The Dallas Mavericks have suffered through a rough stretch where they lost eight of their last 11 games as superstar Luka Doncic has missed four contests with ankle and knee injuries. The 22-year-old has played below his incredible standards to start the 2021-2022 season, but he is still averaging 25.6 points, 8.5 assists, and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Doncic is still playing at an All-Star and All-NBA level, but he has not been otherworldly this season. There has been plenty of talk about his conditioning and shooting woes as the Mavericks have split their first 24 games.
Despite his early-season struggles, Luka is still hanging in the MVP conversation. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps did a straw poll of 100 NBA media members to see where everyone stood in the MVP race. Here is a closer look at why Doncic still has a chance to push his way into the conversation.
Luka Doncic is barely hanging on in MVP race
Voters ranked their top five in the MVP race with roughly 30 percent of the regular-season games in the books, and Doncic received just four fifth-place nods. That ranked him ninth and 974 points behind runaway leader Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo round out the top three in the early season look at the race.
Luka is going to play better. He is still working his way into peak form, and the 6’7 point guard is still shaking off a few nagging injuries. Expect Doncic to get his scoring back around 28 points per game as his efficiency improves. The Mavericks are shooting poorly and should improve around their 22-year-old superstar too.
A lot can and will change throughout the season. There is still 70 percent of the games to go. Joel Embiid and LeBron James raced into the lead early last season before Nikola Jokic ran away with the MVP award. Injuries and performance changes will shake things up, and there is still time for Luka to get back in the race, especially if his and the team's play improves.
Expect the heat of the MVP race to pick up following the February trade deadline. Will Luka Doncic get back in the race at that point? Stay tuned to find out.