In just three NBA seasons, Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic has taken the league by storm, averaging 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.7. assists while cementing the nickname “Luka Legend” for his late-game heroics.
Rookie of the Year in 2019, Doncic has twice been named First Team All-NBA, something that Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson—still the gold standard for point guards—could not even claim till after his fifth season. Last February, in fact, following a 28-foot, game-winning three at the buzzer against Boston, Magic himself tweeted about Doncic’s undeniable greatness:
Luka Dončić’s game-winning three-pointer against the Celtics last night further proves why he is a once-in-a-lifetime player & MVP candidate. The Mavericks have one of the most explosive offenses in the league led by Coach Rick Carlisle, and once the Mavericks defense catches up, they’re going to be contending for NBA Championships for years to come!
Carlisle, of course, is no longer with the team, replaced this offseason by another legendary point guard, Jason Kidd, but Doncic’s prospects clearly remain astronomical.
In the NBA’s annual general manager survey, the results of which were published Tuesday and asked general managers to weigh in on a variety of speculative questions about teams and players, Doncic’s name showed up all over the place. But his most prominent positioning came in response to a question that no doubt resides near and dear to all general manager’s hearts:
If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?
With 43% of the votes, Doncic placed first in the voting.
Doncic Appears All Over Survey Results
Of course, Doncic appearing at the top of the league’s franchise wishlist is unsurprising. After all, he’s just 22 years old and recent research by Vice suggests that NBA players do not reach their prime until 26 or 27.
He’s also proven to be pretty durable in his short career, missing an average of just 10 games per season despite being Dallas’s primary ball-handler, their clear number one option and often finding his points in the paint. By comparison, New Orleans’ Zion Williamson, who received the seventh most votes in that category, missed all but 24 games his rookie year, 11 last season and broke his foot while working out early this summer.
(According to RealGM, an April 2020 ESPN poll of 20 NBA coaches, scouts and executives that asked the same question also had Doncic in the first spot, followed by Williamson who some executives later admitted would’ve been number one if not for health concerns.)
So while it’s not surprising that an early-20s, 6-foot-7 point guard who is already strong but certainly has room to get stronger is a much-coveted asset, perhaps even more telling of Doncic’s reverence around the league is where he showed up elsewhere in the survey (first place in parenthesis):
MVP: 2nd place, 33% (Kevin Durant, 37%)
Best Point Guard: 3rd place, 13% (Stephen Curry, 57%)
Best Shooting Guard: 3rd place, 10% (James Harden, 63%)
Best Small Forward: 5th place, no percentage given (Durant, 67%)
Best International Player: 2nd place, 27% (Giannis Antetokounmpo, 68%)
Best Passer: 4th place, 7% (LeBron James, 33%)
Most Versatile: 4th place, 7% (James, 57%)
Best Basketball IQ: 3rd place, 10% (James, 53%)
Game on the Line Shooter: 4th place, 7% (Durant, 41%)
It’s quite a showing for Doncic, especially considering that, aside from Williamson, he is the youngest player named in any category that didn’t specifically involve rookies or breakout candidates. Doncic was also the only player to show up in each of the best point guard, shooting guard and small forward categories.
And, as perhaps a source of pride for Dallas’ front office, the draftee the Mavs traded to get Doncic back in 2018, Atlanta’s Trae Young, only appeared in the survey as the league’s ninth-best passer—still five slots behind Doncic.
Winning Matters Most
But as any fan will and presumably Doncic himself will attest, all the accolades in the world are meaningless if the team is not winning, which has been a problem for Dallas in recent postseasons. They’ve has been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, despite otherworldly series performances by their star floor leader.
That’s why getting Doncic some help was a top priority for the Mavericks this offseason. They didn’t land a big fish, but they did manage to add former Knicks shooting guard Reggie Bullock, who should provide much-needed help on defense, and underrated Thunder center Moses Brown to help on the boards.
It remains to be seen if Bullock and Brown — in addition to a returning lineup featuring Tim Hardaway, Jr., Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith and a reportedly healthy Kristaps Porzingis — will be enough to get Dallas over the top this year, but Wednesday’s preseason opener against Utah showed that Doncic is at least in midseason form.
Against the Jazz, who opted to sit most of their frontline players, Doncic scored 19 points in just 15 minutes, shooting 8-for-10 from the field while registering six rebounds and five assists in a Mavericks win.