Dallas Mavericks: Deep Playoff Run, Luka MVP?
Luka Doncic MVP Campaign
Is Luka Doncic making an argument for an MVP award in his second year in the league? The Dallas Mavericks’ hot start to the season has to raise the possibility. Doncic’s averages of roughly 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists a game are among the top of the league. Even more impressive, the Mavericks are 19-10 and only have lost three games on the road.
At just twenty years old, Luka has led this team to a historic start as they are on pace to win 50+ games this season. It is important to note that the Mavericks are not just beating “sub .500” teams. Before his injury, Luka led the team to quality wins over the Nuggets, Rockets, Raptors, and the Lakers.
Luka is incredibly dangerous on pick & roll and isolation drives. At 6’7, he is very versatile and crafty in terms of finishing around the rim or finding the open man. On drives to the basket, Doncic has the highest percentage of made baskets at over 65%. Yes, that is higher than Russel Westbrook, James Harden, and Lebron James. His highly efficient ability to score going toward the basket is complimented by a team with elite spacing. People are noticing his success as he is being labeled a top three MVP candidate by many sources and on the verge of receiving a massive shoe deal from Jordan.
The Dallas Mavericks are rated as the most efficient offensive team and are in the top three in points per game and three pointers made. Going into the game against Miami, the Mavericks were sitting at a respectable 17-7 record and team chemistry appeared to be at all time high. Then, the worst thing occurred. Luka went down early with ankle injury.
Team Without Doncic
After trailing by over twenty-four points in the first half, the team, led by a deep bench, forced overtime and almost won the game against a talented Heat team. It was estimated that Doncic would have to miss about two weeks worth of games. This was a not taken well by fans because the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, and Raptors were the next teams to face.
Little did Mavericks fans know, the team would not skip a beat. Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis, and Seth Curry, have all significantly stepped up in Doncic’s absence. Maxi Kleber has also contributed by spreading the floor on offense and playing excellent defense.
Impressively, Porzingis has totaled at least 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks over the last five games. With Doncic being out, Porzingis is seeming to find his confidence as he is finishing drives with dunks and making contested three pointers. Porzingis has been the most consistent Maverick while Luka has been out. The Mavericks will be dangerous if Porzingis can sustain the all-star caliber play after Doncic returns.
Last Five Games
In possibly the toughest stretch of games of the season, the Mavericks forced overtime with the Heat, narrowly lost to the Celtics, lost a heart breaker against the Raptors, defeated the 76ers by nearly twenty points, and broke the Bucks’ impressive winning streak on the road.
The Mavericks have to hold the record for the most “near wins” as they have been within single digits every opponent, except the Clippers, going into the last four minutes of the game. This can be viewed in two ways. First, the Mavericks can not close games. Second, they are good enough to put themselves in a position to win every time they step on the floor.
The second is the most likely because the Mavericks are third in the league in third quarter net rating. This illustrates that Dallas puts themselves in a good position entering the fourth quarter of each game. With that being said, closing games has also been an issue. Allowing forty-seven fourth quarter points against the Raptors is a perfect example of this. Turnovers off the Raptors’ press led to poor transition defense and ultimately the loss. Additionally, Dallas tends to settle for jump shots down the stretch instead of attacking the basket. As the team grows together, these mistakes will be corrected.
Regardless of Luka’s injury, Dallas is playing well and has a solid cushion of five games from the eight seed. This gives the team no reason to worry going forward. The rest of the league should prepare because they will be determined to mount a push for playoff home court advantage as Doncic returns.
The Dallas Mavericks are doing well for a team that was supposed to be good “in a couple of years.” The chemistry and depth of the team, paired with Luka’s leadership, is enough to finish in the top four in the western conference and clinch first round home court advantage.
Over the last fourteen games, the Mavericks had a challenging schedule and was plagued with Luka’s injury. Mavericks fans can not be frustrated with the 9-5 finish going into Christmas. While losing a heartbreaker in overtime with the Heat is upsetting and blowing a 85-55 lead against the Raptors is frustrating, the Mavericks have significantly outperformed expectations from the beginning of the season. Dallas proved over this stretch of games that they can compete against anyone in the league, begging the question if they can compete for a title as early as this season.
If the Dallas Mavericks can remain healthy for the rest of the season and receive a few favorable matchups, it would not be unfathomable for them to legitimately make a run for the NBA Finals and for Luka to win the MVP. Luka is expected to return within the next couple of games. He will be as determined as ever and the team will be ready to push forward to the playoffs.
The Mavericks will be back in action on December 26 against the Spurs at 8:00 PM EST.
Follow me on Twitter at @elyOsborne10 for all of my articles and updates on all things Mavericks
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