The Fan Vote
The first All-Star voting returns shocked fans when Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Dončić landed in second place for Western Conference frontcourt voting. The second voting returns similarly surprised fans when Dončić’ jumped to second in the entire conference.
Some claim that the fan-vote is just a popularity contest, citing that Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade are both second in voting for guards. Some even bring up the fact that fans almost voted Zaza Pachulia in as a starter twice. In 2016, Zaza finished fourth, narrowly missing out on an all-star bid while also forcing the NBA to reduce the fan’s power to decide starters from 100% to 50%. With this rule change, Pachulia missed out on the 2017 All-Star Game, even after finishing second in frontcourt voting. This season, Dončić, Rose and
Wade may find themselves in a similar position, lest the players and media give them the nod.
It only seems fair that fans can select their favorites to represent the NBA in what is ultimately an exhibition game for the fans’ enjoyment. Furthermore, of the three players that fans take issue with in the voting returns, Dončić is by far the most deserving. While Derrick Rose’s resurgence and Dwyane Wade’s last dance are both potentially worthy of all-star bids, Dončić’s stats and body of work this season most closely resembles that of an All-Star.
Luka’s Historic Statline
On the season, Dončić is averaging 20.2 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game and 5.0 assists per game on a TS% of 56.4%, which is above the league average of 55.7%. In the history of the NBA and the ABA, only five rookies have ever averaged at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for an entire season. The most recent player to do it was Tyreke Evans in the 2009-10 season, and the others are LeBron James, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan. Of the five players, Dončić’s 56.4 TS% is the second highest of the five, trailing only Jordan. With Dončić’s play this year, his trajectory is closer to that of the latter three than that of Evans’. While Dončić is not the next LeBron or Jordan, he will only improve in the coming years, rather than regress as Evans did.
Dončić’s play looks polished, and not just for a 19-year-old. He sees the floor well and he has impeccable touch with a smooth step-back jumper to boot. Granted, he is a Euroleague MVP and has played professionally since he was 16. Regardless, his play is exceptional for a rookie. Rookies aren’t typically tasked with running an offense as the number one option, yet Dončić has handled the role admirably.
Is Dončić Deserving?
Most impressive about Dončić’s play is his ability to step up in big games and make big plays. Dončić currently ranks in the top 10 for points scored in the clutch (last five minutes, point differential is 5 points or less) this season, despite ranking 51st in clutch time minutes played. In other words, while the Mavericks don’t find themselves in clutch time situations often, when they do, Dončić takes over, and in a big way. Moreover, amongst players who have taken at least 30 shots in the clutch this season, Dončić ranks third in field goal percentage, shooting 52.2% in the clutch. When Dončić takes it, he statistically makes it more often than not.
Overall, if Dončić doesn’t make it, it’s perfectly understandable. Amongst frontcourt players, LeBron James, Paul George, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns all have better counting stats. Ultimately, while the fans, who make up 50% of the vote, believe in Dončić, it’s up to the players and media to decide whether he will become just third rookie to make the all-star team in the last 20 years.
Featured image by Brace Hemmelgarn of USA TODAY Sports
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