Mavs at Suns Preview: Giving Thanks For Luka Doncic - And Those Too-Early 'MVP' Chants
Earlier this week, I touched on the concept of "MVPre-Mature'' as it relates to the brilliant Luka Doncic. Now, I do not want to get tossed out of Mavs Nation on my arse, so please hear me out when I say that it's just a tiny bit premature to start thinking of the second-year stud as "the MVP.''
And my two reasons why are named "Giannis Antetokounmpo'' and "James Harden.''
I know Luka’s great. We all know that. Everyone knows that. It's no longer about "what might his ceiling might be,'' and more about a "limitless ceiling.'' And yes, Doncic has arrived at that lofty point at light-speed.
Additionally, I also know that Luka is part of some mystical new stat category every day. As I noted in Monday Mavs Donuts, "He has the first triple-double in NBA history for a player under 25 with both a tvrdo and a meko in his name.''
Still, isn't 15-to-20 games into a season way too soon to start chanting “MVP” when he’s at the free-throw line? I mean, it's fun. But are we serious?
To be a serious-minded analyst on the matter (as opposed to all of us chanting!): It's too early for Luka-as-MVP to serve as the talking point of big-time intellectual think pieces.
And here are my Greek Freak/Harden reasons why ...
Last year James Harden of the Houston Rockets (bested by Luka and the Mavs a few days ago, by the way) produced a historical season for an offensive player. But ... He rightly finished second in the MVP voting, despite some of the most efficient offensive numbers we’ve seen - ever.
His candidacy, by the way, it is also worth remembering, saw Harden finished second in MVP voting despite the fact that his team started the 2018-2019 season 9-11. The idea that he’d ever climb back into the MVP race on a team playing that poorly seemed crazy. By the end of the season, he had a puncher’s chance of winning only because these things aren’t decided in the first 15 games. (This is an important note, I think, because while Dallas is off to a fine start, it suggests that MVP candidacy isn't limited to members of teams with super-elite records.)
But Harden didn’t win. And he didn’t deserve to win. Why? Because Giannis Antetokounmpo was also one of the top offensive players in the NBA last season, and capped that distinction off with a second-place finish as Defensive Player of the Year (which he lost to Rudy Gobert).
This season, Giannis is even better on offense, and he’s still a defensive force. Luka has a long way to go on the defensive end to really eat into the MVP votes of someone like Giannis, whether that’s fun to admit or not.
Do I think Luka will get (and deserve) votes? Sure, and the campaign continues tonight in Phoenix against an improved Suns team led by another electric backcourt standout in Devin Booker. Dallas (11-6) at the Suns (8-9) won't feature the suspended DeAndre Ayton, who was taken ahead of Luka in the 2018 NBA Draft but this year played just one game before absorbing a 25-game suspension for taking a banned diuretic. But Booker carries an All-Star-level load as he averages 24.9 points, 6.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds per ... numbers that aren't quite Luka-level (he's at 30.1 points, 10 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game) ... but impressive nevertheless.
Said coach Rick Carlisle: “Phoenix is much improved. They have more toughness, hard playing guys. They’re hungry. That’s a really good test for us. We have not played well in Phoenix the last four years. So that’s a challenge.”
Do I think Luka - I mean, look at those numbers again! - is going to jump from Rookie of the Year last season to All-Star Game this season? Yes. But serious analysis of his MVP candidacy needs more time to bloom.
Less-serious analysis? Oh, OK, let's be thankful on this holiday and go ahead and watch Mavs-at-Suns tonight at 8 p.m. CT ... and once the Mavs come home, keep chanting.