Whenever folks mention Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as the leading candidates to win this year’s NBA Most Valuable Player award, they also include Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic in that sentence.

The prestigious nod to be included among greatness is something Doncic is very appreciative of. But he also covets what Durant and Antetokounmpo already have – an NBA championship.

“Obviously those guys won MVP’s and championships,” Doncic said after Tuesday’s practice at BioSteel practice facility. “I sit here with nothing, so I’ve got a long (way) to go.

“It’s only my fourth year, but it’s always great to hear those names by your name. They’re amazing basketball players.”

Doncic also has been compared favorably to another amazing basketball player – Brooklyn’s James Harden. Asked about that comparison, Doncic said: “I think my game is my game. Everybody plays their own way. I never pay attention to this, so I don’t know.”

What Mavs coach Jason Kidd does know is that Doncic is one of the league’s prime-time players, and one of the most difficult players for opposing teams to defend. If Doncic doesn’t beat teams with his passes, he’ll beat them with his rebounding, with his step-back 3-pointer, his floater in the lane, or with finding an open teammate seemingly with eyes in the back of his head.

So how does Kidd go about improving the game of a player who appears to already have everything in his arsenal?

“He’s very talented and his basketball IQ is extremely high at 22,” Kidd said. “So to me, it’s about communication and what I see and what I hear to share that information. It’s just about gathering as much information as I can to hand off to him.Luka is in the MVP conversation

“He does a great job of being able to break down that information to be successful with it. That’s what you do, and have fun along the way. Again, he sees everything. I’m trying to see the things that he doesn’t.”

Starting with Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. regular season opener at Atlanta, Kidd is hoping Doncic sees enough to get the Mavs’ season jump-started in the right direction. Then again, Kidd has been in Doncic’s gigantic shoes.

While Doncic was the third overall pick of the 2018 draft, Kidd was the No. 2 overall pick in 1994. And while Kidd led the Mavs to the 2011 championship, he also finished second to Tim Duncan in the MVP race after he guided the Nets to the 2002 NBA Finals.

Now in his first year as the Mavs’ coach, Kidd said he doesn’t believe Doncic knows he almost captured the 2002 MVP.

“We’ve only been together for a short amount of time,” Kidd said. “There’s a lot to talk about, and as much as we would like to get it all done before recess, that bell rings and recess starts.

“So I think we’ve got plenty of time to talk about things that might be similar. But he is very talented, and the things that he does on the floor – in practice or in games – are very impressive.”

In just three short years in the NBA, Doncic has already been the 2019 Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-Star, and first-team all-NBA the past two seasons. In other words, Doncic came from Slovenia and immediately started making an impact in the most difficult basketball league in the world.

“I love his tempo — I wish I had his tempo,” Kidd said. “But we’re all different when it comes to speed or a different record or a different song that they hear.

“But it’s exciting, and my job and my coaches and his teammates are here to help him to achieve his goals, not just individually but as a team. We understand when we work backwards, it starts with that gold trophy – the championship – and then all the individual stuff will come with that.”

For Doncic, individual awards are all cool and probably look impressive on his mantel. But he’s all about collecting championships. That’s part of what he preaches to his teammates.

“The key is to win the championship,” Doncic said. “I don’t know what’s potential.”

In going 4-0 in preseason, the Mavs showed that they have some really good potential. While doing what they always do on the offensive end of the floor, they made a seismic shift defensively.

“I think we’re playing great sharing the ball,” Doncic said. “Especially on the defensive end, we’ve been way better and I think that’s the key for us to be a good defensive team.”

And when the undisputed leader of his team doesn’t flinch when talking about the need for the Mavs to start playing some serious defense, that’s sweet music to Kidd’s ears.

“I think being realistic, when you hear Luka – one of our better players – talk about defense, that’s been our message, and you can hear the players talking about it,” Kidd said. “It’s something that we need.”

Doncic even noticed the measurable strides from last season to preseason and training camp made by forward/center Kristaps Porzingis.

“He’s in a way better place now, I think, especially mentally,” Doncic said. “I think you can see on the court.

“Everybody can see it. He’s playing way better.”

As far as himself, another part of Doncic’ plans this season is displaying his leadership skills.

“I just got to speak more,’’ he said, “especially in the locker room.”Luka wants to win a title

Speaking of speak, Doncic talked fondly of the Mavs hiring Igor Kokoskov as an assistant coach over the offseason. Kokoskov was the head coach when Doncic and Slovenia captured the 2017 Euro Basket championship, and also was an assistant coach in the NBA for 19 years and the head coach of the Phoenix Suns during the 2018-’19 season.

“He’s an amazing person, and he helps us a lot,” Doncic said. “Not just me, the whole team. I think he’s been great for us.”

Doncic noted that it’s also great that he and Kokoskov – along with center Boban Marjanovic – all speak Serbian.

“It’s always nice to hear your language,” Doncic said. “I speak with (Kokoskov) in Serbian, like Bobie.

“We three speak in Serbian, so it’s great. I won a championship with him and I’ve known him a lot since then.”

Doncic just hopes that whatever Kokoskov brings to the table, it can help the Mavs collect another championship. Doncic believes the Mavs have the right players to accomplish that feat.

“We have great players on our team,” he said. “I think sharing the ball, we did it great in preseason.

“But like I said, not just me, we’ve got to be better defensively than last year. So I think that’s our goal.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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