Since his sophomore season in the NBA, Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic has been considered a top contender for the MVP award.

In the last three seasons, the preseason polls have had Doncic as either the favorite or at least top-3. But, despite the early season hype, the closest Doncic has come to even finishing top-3 in votes was back during the 2019-20 season. He would finish 4th in MVP votes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the eventual winner.

Now Doncic is in Year 5 with the Dallas Mavericks coming off a run to the Western Conference Finals. Through 13 games, he has gotten off to a historic start, and things are starting to align.

We are nearly a month into the NBA season, and the MVP is off to a strong start as guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Stephen Curry, and Ja Morant all fight for the top spot. But in the NBA’s 77th season, all things are pointing to #77 himself making that season-long push that will lead him to hoist the first MVP trophy of his young career.

For starters, here are some of the impressive feats that Doncic has accomplished so far this season:

·  34.4 PPG (leads the league), 8.8 RPG (24th in the league, only guard in the top 25), and 7.8 APG (7th in the league).

·  Leads the league in Player Efficiency Rating at 33.40, the next highest being Giannis Antetokounmpo at 29.74.

·  Dominating the league in Isolation scoring as he has scored 115 points in 114 isolation possessions; Next highest is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with only 83 points in 82 isolation possessions.

·  Had a streak of nine games straight with 30+ points which was the second most to start a season behind only Wilt Chamberlain.

·  Recorded his 4th career 40-point triple-double with 42 points, 13 rebounds, and ten assists in the win over the Portland Trailblazers; Only the 6th player in NBA history with at least four 40+ point triple-doubles.

The counting stats look good, but they don’t tell the entire story.

Let’s look at the usage rate, which calculates the percentage of a team’s plays used by a player while they are on the floor. In other words, how often does the ball go through this guy to create offense? This key stat accounts for when trying to decipher how much a player is relied on them and helps define an MVP candidate’s “value” to a team.

Through 13 games, Doncic is tied for the highest usage rate in the league at 38.6% with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has only played ten games. Now let’s compare this usage to the highest usage percentage of the last five MVP winners:

·  Stephen Curry’s 32.6% in his 2015-16 campaign ranks 12th amongst all MVP seasons

·  Russell Westbrook’s 41.5% in his 2016-17 campaign ranks 1st amongst all MVP seasons

·  James Harden’s 35.9% in his 2017-18 campaign ranks 3rd amongst all MVP seasons

·  Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 37.3% in his 2019-20 campaign ranks 2nd amongst all MVP seasons

·  Nikola Jokic’s 31.8% last season ranks 17th among all MVP seasons

A common denominator between all these MVPs is that they were putting up crazy stat lines while performing at around 32% usage or higher. If the season ended today, Doncic’s usage rate of 38.6% would jump Giannis Antetokounmpo and take the 2nd spot amongst all MVP seasons.

Now pair this insanely high usage with the fact that Doncic has the highest real plus-minus (a player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance) in the league at 9.77. For context, the next highest is Stephen Curry at only 8.80, and Jayson Tatum is right behind at 8.34.

With all that in mind, Doncic has been the most impactful offensive player in the league thus far. After last night’s victory over the LA Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks currently are 5th in the West with a record of 8-5. The Mavericks are top-10 in offensive rating (10th and net rating (7th) despite Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie being the only starters averaging double-digit points.

No matter what individual offensive statistic you look at, Luka Doncic is somewhere at the top of the list and has to be because the Mavericks are devoid of real shot-creators aside from him. That’s even with the addition of Christian Wood as an offensive punch off the bench.

This team has and is heavily dependent on Doncic to win games in ways that probably only Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant can relate to this season. If Doncic can lead Dallas to a top-5 seed in a rough Western Conference with this isolation-heavy playstyle, there will be nobody with a better case for MVP come season’s end. 

Jalon Dixon
Jalon Dixon

BSL Analyst

Hi there! My name is Jalon Dixon, but most people just call me Jay. As an aspiring, young sports writer and podcaster, I enjoy discussing sports (mainly basketball and football) and sharing my knowledge with others. Growing up right in the middle of Towson University, Morgan State, Goucher College and others, I have gotten the chance to learn so much about a handful of the different athletic teams that thrive here in Baltimore. I want to be the voice of local fans and teams that may not get the same spotlight as others, but still play a big part in our everyday lives. My motto is “Always Embrace Conversation,” so if you ever want to give me feedback on a piece or even just have a friendly sports debate, feel free to email me! Hope you enjoy my work and maybe even learn something along the way.