Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic is currently second in the fan vote, behind only LeBron James, for the Western Conference All-Star starting forwards. Lukamania has seized the nation, as he has seized the mantle from Goran Dragic as America’s Best Slovenian.
But what do NBA fans know? These are the same dingbats who have Derrick Rose second among guards in the same balloting. At least Dwyane Wade‘s vote total in the East is understandable given a lot of fans don’t care about his stats, they just want to see a Farewell Tour stop that involves sharing a court (albeit as opponents) with LeBron.
— 2019 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) January 10, 2019
I am OK with D-Wade in the All-Star Game is what I’m saying.
But Luka…Luka is a curious case.
On the one hand, fan voting is what it is, and it’s the All-Star Game, not the All-Stat Game, one letter making every bit of the difference.
After all, if it were just about the stats, we could just sort everyone by VORP or WS/48 or PER (or all of the above), create a ranked list, and there’s your rosters.
But on the other hand, All-Star appearances are a big deal in terms of contract negotiations, Hall of Fame legacies, and barroom who’s-better arguments, and if a guy who gets in who flagrantly doesn’t deserve it (D-Rose), that’s a travesty.
So you know what? There’s a standing rule around here that nobody gets an Is He Any Good column until Year 3 (look no further than De’Aaron Fox for why this has never been applied to rookies and Kristaps Porzingis for why sophomores are likewise exempt), but if you want to ask an NBA question with a definable answer, no sense wasting a perfectly good methodology.
So the “myth to be tested” is Does Luka Doncic Deserve All-Star Consideration?
And bear in mind, this is among Western Conference frontcourt players. That’s the tier that includes LeBron and Kevin Durant and Paul George and Anthony Davis (the other four guys in the fan-vote Top 5.)
So…let’s do this IHAG style.
The Counting Stats
Luka is averaging 20.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for a 20-23 Mavericks team all but assured of passing last year’s 24-win total by the end of January and certainly before the All-Star Game itself.
He’s hitting 37.3 percent of his 6.6 three-point attempts a game, he leads the Mavs in minutes played (behind Harrison Barnes per game, but Doncic has missed one game while Barnes has missed five), and he is functionally being asked to be a superstar on a garbage team, which will hold some of his numbers down almost out of necessity (see also PG13’s last two years in Indiana, when the Pacers surrounded him with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.)
But 22.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes? OK, he’s not setting the world on fire, not when compared to LeBron (28.4/8.6), Durant (28.4/7.4), George (26.9/8.2), and the Brow (28.2/12.9), but (a) he’s a rookie, and (b) as we’re about to see, Doncic has a huge ace in the hole.
The Advanced Stats
Luka’s Big 5 advanced stats do not paint the picture of an All-Star.
Granted, they don’t paint a picture of a scrub, either; an 18.7 PER, .564 True Shooting, .113 WS/48, 3.2 BPM (including being a plus defender, something nearly unheard of in a rookie who isn’t a center), and 1.8 VORP (that’s 3.5 per 82 games)…well, those are “very good starter” numbers, but they’re not on that level where the Brow (and his insane 31.0 PER this year) or PG13 or LeBron live.
Luka is simply nowhere near as good as those guys yet. If you’re going to put Luka into the All-Star Game as a starter based on fan voting, who’s he starting in front of?
But let’s take a look at Luka’s giant ace in the hole:
Luka Is A Clutch Hero
With the sole exception of Victor Oladipo, nobody is more clutch than Luka in the entire league.
With five minutes or less left in the fourth, or in overtime, when shooting to tie or take the lead, Doncic is shooting 57.1 percent. That is money when the game matters most. That is hero ball for an actual hero.
(Oladipo, same criteria, is shooting 70.6 percent. 12-of-17 for Vic, 16-of-28 for Luka.)
And oh by the way, only three (!) of those 16 makes for Doncic are assisted.
The guy is straight-up ice water in the veins…and he’s 19.
Also Consider This:
Luka probably doesn’t belong in the top 4, those truly elite, undisputed All-Stars that they are.
But let’s look at 6-10, including a guy who hasn’t even played a game this season and another who flat-out sucks this year:
So let’s propose a Western Conference All-Star roster. Let’s say five guards (Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and DeMar DeRozan, just to throw five names out there) and seven forwards.
Well, we know LeBron, Durant, Brow, and PG13 are in. None but an idiot would leave any of those four off an All-Star team.
So who are the other three guys? Jokic, of course. No question there. Karl-Anthony Towns, even though he’s not in the top ten vote-getters, belongs.
That’s six. So tell me, who are you snubbing when you say Doncic is the guy?
LaMarcus Aldridge? Please.
Kuzma? Go home, you’re drunk.
Adams? Look, I love the big guy too, but he’s not an All-Star.
Draymond? Shut right up with that nonsense.
That means that on a roster that’s probably going to have seven or even eight frontcourt players, Luka Doncic…is one of those guys.
This one, amazingly enough, is Confirmed. Luka Doncic is an All-Star.