Kia MVP Ladder: Luka Doncic storms back into top 5

Kia MVP Ladder: Luka Doncic storms back into top 5

In addition to the timely game-winning dime, Luka Doncic scored 37 points against the Nets.

The Kia MVP Ladder is published every Friday during the season with an in-depth look at the top Kia MVP candidates. But with multiple players still in the mix for the award this season, is also publishing a daily MVP Tracker detailing the game-by-game performance of each player.

Luka Doncic keeps proving that MVP candidacy isn’t all about draining the big shots.

Sometimes, drawing attention to set up a teammate places your squad in the most advantageous position.

That’s a scenario we’ve seen play out in each of Dallas’ last two victories with Spencer Dinwiddie knocking down game-winners off dimes from a well-defended Doncic, as the Mavericks now sit a season-high 17 games above .500, having soared to a record of 26-8 since the start of the New Year.

“Luka is always up for that challenge,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Sometimes you make them, and sometimes you don’t. I think when we add another piece like Spencer, who is not afraid as we see, it just makes you that much stronger. We know the ball is gonna be in Luka’s hands. So, when they took the ball out, he did the hard part, and it’s hard sometimes to trust that [someone can] make a shot. You can see our team is growing, maturing, trusting, and having fun.”


Luka finds Spencer Dinwiddie for the #TissotBuzzerBeater in #PhantomCam

— NBA (@NBA) March 17, 2022

Obviously, Doncic continues to play a major role in Dallas’ maturation process, which we’ll see again on full display Friday in another Kia Race to the MVP matchup featuring the Mavericks superstar on the road against MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers (7 ET, NBA League Pass).

Dallas holds a record of 3-0 on its current five-game road trip, as Doncic cracks the top five in this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder.

“We’ve got a great group of young men in there who believe they can win no matter what the score is, and we’ve gotten better at it,” Kidd said. “If you want to win at the next level, you’ve got to be able to deliver.”

It’s clear that Doncic and Dinwiddie understand as much.

Dinwiddie supplied the team’s last two wins with Doncic playing the role of facilitator. Doncic drilled a game-tying 3-pointer at Boston on Sunday with 1:21 left to play, before finding Dinwiddie with 11.6 remaining for the game-winning dime on a 28-footer.

In Brooklyn just three days later, Doncic faced a similar scenario down the stretch after Dallas erased a 12-point deficit to start the fourth quarter with a 25-11 run. Kevin Durant hit a 3 with 10.6 ticks left to give the Nets a 111-110 lead. Doncic passed out of a double-team on the next possession, finding Dinwiddie, who connected on the game-winning buzzer beater from the wing.

Two nights in a row.


— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 17, 2022

“If they’re gonna double me, somebody’s gonna be open,” Doncic said. “I’m glad it was him. He just made the shot once again.”

Dinwiddie joined Dallas in a February trade from Washington for Kristaps Porzingis, and since then the Mavs own a record of 10-2 with the guard averaging 17.9 points on 50% from the field and 43% from deep.

Dinwiddie appreciates Doncic’s trust in clutch moments, not to mention the accompanying opportunities.

“It’s a credit to him, because as a superstar it’s within your power, within your control. You can make people feel wanted,” Dinwiddie explained. “You could make him feel not wanted. You can trust him, not trust him. Remember my first two games, I really didn’t do much. I was trying to fit in, trying to figure out the spots they wanted me in. He was one of the people saying, ‘No, go do your thing. You need to make plays for us to be good.’ It’s a credit to him. He’s a superstar. He could’ve done whatever he wanted.”

And now, the Top 5 this week in the 2021-22 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:

Last week’s ranking: No. 1

Kia MVP Ladder: Luka Doncic storms back into top 5

Season stats: 26.0 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 8.1 apg

Nikola Jokic continues his onslaught of double-doubles with his 23rd straight against the Wizards.

Want some awesome exclusive content? Well, check out this video, which provides an inside glimpse of Jokic’s day-to-day grind along with some great highlights. Jokic posted his 23rd consecutive double-double at Washington on Wednesday, helping Denver establish a franchise record with its current seven-game road winning streak. Jokic’s 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in 26 minutes marked the 50th game this season he’s scored 20 points with 10 rebounds, the most such games in a season since 2013-14 (Kevin Love). The Nuggets have won 22 road games this season and are only one victory away from breaking the franchise mark for road wins in a season. Denver gets the opportunity Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Last week’s ranking: T-No. 2

Season stats: 29.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 4.4 apg

Joel Embiid gave himself a 35-point, 17-rebound birthday gift in a March 16 win over the Cavs.

Embiid celebrated his 28th birthday in style with a 35-piece on the road that featured 17 rebounds and five assists. It marked Embiid’s sixth 30-15 game this season, which is tied for the second-most in the league. Embiid is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in road games. Keep an eye on Embiid in the coming days as he’s battling through some back soreness, but insists on continuing to play. Embiid is questionable for Friday’s battle against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. The NBA’s leading scorer, Embiid has a legitimate shot to become the first center since 1999-2000 (Shaquille O’Neal) to lead the league in scoring.

Last week’s ranking: T-No. 2

Season stats: 29.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 5.8 apg

Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored 30+ points in five straight games.

Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton put on a show in Sacramento on Wednesday, combining for 68 points, with the former racking up 36 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. Milwaukee closes out its current four-game road trip on Saturday against the red-hot Minnesota Timberwolves, winners of nine of their last 10. Coming off his 39th double-double of the season, Antetokounmpo has scored 30 points or more in five consecutive games. Over his last three outings, Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.3 points on 51.6% from the floor with 11.0 rebounds. It’s likely Antetokounmpo passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (14,211 points) sometime this month as Milwaukee’s all-time scoring leader.

Last week’s ranking: No. 4

Season stats: 27.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.7 apg

Ja Morant dropped in 17 points and 10 assists against the Thunder.

Slowed by minor back soreness, Morant sat out of Tuesday’s win at Indiana, but he participated in practice on Thursday and appears to be ready to go for Friday’s game at Atlanta (7:30 ET, NBA TV). With Dillon Brooks back in the mix after missing 33 games, it’s good to see the Grizzlies finally whole again with some time left in the regular season to sharpen up heading into the playoffs. With Morant slashing and attacking, Memphis averages 58.2 points in the paint per game, which is tied for the highest scoring average in that area by an NBA team since that statistic was first tracked (1996-97).

Last week’s ranking: No. 7

Season stats: 28.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 8.6 apg

Luka Doncic filled up the stat sheet against the Nets with a 37-point near triple-double.

The NBA announced on Monday that Doncic and Kevin Durant took home Player of the Week honors in their respective conferences for games played from Mar. 7 through Mar. 13, marking the second time this season the Mavs point guard received the award and the sixth time in his career. In addition to game-winning dimes in his last two outings, Doncic has scored 30-plus points in six of his last eight games. Against Brooklyn on Wednesday, Doncic poured in 24 points in just the first half on the way to finishing with 37 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and two steals (yes, Doncic plays defense now, too).

6. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (Last week’s ranking: No. 6)

T-7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (Last week’s ranking: No. 8)

T-7. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (Last week’s ranking: No. 5)

9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (Last week’s ranking: No. 9)

10. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (Last week’s ranking: unranked)

And five more (listed alphabetically): Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz; James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers; LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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