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram are the other two finalists. Both are having standout seasons and were named All-Stars for the first time in their careers this season—like Doncic. However, their numbers haven’t taken the same leap that Doncic’s have.
The winner will be announced on TNT—Woj or Shams will break the news first on Twitter—during their coverage of the NBA playoffs.
*Carlisle means Mavs Moneyball. Our Ryan Mainville wrote about the possibility of Doncic winning MIP back in July.