Luka Doncic has the chance to do something that’s never been done before.
Having won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honor last season, the Mavericks’ point guard now is one of the three finalists for this year’s Kia Most Improved Player award.
Nobody’s ever won both in NBA history.
Doncic was named a finalist along with Miami’s Bam Adebayo and New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram as the league announced the top three players in each of the individual award categories.
And coach Rick Carlisle has some good news for Mavericks fans – bad news for the rest of the NBA.
“As much as he’s improved,” Carlisle said, “he’s going to keep improving more.”
Doncic was not among the MVP finalists despite his league-leading 16 triple-doubles this season. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Lakers’ LeBron James and Houston’s James Harden are the finalists for MVP.
The 6-7 Slovenian has averaged 29 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. Those numbers are up from 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists per game as a rookie.
Doncic’s increase of 7.8 points per game is the third most of any rookie of the year behind Bob McAdoo’s 12.2-point increase in 1974 and Rick Barry’s 9.9-point increase in 1967.
“I’m not surprised,” Carlisle said of Doncic being an MIP finalist. “I saw one publication had him as the winner of the award. It was speculation, but it’s legit – certainly not a stretch.
“The improvement in his game has come really in every facet. He’s become more seasoned, every aspect of his game has been refined. His leadership skills . . . obviously a very special player. We know statistically he’s going to produce a lot. But ultimately, the No. 1 thing with him is winning.”
All three of the finalists for most-improved are well-qualified.
Adebayo has keyed Miami’s resurgence this season with 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. That’s up from 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 2018-19, which was his second season in the league.
Ingram, the Pelicans’ 6-7 swingman who was acquired from the LA Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade, averages 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists. That’s up from 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3 assists per game in 2018-19 with the Lakers.
All Doncic has done is lead the NBA with 16 triple doubles.
“He’s really the focal point for what they do offensively,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He and (Kristaps) Porzingis together form a very unique and dynamic duo that’s unique with their size, unique with their shooting ability, their skill. They’re really good.”