The Dallas Mavericks got off to a slow start as superstar Luka Doncic worked his way into shape. He took a bit too much time off after a long summer playing in the Olympics, but since the start of 2022, the Mavs have the fourth-best record in the league with Doncic averaging over 30 points per over the last 32 games.
Luka has been so good in 2022 that he has worked his way back into the MVP race. He and MVP-favorite Nikola Jokic are the only two players in the top 20 in the league in points, assists, and rebounds per game. Doncic is fourth in value over replacement player (VORP) and in the top ten in player efficiency rating.
ESPN dropped their final version of their MVP straw poll for the year on March 29. Doncic was ninth in the previous version, and he rightfully moved up. Here is a look at where number 77 landed, and why it is still too low.
Luka Doncic moves up in ESPN MVP straw poll but fails to crack top five
Voters get to choose five players for their annual MVP ballots. ESPN surveyed 100 media members, and Luka earned 43 votes. He did not get a top 3 vote as all but nine went to Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Doncic received 22 fourth-place votes and 21 fifth-place. That put Luka sixth on the ballot just behind Jayson Tatum and Ja Morant.
Doncic deserves to be higher. Morant and Tatum have been outstanding this season, but they have not been better than the Mavericks superstar. Luka is averaging more points, rebounds, and assists per game than both players, and he is ahead of everyone outside the top three (Jokic, Embiid, and Giannis) in box score plus-minus and VORP.
The case for Tatum and Morant centers on them being the best player on two of the most surprising teams in the league. The Grizzlies are likely to finish second in the Western Conference, and the Celtics could finish anywhere from first to fourth in the East. Both players have been outstanding, but Luka's production this season coupled with his body of work makes him a more worthy MVP choice.
Luka Doncic deserves to make first-team All-NBA for the third straight and be in the top five in MVP balloting for the second time in the last three. He has the Dallas Mavericks playing like one of the best teams in the league, and no team wants to face them in the postseason. The best is still yet to come from Luka, so stay tuned.