More often than not, when the name Wilt Chamberlain is mentioned when discussing an active player’s achievements, chances are that it is quite an impressive feat.
Luka Doncic’s blistering start to the year has done just that as he has put up seven straight games of at least 30 points to kick off the new season. He is now tied with Jack Twyman who did the same in the ‘59-’60 campaign and now trails only the legendary Chamberlain.
In the same season as Twyman, Chamberlain scored 30 points or more in the first eight games before improving his record three years later to a whopping 23 consecutive games.
Doncic has a chance to tie Chamberlain for second place in the Dallas Mavericks’ next outing against the Toronto Raptors on November 5 (Manila time) and there is a strong chance that he can do it based on his recent play.
He has scored at least 41 points on two occasions–wins over the struggling Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic–and already has two triple doubles this year.
The 23-year-old entered their most recent match with the upstart Utah Jazz averaging 36.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 8.7 assists, and 1.7 steals and tallied 33 points, five rebounds, 11 assists, and two steals to lead the Mavericks to a 103-100 victory.
The Slovenian national has picked up from where he left off in the offseason. He had a stellar showing with his national team in the EuroBasket 2022 tournament, averaging 26 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.6 assists despite the much slower pace. While there are always concerns about injury risk when it comes to a player’s participation in international competition, Dallas has clearly benefited from his summer activities as he is already in midseason form.
Doncic’s dazzling run has managed to keep the Mavericks afloat as they try to acclimate themselves to life without Jalen Brunson, who left for the New York Knicks, and integrate new big men Christian Wood and JaVale McGee. Dallas is currently 4-3 which has them bunched up with the New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets, and Oklahoma City Thunder between sixth and ninth place in the Western Conference.
Though it is still early in the season, the flaws of this team are already showing through Doncic’s scoring binge. Their overreliance on him, like in their previous playoff appearances, will be their undoing. Wood, Dinwiddie, and Tim Hardaway Jr. are averaging between 14.4 and 16.7 points per game, but it is difficult to expect more from these players who are already playing close to their ceiling.
Among the three, the 27-year-old Wood, playing a key role on a team with postseason aspirations for the first time in his career, has the strongest chance of discovering a higher level. However, his defensive shortcomings have led head coach Jason Kidd to limit his playing time down the stretch of close contests.
More importantly for the Mavericks, they still lack playmakers beyond Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie. It is the continuous dribbling rather than the actual scoring itself that will wear these two players out over the course of the year. While Wood is a solid replacement for Brunson’s offensive output on paper, the ability of their former guard to run an offense has been missed.
Curiously, help can potentially come from the Utah team that they just beat. The rag-tag Jazz are 6-3, yet were supposed to tank this season and their general manager Danny Ainge may soon move his key players should they continue to be a hindrance to his grand scheme. Utah’s guards Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Collin Sexton could legitimately provide a major boost to these Mavericks.
Doncic should be able to sustain this kind of workload throughout the regular season as proven in recent years. The challenge will come in the postseason where it will be difficult for Dallas to improve on last year’s surprise run to the Western Conference finals without first upgrading its backcourt.
Narratives change quickly in the NBA and if changes are not made, it would not come as a surprise if Doncic’s name begins floating around trade rumors. He may ultimately turn out to be loyal to this organization like his contemporary Giannis Antetokounmpo and franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki, but their front office owes it to him as well to build a contender and give him every opportunity to contend for a title.