Kia NBA MVP Race: The case for Luka Doncic to win the award | 2020-21 NBA season

Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic

Had the Dallas Mavericks started the season healthy and in their current form, perhaps Luka Doncic would be rivaling his friend Nikola Jokic for the NBA MVP award.

Given their considerable preseason hype, the Mavs flattered to deceive as they went 8-12 in their opening twenty fixtures while the 22-year-old saw his hopes for the award dwindle.

Since then, however, Dallas have gone 29-16 (7th-best record in that time) and are currently fighting the LA Lakers for the fifth seed in the West. Luka Doncic has been the spearhead during that run, which has rekindled the debate pertaining to his chances for the NBA MVP award.

In this article, we will examine the Slovenian's season so far and pose the argument as to why he is deserving of the award.

Why Luka Doncic is a legitimate contender for the NBA MVP

Luka Doncic was on fire against the Washington Wizards
Luka Doncic was on fire against the Washington Wizards

Brought over from Europe's tough basketball theater, Doncic was only a teenager when he arrived in Dallas, though he settled into the league instantly. As a result of his brilliance, we have become accustomed to his regular 30+ point games and triple-double numbers.

However, it is easy to forget that Luka Doncic is only in his third season in the NBA.

Although he is scoring fewer points and grabbing lesser boards, Doncic has more assists this campaign and is shooting the ball at a more effective rate. Among the league's most frequent shooters (taking more than 20 attempts per game), he ranks 2nd among seven for accuracy.

More importantly for his NBA MVP candidacy, though, is the fact that he has carried the Mavs up to the fifth seed.

Luka Doncic has done so with his incredible scoring and all-round ability to run the Mavs offense. Last year, Luka recorded 17 triple-doubles - the highest in the league. Meanwhile, this campaign, he has not been far behind on 10 and even outshone Mr. Triple-double himself, Russell Westbrook, at the weekend.

In a one-point win against the Wizards, Doncic put up a statline of 31-20-12, becoming the first Dallas player to put up a 20+ assist triple-double in franchise history.

To win the game and edge over into 20 assists, becoming only the sixth player in league history to do so, Luka Doncic drew a double-team before kicking it out to Dorian Finney-Smith, who drilled home the game winner.


Trusting his teammates has been pivotal to Luka Doncic's success this season. He had to lead the Mavs when they lacked scoring consistency and while his right-hand man, Kristaps Porzingis, was sidelined.

He ranks 4th in the league for assists at 8.9 per game, though was averaging as much as 10.3 a night in January when the Dallas Mavericks were struggling.

Luka Doncic's improved defense will also weigh into the voting for the NBA MVP award. At times in the bubble, the point guard's effort was simply not good enough and certainly not what the Dallas Mavericks need if they are to make a deeper run in the playoffs.

This campaign, though, Doncic has continued to average a steal per game and has a higher defensive win share than last year (2.4). Continuing to improve this aspect of his game will be crucial to the Slovenian's future hopes of a title and an NBA MVP trophy.

He is more physical with larger wings and is better at keeping the ballhandler in front of him than he was in his first two seasons.

Luka Doncic has several other attributes that rank him above other contenders for the NBA MVP. Firstly, his durability. Doncic has missed only six games all year, of which the Dallas Mavericks have lost four. That's less than Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry and a lot less than Joel Embiid.

Then there's the 'Luka Magic' effect. In the fourth quarter of games, Doncic ranks 16th for points and 7th for assists. During that quarter, he ranks 5th for points within the last four seconds of the shot clock.

In the clutch, Doncic shoots at 45.9% from the field and 83% from the line. On top of all that, he is no stranger to a buzzer beater to win the game.

For a 22-year-old, Luka Doncic is incredibly confident and willing to take the blame and defensive attention for the Dallas Mavericks. He has clear NBA MVP credentials this campaign and is one of the most well-rounded players in the league.

The sky is the limit for him and he could create history for the Mavs, following in the footsteps of fellow European Dirk Nowitzki.

Don't be surprised to see a scoring barrage from him in the playoffs and should he lose out on the award to Nikola Jokic, he may yet have the last laugh in a first-round matchup.

Quick Links

Edited by Rohit Mishra