Remember that tweet that warned GMs about drafting Luka Doncic? ‘Don’t get fired for drafting this guy.’ Two years later, Luka is an MVP candidate, and a GM was literally fired for not drafting him.
The Dallas Mavericks had a rocky start to their season. Championship aspirations aside, the possibility of winning MVP was slipping through Luka’s fingers faster than an opposing player slithering through the Mavs’ porous defense.
But as the Mavericks’ defense has improved, so has Luka’s case for MVP.
What are the odds that Luka Doncic can actually win MVP this season? Rather than take a wild guess, let’s look at the history of the MVP award to see what it would take for him to win.
Luka vs. NBA MVP History
NBA MVP winners averaged 26.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in their laureate season. Those averages include Centers and Forwards. Point Guards averaged 24.1 points, 10 assists, and 6.1 rebounds.
Either way, Luka’s 27.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game are enough to put him firmly in the conversation. Luka Doncic is putting up MVP numbers. That’s just a fact.
But averaging MVP numbers and actually winning MVP are two different things. Just ask Shaquille O’Neal, James Harden, Chris Paul, and any other great player that’s been “snubbed”. There are more hurdles to overcome.
Historical Season Averages for MVP Winners
The first hurdle is Luka’s age. If Luka Doncic wins MVP in 2021, he’ll be 22 years old when he receives the award. He would be the youngest MVP ever, beating Derrick Rose by a month or two.
Over a dozen players have won MVP aged 25 or younger, but only two players aged 22 or younger have won.
The next hurdle is the Mavericks’ record. The Mavs are currently 6-4 and on pace to win somewhere around 43 games in the shortened 72-game season. Adjusted to an 82-game season, that’s marginally less than 50 wins.
Only eight players won MVP when their team won 50 games or less (either in reality or adjusted to an 82-game schedule). In the modern NBA, only one player has done it – Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double and 31.6 points per game. The last player before him was Michael Jordan in 1988, when the Bulls won exactly 50 games and he averaged 35 points per game.
Combining these two hurdles – age and team record – sets the bar even higher. The two 22-year-old players who won MVP led their teams to an average of 57 wins (adjusted to an 82-game schedule). The Mavericks would have to add an additional seven wins to their projected total to reach that.
The good news is that the Mavericks look better in each game and Kristaps Porzingis’ return should give their win rate a boost. If the Mavericks win 50 games in this shortened season, Luka will be a top three MVP candidate.
Is the MVP Narrative on Luka’s Side?
Before the season started, sports betters put their money on Luka Doncic for MVP, and the national media was eager to promote a new star to their viewers. That’s important because it’s the national media who vote on the MVP award. If the majority of the media predicted that Luka would be an MVP candidate, he’s going to be in that conversation for the entire season.
The media often talk about “voter fatigue”. Since they’re the ones voting, we can assume it’s a real factor. Proof of this is the fact that a completely new crop of candidates has popped up this year – Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, and others.
The bottom line is that the MVP race in 2021 is not clear at this point. That gives Luka and the Mavericks time to figure things out and become the best version of themselves.
Can Luka Win MVP in 2021?
History is not on Luka’s side. His age alone would make his win rare. Even with the narrative on his side, the team’s current win rate isn’t quite high enough to make him a worthy candidate. Then again, they’ve won four games in a row and their focus on defense has finally put their destiny in their own hands.
The Mavericks fan in me knows to always believe in a little Luka Magic. Maybe he has another buzzer-beating win up his shooting sleeve.