Any argument about who should be in the conversation for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award this season should include Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic.
That’s the question that was posed to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle after Tuesday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. Carlisle paused before answering, then said: “I don’t get into awards stuff. But, yes.
“Look, those things always come down to how much you win, no matter what you’re talking about, whether it’s All-Star berths, MVP awards, all-defense, all that stuff. If you’re on a winning team, that makes a huge difference.”
Doncic made a huge difference Monday night against San Antonio when he stuffed the stat sheet with a career-high 42 points to go with 11 rebounds and 12 assists. It was his NBA-high sixth triple-double of the season and marked the first time a member of the Mavs has registered a triple-double which included that player scoring at least 40 points.
“Luka is playing like an MVP-caliber player right now,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “He’s just doing things, penetrating, drawing fouls, being super effective for us, shooting the ball well.
“He’s doing it all for us and I’m happy that he’s able to play at this level right now.”
Monday’s triple-double by Doncic was the second ever by a player under 21 years old in NBA history when that player scored at least 40 points. LeBron James was 20 years and 100 days old when he picked up 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists during a game on Apr. 9, 2005, while Doncic was 20 years and 263 days old when he used his power-packed triple-double to help the Mavs zoom to a 117-110 win over the Spurs.
Houston’s James Harden, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers are the other players on the MVP short list at this early stage of the season.
Doncic is fourth in the league in scoring (29.5), 10th in rebounds (10.7), second in assists (9.3), and tied for 11th in 3-pointers made per game (2.8). Yet, he shies away when the conversation of him being an MVP candidate pops up.
“I just want to see my team win games,” he said. “I’m all about winning games.”
Obviously, whatever Doncic does on the court opens up avenues for his teammates to explore.
“I mean, he’s putting up MVP-type numbers,” guard Jalen Brunson said. “He’s doing great for us, and also we’re winning.
“I think that’s the most important thing in his mind, too, is that we’re winning. If he feels like he’s doing whatever it takes to win, then obviously he’s one of the most valuable players.”
Doncic, who has missed two other triple-doubles this season by one assist and two assists, respectively, was the runaway winner for NBA Rookie of the Year last season as he grabbed 98 of the 100 first-place votes. In this season’s first 13 games, he’s reaching even higher.
Although he didn’t make the All-Star team last year, Doncic finished second in the balloting by the fans to play in that All-Star game. And that came a year after he was named the Most Valuable Player in the EuroLeague and in the EuroLeague Final Four.
“He’s having a phenomenal year,” Carlisle said. “I don’t know how else to characterize it.
“His ability to balance the paint game with the outside game makes it really tough to deal with for opponents. And he’s on a really great roll right now.”