Doncic’s Statistical Dominance Keeps Mavs Afloat


When you think of the NBA’s best perimeter stars ever, some obvious names to mind.

Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. The list of icons is endless.

In Dallas, another perimeter star continues to work his way (statistically) toward the NBA’s historical best-of-the-best conversation.

As of Sunday night, Luka Doncic is averaging 33.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game as the Mavs continue to float above .500 in a grueling Western Conference. Luka’s statistical dominance has been replicated just fourteen times in league history.

So what’s the catch? Luka is still playing in his age-23 season. In NBA history, 23 is the lucky number for prime shooting/combo guards.

This year, Doncic’s beginning to the season is unorthodox. In the past couple of years, Luka worked his way into shape as the season progressed.

But this year, Doncic is taking the next leap forward as a perimeter superstar, even if the Mavs’ roster doesn’t look the most talented on paper.

Let’s take a look at the implications behind Doncic’s strong start and where it ranks all-time in NBA history.

Just how dominant is Doncic right now?

Comparing Luka’s 2022-23 campaign to his previous seasons, there are a couple of striking things that immediately jump out.

  • Doncic (this season): 33.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 8.1 APG, 49% FG on 22.3 attempts per game, 29% 3FG on 7.9 attempts per game, and 76% FT on 11.4 attempts per game
  • Doncic (first four seasons): 26.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 8.0 APG, 46% FG on 19.7 attempts per game, 34% 3FG on 8.2 attempts per game, and 74% FT on 7.6 attempts per game

As of Sunday night, Doncic leads the league in scoring by 1.5 PPG over current runner-up Joel Embiid. Luka’s improvements as a scorer across the board are the source of Doncic’s offensive production.

Doncic continues to increase in usage rate while maintaining (and even increasing) his efficiency on the court. Typically, superstars who see an increase in usage and volume see a decrease in efficiency, and vice versa. Instead, Luka’s efficiency is better now than his career numbers, especially from two-point range.

Despite the poor three-point percentage, Luka makes up for it with an astonishing 11 trips to the foul line per game. For opponents, a scarier outcome will be once Doncic’s shooting from three regresses closer to his career percentage.

Besides Luka, just six other players have averaged at least 26.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 8.0 APG in a single season. Doncic joins Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only players to reach this statistical feat three different times.

Doncic’s time in the league has been minimal, yet his production is already matching some of the league’s best legends ever.

The Doncic clock keeps on ticking

In history, the age-23 season for a shooting guard ranks as one of the most important for that player’s career.

For example, MJ averaged 37.1 points per game in 1987-88 during his age-23 campaign, the best marker of his career. Tracy McGrady scored the most points per game of his career during his age-23 season. Dwyane Wade led Miami this close to an NBA Finals berth in 04-05.

You can go on and on with the instances.

For Luka, this season represents a critical one for both his career arc and his future with the Mavs.

We know the story of Doncic’s production in the regular season and his elevated play in the postseason. He’s the only player to ever average at least 32 points and seven assists in the playoffs. He’s done that three times.

But the Mavs really never took a leap forward as a team, at least not until last season. Even then, Dallas continues to hover around the mid-40 win total. In the postseason, Dallas sits at just 14-17 in Doncic’s career. That’s including a hot stretch where the Mavs caught fire toward the end of last season.

Dallas looks good to begin the year. The team ranks first in the league in defensive rating. Given the team hit a similar mark towards the end of last year, that number isn’t an outlier. And while the Mavs sit at just 25th in offensive rating, nearly every shooter on the team is missing more jumpers than usual.

It’s time for the Mavs to put some serious results up. The team can’t afford to waste Doncic’s prime years.

Where can the Mavs go from here?

There are two fears Dallas needs to worry about as this season progresses.

For starters, the Mavs lack any secondary creation along the perimeter. Besides Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie, there’s no one else that can reliably be trusted to make plays for others.

It doesn’t look like it on paper, but the Mavs could regret losing Jalen Brunson to the Knicks over the offseason.

At the same time, Dallas’ bottom-ranked offense will trend upward once the team’s three-point shooting regresses back to the mean. At best, the Mavs could finish top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating, even with the lack of depth and roster certainty.

But the biggest concern for Dallas is Luka’s durability. We’ve seen this in three-straight postseasons— Doncic wears out, and the team collapses as the playoffs progress. The Mavs can either make another move around the margins, or they can count on Doncic to consistently keep his foot on the gas.

Then again, the test case will be this postseason. You can’t ignore how dominant Luka and the Mavs were in the 2022 playoffs:

Whether the Mavs 2022 playoff run was an anomaly or legit remains to be seen until this April.

As we’ve seen in recent NBA history, nothing is a certainty in today’s league. It’s better to be proactive than inactive.

So far, Luka’s strong start continues to keep the Mavs alive in a deep Western Conference.

The Mavs can’t make or break its season around Luka, even with Doncic making history in the process.

About Dominic Chiappone

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