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2019-11-07T12:00:04-05:00)

Luka Doncic is already playing like an MVP

The age of Doncic is upon us.

Luka Doncic defended 6’10 Tristan Thompson in the post. He may have been three inches shorter, but the Dallas Mavericks’ burgeoning superstar held his ground as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big front-ended a hook shot. Then it was time for Doncic magic. After securing his own board, Doncic did what he usually does, which is whatever the hell he wants.

Boban Marjanovic, all 7’3 of him, set a screen for the 20-year-old, then rolled to the hoop and missed a perfectly-placed feed. No worries, though. Doncic tipped the offensive rebound to himself right over the top of Thompson’s head, then gave a push pass for a wide-open Tim Hardaway Jr. three-point shot. That didn’t work either.

Hardaway caught the ball, hesitated, and missed his chance to fire. Dang. It’s a good thing Doncic was there, camping out in the corner to salvage the play by draining a three of his own.

A defensive stop, two rebounds, two assist opportunities and a three-point make all in 23 seconds. Yes, the Mavs got a good one.

Doncic is MVP-good right now

With a replacement-level point guard in Doncic’s place, the Mavericks wouldn’t be anything special. Kristaps Porzingis has star talent but is off to a slow star thus far. The rest of Dallas’ lineup is filled with rotation-level players. The other three starters — Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell — while all effective, wouldn’t be certain starters on many other teams. Yet here the Mavs stand with the best offensive rating in the NBA, scoring 113.55 points per 100 possessions, slightly above the Milwaukee Bucks and a full point more than Kawhi Leonard’s Los Angeles Clippers.

Despite being the youngest player on the Mavs, Doncic runs the franchise to the same degree as any other future Hall of Famer. He’s earned the full respect of everyone in the organization — that’s noticeable. Nobody in the NBA touches the ball more than Doncic does per game (104 times). He’s at once their operator and their safety valve.

[Related: The NBA MVP will be one of these 12 players]

Doncic keeps getting the ball because he always knows what to do with it. He drives to the hoop more often than just two players in the league (19 times per game). James Harden and DeMar DeRozan drive more frequently, but are shooting eight and nine percent worse from the field on those drives, respectively. Doncic’s 65 percent shooting off drives matches Russell Westbrook’s, and leads LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and virtually every other star in the league.

But when he crafts his way through the paint, he’s only looking to score less than half the time. Doncic’s eyes are always running, especially when he’s on the move. Every Maverick has to be prepared. He’s third in the league in assists, at 9.1 per game, and fourth in points created off assists, at 23 per night. He’s creating more than three made three-point shots per game off assists on less than 11 tries.

This is wizard-like madness on display over and over again from a kid legally unable rip Fireball shots at a tailgate. Against the Lakers’ No. 1 defense? Thirty-one points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. Cavs? Twenty-nine points, 15 assists, 14 rebounds. Blazers? Twenty-nine points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Minus one tough game against the Nuggets, Doncic has been incredible, and the Mavs are 5-2.

Doncic is beating everyone at a sloth-like pace

Doncic might be young and spry, but he ain’t going anywhere quick. Doncic ranks in the bottom-100 in average speed, but that’s how he cooks. He isn’t a freakish athletic specimen. He looks entirely the opposite. But Doncic is smart, creative, disciplined, huge, and strong. Nobody’s been able to stop him. He’s a halfcourt genius.

A ridiculous 71 percent of Doncic’s shots come after he’s taken three or more dribbles. Forty percent of them are after seven or more. The 6’7 ball handler is dancing around the defense and surveying his options before striking. Yet he’s still finding ways to create room to get shots off. He takes nine threes per game, and only two are catch-and-shoot set shots. His step-back is so efficient that eight of the nine threes per game he’s attempting come with four or more feet between himself and his defender. He’s working to get himself good looks, and then draining them at a solid enough clip (35 percent with space.)

When he’s not scoring the ball himself, Doncic uses an endless vault of trickery to feed his giants off pick-and-rolls and fling dimes behind his head to cutters and spot-up shooters. He sucks the defense in off his frequent takes to the rack and makes the most of the opportunities.

This is not college sophomore behavior.

[Related: LeBron James vs. Luka Doncic reminded us why we love basketball]

This is Doncic now. There is a better version in the future.

The only thing more frightening than a 20-year-old scoring 27 points per game with 10 rebounds and nine assists is the one who does that and more with better efficiency in the future. There is no ceiling for a player of his skill level because one like him has never existed. He isn’t perfect. He’s still coughing the ball up too much, and he isn’t the sharpest defender.

But that’s all to come. Yet he’s still in the MVP running. Damn.

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