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Is Luka Doncic Already the Best Player in the NBA?

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

To immediately answer the "clickbaity" question posed in the title, no. That unprovable accolade still belongs to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the regular season, LeBron James in the playoffs, and probably Kevin Durant, when taking everything into account (but this is a debate for another article). Regardless, the 22-year-old Luka Doncic is well on his way to the top spot.

Through two games in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the third-year guard from Slovenia is averaging 35 points per game, 9 assists per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, and, most importantly, his Mavericks lead the favored Los Angeles Clippers 2-0 as the series shifts to Dallas.

Last night, while all eyes were focused on the thrilling Lakers vs. Suns game two, Luka dazzled the Staples Center crowd and NBA TV audience with Dirk Nowitzki-esque fadeaways, creative running threes, and even an out-of-character poster dunk. It would be one thing if Doncic was having these performances against the Rockets or the Magic, but the young star is having his way against the team that should seemingly be most equipped to handle him. Doncic has dominated against every defensive look the Clippers have thrown at him, and has embraced, and been victorious in, the one-on-one battles against elite defensive wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and pesky former All-Defensive guard Patrick Beverley. Leonard finished last night with an impressive 41 points, but through the first two games Doncic has clearly been the best player on the floor.

Playoff success is a prerequisite in order to become the league's top player, and Doncic has had no problem thriving on the biggest stage. While the sample size is only eight games so far, Doncic has averaged 32 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists in his young postseason career. All eight games, in which the Mavericks have a respectable 4-4 record, have come against the Clippers who's roster is filled with aforementioned "Luka-stoppers."

As the series moves to Dallas for game three on Friday, Doncic has the chance to make another statement, this time on ESPN rather than NBA TV, and bury the Clippers who entered the series as -350 favorites. While all of the attention has been on the Clippers' continued unexplainable playoff struggles, there should be more focus on the league's best young star taking another leap towards true superstardom. If Doncic can hit this next checkpoint and win his first playoff series, he and the Mavericks will certainly have a strong chance to get all the way to, at least, the Western Conference Finals. That would be an extraordinary development considering the early season struggles that both Doncic and the Mavericks as a whole had this year. While anything beyond a round one victory would just be an extra boost to Doncic's young "legacy," I have already seen enough to set the over/under on his career NBA Championships at 2.5. Of course, these long-term projections may be premature, but that comes with being a potential all-time great. Regardless, I think you would be crazy right now to not go with the "over." Regarding when he will officially be considered the "top dog," is it unrealistic to say that he will be right in the conversation with Giannis as soon as LeBron retires and Durant, Leonard, James Harden and Steph Curry enter their post-primes? (Sorry Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid).

Luka Doncic's potential leap to "best player in the NBA" has become more of a matter of "when" than "if," and it is time for everyone to recognize that "when" is likely even sooner than we expected.

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Christopher Friezo
Christopher Friezo
May 27, 2021

I‘m taking the under on his championships for sure.

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