Is Luka Dončić Overrated?
Luka Dončić is having one of the most impressive seasons the NBA has ever seen from a 20-year-old. No, scratch that; Luka Dončić is having by far and wide the most impressive season anyone his age has ever had. In his sophomore season, Dončić is putting up 28.7 points, 8.7 assists, and 9.3 rebounds per game. That’s the most points per game and assists per game any 20-year-old has posted in NBA history, and the most rebounds per game by any guard his age. He’s literally breaking records, but after digging a little deeper, I can’t stop myself from posing the question: Is Luka Dončić overrated? (Spoiler: Yes, yes he is)
You Might Not Realize It, But Luka Dončić Is Overrated.
What “Overrated” Means Towards Luka Dončić
An overrated player is anyone whose given more credit or praise than they truly deserve. The problem is, every fan perceives players differently. A die-hard Dallas Mavericks fan might already view Luka as a top-three player in the game. Others may hold off from calling him a top-ten player yet, or even top-15. A universally accepted list that ranks all NBA players in the exact order they belong in will never exist. Therefore, it’s important to establish a reasonable public perception of Dončić in order to call him overrated.
It’s been made clear that Dončić, along with plenty of others, will be a household name in the NBA for years to come. I’m not arguing he’s a future MVP – but a player’s future talent differs from their current level-of-play. This year, Luka ranks sixth in points and fourth in assists per game. He also leads all guards in rebounds per game. Only two players in NBA history (Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson) have seasons matching that of Dončić in all of those categories. I’d be remiss not to also acknowledge his record-breaking 96 overall NBA2K rating, a rating only six other players currently possess. Given all of this, most fans consider Luka a top-ten player already, or at least very close to that status.
This is where fans begin to overrate the player Dončić is right now, because they ignore some rather concerning truths: He’s an inefficient scorer, he doesn’t play well against good teams, and he hasn’t proved he can be a winner.
Luka Is Horribly Inefficient From Deep
Aside from his numbers, what made Luka Dončić a fan favorite so suddenly is his unique three-point shot. Luka’s step-back has grown into a signature move fans adore. The move itself is difficult to defend, let alone block, and it looks gorgeous when the shot falls.
However dazzling the step-back may be, it comes with an ugly success rate; This year, out of 189 players who average three or more threes a game (minimum 20 games played), Luka’s 31.8% shooting percentage from behind the arc ranks 167th. Putting that into perspective, there have been 17 instances this decade of a player scoring 28.7+ points per game; The only player on that list to have a worse three-point percentage than that of Dončić is Giannis Antetokounmpo. The difference is, fans regard Giannis as a poor shooter. They fail to do the same for Luka.
This flaw only grows when you consider the fact that Dončić takes so many threes. Among all qualified players, Luka attempts the seventh most three-point shots per game. However, he ranks just 19th in threes made per game. Luka has misfired on 335 threes this season – the second most to James Harden. If Harden goes 1-10 from deep on any given night, fans will criticize him without hesitation. When Dončić puts up that same line, it goes entirely ignored. Putting someone on the same tier as a player like Harden without holding them to the same standard of excellence is the definition of overrating that player.
Elite Players Show Up In Big Games; Luka Doesn’t.
In order to be an elite player in the NBA, a player needs to perform his best when it matters most. This year, more often than not, Luka has performed poorly against good teams. Below are Dončić’s stats in games against teams with a top ten record, compared to his numbers in all other games. (*As a note, I excluded his December 14th game against the Miami Heat, in which he left the game in the opening minutes due to injury*)
Against top ten teams (stats are per game):
16 games, 27.5 points, 8.3 assists, 8.2 rebounds, 4.6 turnovers, 42.7 FG%, 24.3 three-point FG%
Against all other teams (stats are per game):
37 games, 29.9 points, 9.1 assists, 10 rebounds, 4.1 turnovers, 47.6 FG%, 35.0% three-point FG%
The difference in Luka’s shooting percentages is inexcusable. His inadequate performances have resulted in the Mavericks only winning six of those 16 games, a 37.5% win percentage. That number spikes up to 75.7% in all other games. Any of those 16 games could be a preview for a future playoff series match-up. Those numbers should discourage fans from believing Dončić is ready for a best-of-seven series against teams that talented, especially in a playoff atmosphere.
Dončić Isn’t Vital to Team Success.
On paper, it makes sense why Luka gets so much credit for Dallas’s success this year. Kristaps Porziņģis and Tim Hardaway are the only other Mavericks scoring at least 13 points per game. The only other winning-team with as few scorers are the Los Angeles Lakers, who compensate with two players scoring 26 points per game. Dallas’s next top scorer, Porziņģis, scores only 19.2 points per game rather inefficiently. So, the Mavericks lack both an elite second option, as well as a deep roster playing behind Dončić. Therefore, fans jump to the conclusion that Luka is “carrying” his team to the playoffs.
What fans ignore is the Mavericks 6-7 record this year in games without Luka. Albeit a losing record, if Luka is the sole reason the Mavericks succeed, then how has the team managed to win almost half of their games without him? That includes taking down the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on the road – a phenomenon that’s only occurred three times this year. Dallas has proven that even without Dončić, they can compete. Of those seven losses, six have ended in a two-score game, meaning the Mavericks have only once been blown out in absence of Luka. To think this team is nothing without Luka Dončić is misinformed, and as a result, Luka becomes over-glorified.
Bringing all of these different factors together, Luka Dončić cannot be considered a top ten player yet. Personally, I’d likely even keep him out of my top-15. Luka’s a special player with unbelievable talent, but fans are blind to his flaws. Combine that with the fact that Dallas plays decently without him on the court, and there’s only one conclusion to draw: Luka Dončić is overrated. Let us know what you think – do you think fans are overrating the young phenom, or has he proven himself to be held so highly?
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images