Did Luka Deserve More MVP Recognition?


This season’s MVP race was tighter than ever, with players putting up such mind-boggling numbers that it seemed unfair to give the award to just one.

While several players had compelling cases for winning the award, there’s one dark horse who quietly played some of the best basketball we’ve seen this season — Luka Dončić.

Statmuse detailed the case for the top-six MVP candidates towards the end of the regular season. It’s easy to see why predicting this year’s winner was so difficult. Each player presents such a uniquely convincing case.

Does Dončić Deserve More MVP Recognition?

Dončić averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game in the regular season. He’s the only player in the league averaging more than 28/9/8, and is top five in points and assists per game. He’s even in the top 20 in total rebounds per game, the only guard in the category. He takes care of things on the defensive end, too, ranking 11th in defensive rebounds per game.

The Mavs made the playoffs with the fifth-best record in the league (No. 4 in the West). Luka has been the driving force behind this success, accomplishing all of this without a single All-Star teammate. Dallas finished the season with a better record than all but one of his fellow candidates. He’s also 8-2 against the six MVP frontrunners, the best such record among the six.

He’s produced some sensational performances and highlights this season. An unforgettable highlight from the first half of the season was his insane buzzer-beater against the Celtics in November. This extraordinary shot was just a preview of the incredible season that was to come.

His greatest performance of the season came in February, however, when he shocked the rival Clippers with a career-high 51 points and a 45/15/8 performance in back-to-back games. This two-game stretch solidified his position as a top-five player in the league, and signified what had already started to become a great second half of the season for the Mavs.

Oh, and two days later, he dropped 49/15/8 on the Pelicans.

Arguments Against Dončić Are Prevalent

With all of these compelling statistics, one might wonder why experts ruled Dončić out of MVP contention so easily. One of the key arguments against him was his “slow” start to the season (even though he was averaging 24/8/8 in October and November). After leading Slovenia to an Olympic semifinal, Dončić was understandably tired, and was out of shape heading into the season as a result.

Although his performance in the first half of the season wasn’t exactly MVP material, it’s not like all the frontrunners hit the ground running either. Embiid averaged 23/10/4 in the same timeframe, yet he consistently ranked first or second place on MVP ladders during the latter half of the season. Meanwhile, Dončić barely made the top five, despite averaging 30/10/9 over the second half in 2022.

The most egregious decision made by the voting committee, however, was Devin Booker receiving eight third-place votes to Dončić‘s zero. Booker averaged 27/5/5 compared to Luka’s 28/9/9, a considerable disparity in offensive production. Dončić outplayed Booker on the boards, grabbing 8.3 a game compared to Booker’s 4.4, with both players averaging a similar amount of steals and blocks.

Booker received more votes simply due to his team’s success. Granted, the Suns were the best regular-season team, winning 64 games, but much of that success was due to their sheer amount of talent. Booker had All-Star Chris Paul, DPOY nominee Mikal Bridges, and talented big Deandre Ayton by his side. The Suns likely would have finished in a high seed regardless of Booker’s presence, while the Mavs would have definitely missed the playoffs without Luka, so Dončić is clearly more worthy of the title “Most Valuable.”

How Much Recognition did Dončić Actually Recieve?

Unsurprisingly, Nikola Jokic ended up winning the trophy, with 65 first-place votes. Embiid took home second with 26 first-place votes, while Giannis Antetokounmpo finished third.

Jokic is highly deserving of the award, and it isn’t surprising that Dončić lost to such an extraordinary player. However, it’s outrageous that Luka received just one second-place vote despite putting up such mind-boggling numbers, outperforming the other MVP candidates in games, and leading his team to a top-five record.

Each year, players raise the bar for how good a basketball player can be. It seems like someone breaks a record or does the impossible every other game. If there’s one player who’s guaranteed to win an MVP trophy in the near future, it’s Luka Dončić.

The sky’s the limit for the young Slovenian, and all eyes will be on him as we watch his career unfold with excitement and awe.

About Meera Murali

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