Luka Doncic won't win MVP because his overblown early-season struggles

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

The Dallas Mavericks finished fourth in the Western Conference during the 2021-2022 regular season, and they are ready to start the playoffs. The media has already placed their votes for season awards. When the NBA announces the final results, superstar Luka Doncic will likely finish fourth or fifth in the MVP race. Doncic will probably end up behind Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo despite the Mavs finishing with a better record than all the teams of the MVP frontrunners.

Luka's MVP credentials are as strong as Jokic, Giannis, and Embiid's. He finished third in scoring, fifth in assists, and 19th in rebounds while leading the Mavericks to a 52-30 record. So, why isn't Luka expected to be a finalist? It is because of the myth that he struggled early and came into the season overweight.

Luka did come into the season heavier than he should have been. He even admitted as much. However, his weight did not become a real issue until December 7th, 2021, six weeks into the season. Tim McMahon of ESPN wrote an article about Luka's struggles with weight, noting that he entered training camp at around 260 pounds, and then he discussed the issue on the Lowe Post Podcast with Zach Lowe on December 8th. 

Luka Doncic won't win MVP because his early-season struggles are way overblown

At which point, it became a national story. Doing a Google search on variations of "Luka overweight" yields page after page of post-December 7th articles. From October 21st until a week into December, there was nothing in the media about his size. It is almost as if people found a narrative that solely blamed Luka and ran with it.

The narrative suddenly became all about Luka's conditioning and how that was contributing to his poor play. It no longer seemed to be about his shooting, it was that he was struggling overall.

Before December 7th, 2021, there were articles about Luka's shooting struggles, but it was typically the only item referenced. So, based solely on Luka's shooting, it looked like he was struggling.

However, if we take his early season holistically, it's clear that fans and the media blew his "struggles" out of proportion. In six games in October, Luka averaged 22.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists on 43 percent shooting from the field and 24 percent on 3-pointers. Those shooting percentages are not good, but it was also only six games.

The scoring average was low because in two of the six games, Luka scored 18 and 16 points. In the other four games, he averaged 25 per game. Let's also not forget the 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists, both quite close to his career averages. The Mavs also went 4-2 in those six contests.

November, though, tells a different story. In 10 games in November, Luka had 27.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.5 assists on 45 percent from the field and 39 percent on his 3-pointers. Luka did miss three games in November (all losses), but his numbers were quite good. The Mavs were also 6-4 in those ten games.

In December, though, Luka only played in five games due to an ankle injury and a stint in the health and safety protocols. The Mavs went 2-3 in those five games, but Luka was 26.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 9.2 assists on 47.5 percent from the field and 28.0 percent on his threes. Luka was near his career averages in December, except for 3-point shooting. Playing only five games on a hobbled ankle likely didn't help his jumper.

From the first game of the season to December 31st, Luka averaged 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game. Those numbers would be viewed as fantastic for any other player. The NBA MVP award is narrative-driven, and the narrative of Luka's weight essentially killed any chance he had.

Luka Doncic is so good at basketball that an average season seems like a bad season when it is not. The real problem was not that Luka was playing poorly. It was that his game was not a 30-point triple-double per game like many people expected. What do you think? Leave a comment below or hit us up on social media to share your thoughts.

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