It was 354 days ago that Luka Dončić stood at the podium on media day and said he’d love to lead the NBA in assists during his second season in the league.

Everything else, he figured, would come in due time.

Due time continues to come in a hurry for the Mavericks’ second-year point guard.

Dončić didn’t win the assist title this season, but he did average 8.8 helpers per game, good enough for third in the league behind LeBron James and Trae Young.

The 6-7 Slovenian’s numbers – add on 28.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game to the assist total – and it’s easy to see how, on Friday, Dončić finished fourth in the media balloting for the league’s MVP award.

He was behind only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won his second MVP in a row, the Lakers’ LeBron James and Houston’s James Harden.

The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard was fifth, followed by the Lakers’ Anthony Davis.

This is a significant milestone in Dončić’s career, but not one that will light up the list of highlights a decade from now. Or even a year from now.

Bigger fish to fry, as they say.

But it says a lot that Dončić finished ahead of Leonard and Davis. He clearly is on the radar of national media members, which will go a long way toward building his reputation in the future.

This very well could be the start of the baton handoff from the LeBron-Durant-Harden generation to the Luka-Young-Giannis generation (although, yes, Antetokounmpo already has bridged that generation gap, if there was one).

There will be a new pod of superstars taking over for the group that has dominated the game for the past decade and may continue to be heard from for a few more years. The only certainty in life is that Father Time is undefeated. Soon, LeBron will fade into retirement, just as Dirk Nowitzki and other greats have.

Then, it will be Luka’s league. And Zion Williamson’s. And Jamal Murray’s.

For now, Luka has served notice with his fourth-place MVP finish that he’s ready for his climb up the ladder of domination. He also joins Dirk as the only Mavericks ever to finish in the top five of MVP voting. Dirk, of course, won it in 2007.

Luka no doubt will be joining Nowitzki on many lists before he’s done. This is just another harbinger of things to come.

Twitter: @ESefko


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