Is Mavericks Star Luka Doncic a Top-5 NBA Player?

Luka Doncic

Getty Luka Doncic shows emotion after a dunk against the LA Clippers in the playoffs.

Even at age 22, Luka Doncic is one of the best players in the NBA. The young star does it all for the Dallas Mavericks and should be an MVP candidate in the 2021-22 season. 

In fact, Doncic is the betting favorite to win the award this season, which would make him the youngest MVP since Derrick Rose in the 2010-11 season. 

With that in mind, where does Doncic rank among his superstar peers in the NBA? ESPN and Sports Illustrated released their rankings of top 100 players in the NBA in late September. Both lists pinned Doncic as a top-six player in the entire league, which is extremely high praise for his age. 

ESPN listed Doncic as the fourth-best player in the NBA for the second consecutive season, while Sports Illustrated ranked him sixth this season, three spots higher than they had him in 2020. 

Doncic is a generational talent, but what makes him so special?

Elevating Teammates

The best players in the NBA have a knack for making their team better, irrespective of their individual stats. It’s about elevating their teammates and getting the most out of them to help impact winning. 

For starters, Doncic produced 8.6 assists per game, getting his teammates the ball in a position to score. His 567 assists put him at fifth in the NBA in the 2020-21 season. 

The Mavericks as a team were the fifth-worst in the NBA last season in terms of assists, with just 22.9 per game. With that in mind, Doncic accounted for over 37.5% of his team’s assists last season. Not only was he Dallas’ best scorer, but also their best passer and facilitator. 

Luka Doncic

GettyLuka Doncic shows frustration during a playoff game against the LA Clippers.

When Doncic rested during games last season, the Mavericks tended to struggle. This was because Doncic was the team’s best scorer and facilitator, so the offense simply dropped off when he wasn’t on the floor. The Mavericks look like a completely different team without Doncic on the court, which is why he’s considered one of the best players in the NBA. He’s a true difference-maker who makes everyone else and the team so much better.

Effortless Scoring

Doncic not only gets his teammates involved and makes them better, but he also has the ability to score with ease. Last season, the superstar guard averaged 27.7 points per contest. He did this while shooting a career-high 35.0% from beyond the arc. 

With the modern NBA continuing to shift towards a heavier 3-point shooting league, Doncic has been willing to integrate those shots into his game. Last season, he attempted 548 3-pointers. If he is able to continue improving on his shot making from deep, his scoring will only continue to rise. 

While Doncic scored fewer points per game last season than he did the season prior, his efficiency rose as he improved his field goal shooting from 46.3% to 47.9%. 

Doncic can truly score from anywhere on the floor. He’s proven to be effective from beyond the arc, in the mid-range and near the rim. His scoring attack is balanced all over the floor. 

In fact, last season Doncic scored 40.0% of his points in the paint, 31.5% from beyond the arc, 18.8% from the free throw line and 9.7% of his points in the mid-range. 

What’s most impressive about Doncic and his scoring ability is that he’s able to do it in isolation situations. In fact, 86.4% of his made shots last season were unassisted. Among players that played at least ten minutes per game for the Mavericks last season, this was the highest unassisted field goal rate of anyone on the team by a wide margin of 25.4%. 

Although he’s only 22 years old, there’s a reason Doncic is considered a top-five player. When the Mavericks need a bucket, he’s able to go get it.

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