A dive into Luka Doncic’s chances to win the NBA MVP award in the 2020-2021 season. Is the 21-year-old ready to become an all-time great?
Luka Doncic has the best MVP odds next season for a reason. The junior led the league in triple-doubles recording one of the most inconceivable statistical seasons ever. While 20-years-old, Doncic averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. The Wonder Boy finished fourth in MVP voting behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and James Harden. But to win the award, he still needs to do some work.
First of all, only one player who was not a top-three seed in the last 35 years received an MVP award. The Dallas Mavericks finished as the seventh seed with 43 wins in the 75 game season last year. So to be a legitimate candidate for the MVP, regardless of how good Doncic’s numbers are, the Mavericks need to be a legitimate contender. But with the shortened season, they only likely need to be a top-four seed. The team added Josh Richardson, Trey Burke, more wing depth, and now has a healthy Dwight Powell, making the chances of being a top seed plausible.
Doncic also needs to make some improvements to his own game. The matador’s biggest weakness is his defense. The easy solution is conditioning and strength improvements, which usually happen with time. But with the shortened offseason, he may have the same problems. Last season, Jayson Tatum’s midseason improvement on the defensive end helped propel him into MVP conversations, so the same may happen with Doncic. With a better team defense, Doncic will have the opportunity to improve in that area throughout the season.
The other three weaknesses that would help Doncic (but not necessarily) win MVP are his free throws, 3-point shooting and turnovers. Doncic is a decent free throw shooter, making 75.8 percent of his attempts last season, but raising that number to even 80 percent will allow him to become a 30 point per game scorer. The second change Doncic could make his 3-point shooting. Doncic shot 8.9 attempts from three a game last season. However, with the high volume, he was not notably efficient from deep, only making 31.6 percent of those shots. Rick Carlisle would not have Luka taking so many if he did not think it was more efficient than the alternative. Still, if Doncic becomes a more efficient shooter, he will be nearly unguardable. The last thing is turnovers. Doncic is a great playmaker and has improved his turnover rate, but continuing to make improvements will be essential.
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Doncic’s biggest competitors for the award may have a tougher time winning it. Players like Antetokounmpo, Harden, James, as well as Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard have been affected by the shortened offseason. James and Davis, who won the finals less than three months ago, will likely not be 100 percent for the beginning of the season. Additionally, James is very cognizant of how to take care of his body. Leonard also had limited rest, and he will probably have to continue to care for his chronic knee issues.
Other notables like Harden also have issues holding them back. The Harden trade drama is leading to questions about whether or not he will even play. If Harden does play, will he give his best effort if unhappy? Or if traded, there will likely be a period where he has to adjust to his new team. Either way, it is unlikely Harden becomes a contender for the award. As for Antetokounmpo, he might have to face voter fatigue. After underperforming in last year’s playoffs, voters may be reluctant to choose him a third straight year. Even though past performances are not supposed to play a role, they inevitably do. So, Antetokounmpo will have to blow the voters away this season. The three contenders with improved odds are probably Damion Lillard, Nikola Jokic, and Jayson Tatum. But still, none of them are at an MVP level yet.
The stars seemed to be aligned in Doncic’s favor. Still, a lot has to go right for both he and the Mavericks. But if Luka can play slightly better than last season and stay healthy, there is no reason why he shouldn’t win.