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Luka Doncic should leave the Mavericks

Even though Luka is getting better every year, the Mavs are only getting worse. It's time for Luka to demand a trade to a better-run organization.

In a December game against the New York Knicks, Luka Dončić showed the world why he is the best offensive player in the NBA. His 60-point, 20 rebound, 10-assist triple-double was one for the ages, and also not surprising for anyone watching. Dončić is a bonafide top-three MVP candidate this season, averaging 33.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. Sure, he can be whiney about calls, dominate the ball to the point of exhaustion, and be a liability on defense. But he’s also a generational talent. 

Sadly, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is doing everything he can to waste the talents of Dončić, a generational superstar, by pairing him with guys who would be taxi drivers and waiters if they weren’t over 6’5”. The fact that it took another Herculean effort from the Slovanian superstar just to beat a .500 Knicks team shows how little help Luka has around him. But I guess that’s what to expect when you hire a shoe salesman as your general manager and ask him to build around a generational talent.

I’ve been one of the earliest critics of how the Mavs front office has built around their once-in-a-lifetime superstar, but views like these run rampant on Mavs Twitter today. It took Cuban and Donnie Nelson thirteen seasons to finally put a contender around Dirk Nowitzki, and even then their 2011 title looks kinda fluky. Dončić is only in his fifth season with the Mavs, but he’s playing with even less talent than Nowitzki did in the same period. Even worse, nobody is playing with a worse supporting cast when observing the rest of the NBA superstars. With no guarantees of success in the NBA, and with so many other stars getting their flowers, Luka might not be as patient in Dallas as Dirk was.

History is repeating for the Mavs

Cuban is committing many of the same errors with Dončić that he did with Nowitzki. The Mavs reached the Conference Finals last season on the back of an MVP performance by Dončić, a blistering playoff emergence by Jalen Brunson, and super hot shooting from the role players. They were good, but they benefited from a little bit of luck, too. They handled a Utah Jazz squad on the brink of implosion. They caught a Phoenix Suns team ripe with its internal issues, both in the locker room and front office. Once they met up against a true contender in the Golden State Warriors, they bounced in five games.

Cuban’s arrogance got in the way of retaining Steve Nash in 2004, losing him to the Suns for nothing, and he repeated this sin by losing Brunson for nothing to the New York Knicks this past summer. Losing their second-best player has put even greater pressure on Dončić, who has had to lead his team in every statistical category but blocks. His current usage rate of 35.3 is the highest in the history of the NBA. It is hard to fathom just how much the Mavs depend on Dončić to be perfect on a nightly basis. This relationship is not sustainable, not for winning or for Dončić’s workplace happiness. Sooner or later, something will give.

Luka is too good to stay patient

The Mavs only have their draft picks and few tradable assets, giving them zero chance of acquiring a superstar to pair with Dončić. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes apparent to Dončić, and he becomes tired of the sub .500 seasons and first-round exits and begins looking elsewhere to win. As it currently stands, the Mavs roster is filled with one-dimensional role players whose greatest contribution is “vibes.” Dončić’s usage rate and workload will only increase as this middling, aging roster worsens. The Mavs can’t rely on the draft to find a second star, as Dončić has no time to wait for a kid to develop into a true partner on the court. 

His body language this season has shown his frustration with his talentless teammates. Mavs fans point to the loyalty Nowitzki showed by spending his entire career with Dallas, but Dončić is not Nowitzki. He is used to winning on every level. How many more seasons of mediocrity will he take? When Dončić demands a trade, Cuban will only have himself to blame for choosing a shoe salesman, an incompetent coach, and a roster of role-playing bums around a once-in-a-lifetime talent.