Western Conference No Longer A Two-Horse Race: The Mavs are on the Up

Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks
Photo: SKY Sports

Just like everyone thought, the Western Conference is getting ruled by LA. Not just the Lakers, but the Clippers too.

But, the Denver Nuggets are a surprise, hanging tough in second place and the Dallas Mavericks are right behind the Clippers in fourth – not as surprising considering they now have Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis running the floor.

Doncic might just be the fifth ever second-year player to win the league MVP award.

At just 20 years old – or younger– the Slovenian star opened the season with odds at sportsbooks way, way back at +5000 or 50-1.

Now, he has climbed his way to the top and is the odds-on favorite at +450 or 9/2 (4.5 to 1).

Luka Doncic Dallas San Antonio
Photo: SKY Sports

I recently saw Jalen Rose say he is a top-10 player. But, he is a walking double-double, while also registering multiple triple-doubles.

So, it is almost laughable to call him just a top-10 guy. He is easily a top-five guy and if his MVP odds have anything to say about it, he’s a top one guy.

Jalen and Jacoby did have a great point, though. Of all of the top players, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo etc, Doncic makes it look easy.

All of the other top players in the league look like they are putting forth maximum effort. But Doncic? He looks like he is in third gear and still has fourth and fifth gear at his disposal.

Look at it this way. Against the Golden State Warriors a few games back, he only played 26 minutes, but he made a triple-double with 35 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds!

This is just mind-boggling. He hit 30 points, along with 14 assists and seven rebounds, against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 28 minutes.

The kid has literally scored more than a point per minute on average in his last four games, and still snags double-digit boards and dishes assists in double digits on most occasions.

Take the Houston Rockets for example, give him a few more minutes of play (34 to be exact) and he scores 41 on Harden and company.

Luka Doncic Rockets Mavs
Photo: Mundo Deportivo

He is just .2 assists per game away from averaging a triple-double.

He was the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. It is funny to think that both the Phoenix Suns and the Sacramento Kings passed him up for Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III.

Apparently, for Sacramento, the reason makes a bit of sense. Vlade Divac knows Luka’s dad and reportedly does not like him. According to Fox Sports, that was a deciding factor on how they selected their No. 2 pick.

Well, I’ll bet Sacramento is crying now, maybe as hard as people in Portland did, when the Blazers decided to take Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. 

Doncic is a big part of why the Mavericks suddenly have one of the best offenses in the league.

They rank No. 3 in scoring, putting up 119 points per game. And defensively, they get the job done as well.

They are 15th overall, but at home, the Mavs are stout, ranking just outside of the top-10 at No. 11.

Luka Doncic
Photo: Bleacher Report

On Tuesday night, the Dallas Mavericks host the third-place Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers are just a half-game ahead of Dallas and the Mavericks have a chance to drive down the lane and into that No. 3 spot in the Western Conference.

The head-to-head win over Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers would have the Mavericks leap-frog LA and put them just a couple of games behind the Nuggets.

If the Mavericks beat the Clips on Tuesday, they’ll have just one truly tough game in the next seven.

After the Clippers, they head to Phoenix, they continue their road trip to LA to face the Lakers – that aforementioned tough game– before heading all over to New Orleans to face the Pelicans.

Then, they have a three-game home-stand where they host the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Pelicans and the Kings before heading over to play the Detroit Pistons. 

If they win the bulk of these games – and they should– they’ll be primed to put some space between them and the Clippers and try to inch their way towards the Nuggets and the Lakers.

Just when we thought there would be a two-horse race again in the Western Conference, it got complicated with the Nuggets, Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and Rockets, all playing great ball.