If I learned anything from being around Mark Cuban for a few years, when he sees a quality product with an upside value proposition, he won’t hesitate to make a significant investment in it. That’s as much true with his passion business, the ownership of the Dallas Mavericks, as any he has placed some SHARK TANK capital into.
The Mavericks were defined for more than two decades by a shrewd European import named Dirk Nowitzki, who Cuban and his basketball minds plucked as a teenager to come to Dallas, where he then played 21 seasons and led the Mavericks to two conference championships and, to date, its only NBA title, a thrilling revenge victory against the Miami Heat that helped chase Lebron James out of South Beach.
And four years ago, the Mavericks found for Cuban found a worthy successor to Nowitzki’s potential legacy in Luca Doncic, a Slovenian guard with a professional league championship to his credit at the age of 19. The Mavericks traded to Atlanta the rights to Trae Young as well as a projected 2019 draft pick in exchange for the rights to Doncic. Young hasn’t been terrible–indeed, he helped lead the Hawks to a surprising conference finals appearance in summer 2021, and is currently among the top 10 scorers in the league. But Luca–well, he’s a revelation.
And nowhere was this more evident than last night, when before a TNT audience he nearly single-handedly lifted the Mavericks back to .500 with a 116-113 victory over the current league champion Golden State Warriors, still struggling around .500 themselves at the quarter-pole of the season. Along the way to their title, the Dubs beat Doncic and the Mavs in five games last spring. Last night served notice to them, and especially their own stalwart guard Steph Curry, that things may be very different this time around,
Beating the current level of Curry is one noteworthy accomplishment for Doncic. Beating the legacy of Nowtizki is quite another. And as Will Bjarnar of SB Nation.com reported last night, there were several of note that occurred:
On Tuesday, Luka Doncic recorded his 20th 40-point game in a Mavericks uniform. That means that — *takes deep breath* — at 23 years old, in just his fifth season in the NBA, he has as many 40-point outings as one of the greatest pure scorers to ever walk this Earth, a man who, need I remind you, played for 20 years. Luka is now the 10th player in NBA history to have 20-plus career games of 40-plus points before turning 24. I don’t know what to say about this kid at this point.
In 20 years in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki scored 40 points in a game 20 times. (It sounded low to me, too.) That’s ranks second all-time for 40-point games by a Maverick — Mark Aguirre did it 22 times.
Doncic didn’t just score 41 in a three-point win over the Warriors: He pulled down 12 rebounds and added 12 assists, too. It was his 51st triple-double — most in the history of the Mavs by a country mile.
Last October, Cuban plunked down more than $200M to sign Doncic up for five more seasons, and his immediate response was a spirited upset of the regular season champion Phoenix Suns. This year, he’s leading the league in scoring, and serving notice that he, not Curry, is likely to be the face of the NBA sooner than later.
Perhaps the only drawback is that Doncic’s supporting cast has been exceptionally weak. Right hand Jalen Brunson is now in New York, incapable of not taking the tens of millions his friends and family running the team were ready to throw him. Given a supporting cast that includes names like Finney-Smith and Hardaway, Junior (who isn’t so junior these days), the fact this Mavericks team now has the same won/loss percentage at Curry and the Dubs is especially eye-opening.
But for someone who spotted the potential of Broadcast. com and Hydroviv, should it be that surprising?
His name is Luca. And he’s heading way higher than the second floor.