America’s Greatest Slovenian: Luka Doncic’s November MVP Case

Luka Doncic is on pace for 17.6 Win Shares while nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double (29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game). He has 3.0 Win Shares…on a Dallas Mavericks team that, in total, has nine wins.

Do the math. The Mavs, on pace for 49 wins, are getting fully a third of their advanced stat value from a single player, the greatest second-year player since LeBron James on the 2004-05 Cleveland Cavaliers, and Luka is doing this not only with arguably just as bad a supporting cast (news flash: Kristaps Porzingis‘ reputation is greater than his actual on-court production) but in the Western Conference, as stacked relative to the East in 2020 as it was in 2005.

Yes, I know James Harden is averaging 38.4 points a game (but with just 0.1 Win Share more than Luka’s got in one extra game) and is on pace to become the only player not named Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan to score 3,000 points in a season.

Yes, I know LeBron has the Lakers looking like the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors right now with that red-hot 12-2 start.

And yes, I know that Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.1 points (Wilt and Michael’s career average, by the way) and 14.3 rebounds in Milwaukee as the Bucks look to take advantage of Kawhi Leonard leaving the Eastern Conference in order to make an actual Finals run.

But Luka’s teammates are far worse than any of those three guys (except maybe LeBron if Anthony Davis gets hurt.)

And oh by the way, is ahead of all of them (and the entire NBA, for that matter) in WS/48 (.300, a level so high that if every player on a team had .300 WS/48, the team would be expected to win 123 games in an 82-game season), Box Plus-Minus (offensive and total), and VORP (1.9 already in just 14 games, a mind-bending 11.12 VORP pace that would be the fifth-highest VORP of all time.

The VORP paces of the other guys in the MVP race? Harden (8.75), LeBron (8.78), Giannis (9.84.)

Sure, those guys have stratospheric value to their teams, but Luka’s above the stratosphere. Luka is in geosynchronous orbit above the NBA right now.

And once again, let’s consider just how putrid this Mavs team would be without Luka.

Last year, the Mavericks went 33-49 with Luka posting 4.9 WS (.101 per 48) and 3.6 VORP (4.1 per 82 games.)

This year, Dallas is on pace to go 49-33 with Luka posting a projected 17.6 WS (.300 per 48) and 11.1 VORP.

That’s a 12.7-win improvement if you go by WS and a 14.49-win improvement if you use the aggregate VORP method to predict a team’s fortunes.

Which, in turn, means that Dallas is only between two and four wins better as a team than they were last year (which will happen when you get rid of Dennis Smith Jr. and pick up Porzingis.)

When you say “the Mavs are better this year”, what you are actually saying is “Luka has singlehandedly turned a lottery team into a team that could win 50 and host a first-round playoff series in the Western Conference.”

And oh by the way, if you want to really put the word “value” into “Most Valuable Player”, let’s also just for a moment consider that Luka makes just $7,683,000 on the second year of his rookie deal.

With that whopping .300 WS/48 and the 34.3 minutes per game Luka’s played?

That’s a Wiggins Factor of 35.8, by a million miles the best value contract of anyone even sniffing around the MVP race.

Considering that Wiggins Factor posits that anything under 300 is acceptable for a superstar, Luka could be making $64,312,500…and still be considered a good value contract for the Mavericks.

Dude is worth over $64 million to his team and makes less than $8 million. How much more valuable can you get? He’s giving them more contract value in one year than his current salary should be expected to give an NBA team in 8!

Look, any way you carve up the numbers, Luka Doncic is, in his second year in the NBA, doing things that dwarf a true legend of the game (LeBron) and two of the most eye-popping highlight reel machines (Harden and Giannis, who oh by the way were the last two league MVPs) in the league today.

It’s time to recognize greatness and get the groundswell going.

Luka Doncic is, by every possible measure, the most valuable player of the 2019-20 NBA season so far.