Despite the risk of hyperbole devolving into hot take, I’ll say it: Year 6 Luka Dončić looks a lot like 1988-89 Michael Jordan, or 2007-08 LeBron James. I’m not saying he’s better than either of the GOATs. It’s simply impossible to watch what he’s doing, how he’s still improving, and think any other young perimeter player is close to his level.
His three-point accuracy has reached a clip that would put him in the range of a 50-40-90 shooter. If he continues on this pace, that 48-38-78 split would be a career high to go along with personal bests in points (33.7) and assists (9.2). Dončić’s individual greatness is officially being overlooked.
There are multiple reasons for that, No. 1 among them is a lack of team success. It’s funny how quickly people forget that the Dallas Mavericks put Chris Paul in early retirement two years ago. I mean, that’ll happen when you intentionally miss the play-in and get fined for it, but still.
The front office’s solution to its talent deficiency was to bring in a less-reliable facsimile of a player who walked in free agency the offseason prior. Only this shoot-first guard hasn’t displayed an interest in winning, or basketball, in like five years.
Speaking of Kyrie Irving, his rehab from a heel contusion is going well, according to head coach Jason Kidd, who also declined to give a timetable for his point guard’s return during Wednesday’s update. Wonderful! The Mavs could’ve used Irving’s services during a 113-110 meltdown against a Cleveland Cavaliers group that was without Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley last night. Blowing a 20-point first-half lead at home is one thing, but getting cooked by Caris Lavert is where I draw the line.
Dallas has lost five of its past eight and appears headed toward Western Conference purgatory once again. The narrative surrounding Dončić is a lot of his own doing. Pundits hate empty stats as much as they hate empty calories. His usage, play style and weight apathy have drawn comparisons to James Harden.
So why did I lead this piece by putting Luka in the same breath as LeBron and MJ? Probably because I’m a moron, but he’s only 24. Harden was a fully formed player when he started amassing stats like the Hamburglar does McDoubles.
I agree that Dončić’s numbers can come at the expense of his teammates finding a rhythm. Did that lead to Jalen Bruson’s exit or Kristaps Porziņģis fluctuating health? Maybe to the first, no to the latter. Brunson had an opportunity to be the de facto first option for his hometown team, and is still just a 6-foot-2 score-first point guard. Porziņģis is now the fourth-best player on Boston.
Remember when LeBron went to the Miami Heat and some people said he might not even be the best player on the team because Dwyane Wade had a ring? Remember how f*cking stupid that was? That’s what I think of whenever someone throws Jayson Tatum’s name into an MVP discussion before Dončić.
Not one more word about Devin Booker. Or Anthony Edwards either. Mark Cuban is out here squashing the hopes of Shark Tank contestants while simultaneously thinking Christian Wood and Kyrie Irving are running mates worthy of Dončić’s talent. The Mavericks’ current head coach once intentionally spilled a Diet Coke on the court because he was out of timeouts.
Forgive me if I find the notion absurd that Dončić isn’t a winner. He’s an above-average roster away from giving MVP voters an epiphany and trying to retcon their ballots. The reason I picked out those specific years of LeBron and Jordan’s careers? There was a time when fans and talking heads began questioning what they were so obviously witnessing with those two all-time greats, too.
Stop doing that. Luka Dončić is a basketball savant and it’s only a matter of opportunity until he reaches the sport’s pinnacle.