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Luka Doncic is playing like the MVP

The Mavericks star has been otherworldly this season. Why is he not being recognized as a top MVP candidate?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

Just when you think you can’t be wowed anymore by Luka Doncic’s greatness, he proves you wrong. The Mavericks star has been spectacular this season and is the engine that keeps this team moving. Doncic has led Dallas to an impressive 16-10 start to the season, proving to many in the basketball world that they were wrong about him and these Mavericks. During these 26 games, he averaged 32.7 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists per game. Night in and night out, Doncic has put up numbers that look like an NBA 2K MyCareer stat line, making it look easy for him.

The In-Season Tournament has come to an end and now that a quarter of the 23-24 season has passed, MVP conversations are ramping up, with reigning MVP Joel Embiid and Finals MVP Nikola Jokic being in the mix for the award. It’s time to throw Doncic’s name into the race, as he has been stellar this season with the Mavericks currently in third place in the Western Conference.

Doncic has been viewed as the “favorite” to win the award for several years now, so let’s talk about what he has done this season to bring the trophy home and why he has yet to receive recognition in the race.

Offseason Improvements

Doncic’s body and conditioning have been a major talking point with the Mavericks for several years. Discussions of, “if he doesn’t take his body seriously, the Mavericks will never find success” have been plentiful. Anze Macek, the Slovenian national team trainer who spent the summer with Doncic as he prepared for the World Cup, stated that Doncic has shown signs of “different thinking” regarding his conditioning and diet. Perhaps the way last season ended left a sour taste in his mouth after the Mavericks missed the playoffs.

Whatever the motivator may be that led Doncic to hone in on taking care of his body, it’s worked. He appears to be in better shape this season and is moving around easier on the floor. The key is whether or not he can maintain that through the course of the 82-game season.

Availability

Doncic has missed just one game this season due to the birth of his child. He has yet to miss a game for rest and is on pace to play 78 games this year. While it seems expected for him to miss a couple of games for rest, his availability has been impressive as he is playing 36.8 minutes per game and is bearing the second-highest usage rate in the league at 35.2%. Doncic knows that the Mavericks’ success hinges on his availability and has given them the best chance at winning when he is on the floor.

Shooting

Doncic has improved tremendously as a shooter this season. He has made 98 three-pointers this year, second in the league behind Stephen Curry. Doncic is averaging a career-high in three-point attempts (10.1) and three-point field goal efficiency (37.9%). He is driving to the rim less frequently than in years past and is making his defenders pay more from behind the arc. One has to wonder if this is to conserve his body through the course of a long and vigorous 82-game season. If this is the case, it’s working because his shots are falling and he has only missed one game.

As the season trudges on, it’ll be interesting to see how his shooting numbers pan out.

Father Time is treating him right

There’s a fascinating phenomenon where NBA players who are new fathers have seen a boost in their performance. Guys like Fred VanVleet, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Derrick White have seen these boosts in past seasons. Doncic welcomed his daughter into the world on Dec. 1. Since then, he has averaged 36.4 points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists per game with the Mavericks winning five out of those seven games entering the Denver game on Monday. He’s currently second in the league in consecutive 30-point games at 10, behind Embiid with 11. Doncic’s surge in production on the floor has been critical to the Mavericks in a time where they have struggled with injury luck with guys like Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, and Dereck Lively missing time.

Is he being penalized for the Mavericks missing the playoffs?

NBA.com’s recent MVP Ladder has Doncic in fifth place in the award race. Is it possible that he is being penalized by members of the national media due to the Mavericks missing the playoffs last year? For an award that is essentially narrative-driven, this may be the case. With that being said, it would be unfair to hold that against Doncic in a new season where he has put up unreal numbers while the Mavericks are winning games. His presence is felt night after night and he has the numbers to prove it. The MVP race should be based on the current season, and Doncic has the numbers and the wins for consideration.

The Mavericks superstar should undoubtedly be deeply considered as the league’s MVP. He’s the engine that keeps the Mavericks rolling, and the Mavericks have turned heads with their surprising start to the season. If the Mavericks continue to add to their win column, it will be difficult to leave him out of finalist conversations. Doncic has had an incredible run this season that has left many in awe countless times. It’s stretches like his current that leave Mavericks fans feeling lucky that they get to see something as special as Doncic on a nightly basis.