On the show Road Trippin’, hosted by Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and Allie Clifton, Luka Doncic was highly praised as one of the most talented players to ever play the game. They also were slightly more positive about the team’s progression around Luka and Nico Harrison’s outlook on team building than some other media members.
First, they talk about thinking Dallas will finish better than another popular regression candidate, Memphis, and it was hard to miss the underlying belief that no matter how good Ja Morant is, Luka is a bit different. While Frye suggested Christian Wood and Tim Hardaway Jr. make up for the loss of Jalen Brunson, Jefferson laughed at the idea that “Luka Magic”, as he put it, isn’t enough.
He described there being “Seven, maybe eight players ever” who see the game in such a way, suggesting Luka’s talent “is on LeBron’s level.” They weren’t making a crazy proclamation that he’s there now, and he also noted that Luka’s athleticism might not allow him to have the same singular mix of longevity and peak that Lebron does, but the implication was that it’s their basketball minds that put them in rare company. It’s something our fanbase has always realized–that Luka has been ahead of schedule, and his ceiling knows no bounds.
Channing Frye also noted that he’s known Nico since he was nineteen, and spoke with him about the Maverick’s future. Nico told Frye that he “has to be patient with who he surrounds Luka with.” The two former players shared a perception that the Mavericks are on an upward trajectory that isn’t done building, and they agreed with Nico that with someone as special as Luka, you can’t add just anyone.
The idea is he’s young and not even in his prime, and who he’ll enter that prime with is a delicate process. In the NBA, trades for stars often involve so many future picks that you get one shot every four or five years. Though the Mavericks have been asset-poor, they also haven’t engaged in rashly chasing the high of last year’s success by adding just any player at the expense of future flexibility.
I do think the Mavericks need more talent, and that not every co-star will be a clean fit, so patience will only get you so far. I believe, because of cap and asset mismanagement of the past, the fanbase has a right to feel a little impatient. When you have someone like Luka, the expectations and timeline of contention are raised.
On the other hand, the Kristaps Porzingis trade is a recent and obvious example of how you can’t microwave the process, pushing too many chips in before Luka had even come of age on an oft-injured and flawed player (who’s fit ended up being flawed as well, though few NBA prognosticators even saw that coming). The biggest test of Nico’s tenure will be the moves after this year that set up the Mavericks core through the end of Luka’s contract. Considering Luka’s aforementioned ceiling, it’s fair to call those moves the most consequential in the history of the franchise.
The two former players reconfirmed something us fans know very well. That while the front office hasn’t figured out all the pieces to the puzzle, Luka himself is good enough to win a title right now, and we should expect nothing less as long as he’s around.