He’s the hottest young player the NBA has seen in years, and now, Luka Doncic is making an early-season run at the Most Valuable Player award.

When talking about James Harden’s move from $7 to $5 in the NBA’s Most Valuable Player market last week, Luka Doncic didn’t rate a mention.

His solid start for the Dallas Mavericks wasn’t considered sustainable with a dropoff expected to be just around the corner. Instead, the 20-year old has exploded further. He’s putting up all-time great numbers for his age, and as a result, has come all the way into $5.50 from $41.

Only Harden at $5 and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $2.75 are ahead of Doncic in the MVP market.

Luka’s Hot Start

Doncic is averaging 30.6 points (2nd in the NBA) on 49.4% shooting, 10.1 rebounds and 9.8 assists (2nd) per game to start the year. He’s so far led the Mavericks to an impressive 11-5 record to be 4th in the Western Conference and a genuine playoff contender.

He’s had some monster lines already:

  • 31 points, 15 assists, 13 rebounds vs Lakers
  • 29 points, 15 assists, 14 rebounds @ Cavaliers
  • 38 points, 10 assists, 14 rebounds vs Knicks
  • 42 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds vs Spurs

However, the most eye-opening Doncic performance came against the hapless Golden State Warriors.

After single-handedly disposing of the Warriors in the 1st quarter, Doncic finished the game with 35 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in just 25 minutes.

His ability to lead an offence is clear for all to see with the Mavericks playing with the best offensive rating in the league at 118.2 points scored per 100 possessions. While Doncic himself is on the floor, the Mavericks offensive rating jumps to 118.8 compared to 111.0 when he’s off.

It’s clear that, right now, Doncic has the numbers. However, we know that’s only part of the MVP pie.

Mavericks Expected Wins

The Mavericks are playing well and sit firmly inside the playoff seeds in the Western Conference, but there is a long, long way to go.

As it stands, FiveThirtyEight.com projects the Mavericks to finish the regular season with a 50-32 record. That’s good enough for a 91% chance to make the playoffs, but is it enough to win the MVP?

Historically, no.

Only two players have ever won the MVP award while winning fewer than 50 games – Moses Malone (1978-79 and 1981-21) and Russell Westbrook (2016-17). That makes things awfully difficult for Doncic to win the award if he can’t get the Mavericks closer to 55 wins by the end of the season.

Westbrook did have something else on his side other than wins, though.

Harnessing The Narrative

Westbrook needed to average a triple-double to wield the narrative angle and swing it enough to make up for just 47 wins. The narrative surrounding the first triple-double season since Oscar Robinson in 1961-62 while also breaking Robinson’s record of triple-doubles in a single season (42) put Westbrook at the top of the MVP pile.

Derrick Rose became the youngest ever MVP in 2010-11 with relatively bland numbers of 25 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. However, his Chicago Bulls did win 62 games.

Those are the sort of wild narratives Doncic is up against if his Mavericks can’t breach 50 wins this season.

MVP Verdict

Doncic is going to have the numbers if he keeps up this pace. Even a slight drop will keep him in the conversation.

Will the Mavericks win enough games to get into the top three in the Western Conference? Probably not.

So, the narrative of becoming the youngest ever MVP winner will need to do a lot of work if Doncic is going to win it.

He’s a chance, though, and his $5.50 appeals.

Doncic is wildly popular amongst NBA fans and that helps fuel the narrative even further. He’s on the front page of every basketball website and his name floods social media every night he plays.

The longer this hot streak goes, the shorter his price will get. Already in from $41, Doncic’s current $5.50 is only getting shorter from here.

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