Luka Dončić's greatness hampered by lack of help
A simple eye test will show that he's a rare breed on the basketball court, and his astronomical numbers more than back that up.
Dončić tied for the playoff lead in points per game alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.7 PPG) in the '22 postseason. He ranked in the top 10 in both assists (6.4) and rebounds (9.8) per game, while leading all playoff performers in total points (475).
But despite his individual brilliance, Dončić and the Mavericks have been eliminated from championship contention prior to the NBA Finals in three consecutive seasons. Their most recent playoff exit came at the hands of the Golden State Warriors – in five quick games.
It's a recurring plague that in Chris Broussard's mind, has been caused by an absence of aid around Dončić. And according to Broussard, if the Mavs don't step up and get their star some much-needed help, it will continue to have a negative impact on his legacy.
"I think he needs a championship before we say he's an all-time great playoff performer," Broussard stated Friday morning on "First Things First." "But he's en route. When you look at his individual ability, the impact he has on winning, and the team success he's had so far in only his fourth year at 23 years old, he's on course to become an all-time great. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain when he averaged 50, never won it by themselves.
"This has a ceiling," he claimed. "What the Mavericks need to do is find a way to maximize a second star alongside Luka. But I don't know if one will want to come play there."
"Everyone in the West – the Lakers, the Pelicans, the Suns – thinks they're going to be back next year," Wildes said. "I think that Mark Cuban and Nico Harrison need to go into this offseason pessimistic, like ‘you know what? We might not be better. This might be the ceiling of where we're at, and we have to aggressively move.'
"We thought the Hawks were moving in the right direction, and they flamed out. I think the Mavs need to go hard after a star, or they'll be in the same spot the Hawks were."
Nick Wright asserted that Dončić himself had some work to do in the offseason.
"I think the Mavs had an incredible season," he stated. "I think Luka proved he is without question one of the three best players in the sport. I think they need to figure out the Jalen Brunson question. Is he good enough to be the Mavs' second star? I don't think so. And Luka must come into next season in better shape.
"If they don't get a second star, he's going to have to do everything again. And you can only do that for so long if you're not in tip-top shape. The best players in the world – LeBron, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry – are in amazing physical condition, and Luka's not."
"I wanted him to have next," Bayless said. "In the first half of [Game 5], Luka went 2-of-12 and 0-of-4 from 3. Baby Bird was not there when they needed him the most. Game 7 at Phoenix he just came out and fired, and if they were going to do this last night, he needed to make two of his first three. He needed to set the tone, but he was not capable. For the game, he winds up taking 28 shots to score 28. You want to talk about inefficiency. He was 103rd in the NBA in 3-point shooting, but he took the seventh-most 3s."
Shannon Sharpe is already sold on Dončić's superstar status.
"He's never going to be the most efficient player," Sharpe asserted. "He's 23 years old and a three-time first-team All-NBA player. To me, he spends far too much time arguing with officials. But he had a great postseason run.
"We did see him knock off a No. 1 seed, and he averaged 32, 10 and six. I thought he was the best player in the series, but the next five were on Golden State. I still think he's a top-five player in the NBA. My only concern is what are they going to put around Luka? They need a big, they're just too small."
Dončić's list of records is ever-growing.
He's had the most 40-point playoff games for a player 23 or under, with eight. No player has amassed more than five. He also has the most 40-point and 10-rebound or 10-assist games at his age, with three apiece. He's the only player to average at least 30 PPG in each of the last three postseasons, and is one of four players to ever average 30-plus PPG, five-plus RPG and five-plus APG in the playoffs. He's done so in all three of his postseason appearances.
And despite all that, his team consistently remains on the outside looking in. Can Dallas change the course with a few big moves in the offseason?