The Dallas Mavericks may have the best transition from one era-defining superstar to another of anyone in the NBA. After 21 years of Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, the American Airlines Center welcomed another European maverick, Luka Doncic. The Slovenian teenager was to usher in a new era of success in the wake of Nowitzki’s retirement.
And he has done exactly so, within the limitations of the roster built around him. Luka spent his rookie season under Dirk’s wings, learning all he could from him. And did him proud by winning Rookie of the Year, but was quick to eclipse him as the leader of the team.
Luka led the team to the playoffs every season after Dirk’s retirement. Doncic went up against the elite defense of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for 2 straight seasons. Although he did not make it past the first round in his first 2 postseason appearances, his numbers spoke for themselves. It was only a matter of time.
Subsequently, in his third playoff appearance, as the 4th seed, Doncic has made the deepest run of his career. He helped the Mavericks knock out the Utah Jazz and then dethrone last year’s finalists Phoenix Suns. The Mavericks made the conference finals for the first time since 2011, their championship-winning year.
Luka Doncic surpassed Dirk Nowitzki for the franchise record
Over the course of his 26 playoff games, Luka Doncic has accumulated some ridiculous stat lines. And the student has already overtaken the master.
Luka Doncic has SURPASSED Dirk Nowitzki in 40 POINT playoff games!
He’s already 4th among active players behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden, despite only playing in 26 playoff games! pic.twitter.com/e7NrimWypE
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) May 23, 2022
Luka Doncic has surpassed Dirk Nowitzki for most 40+ point playoff games for the Dallas Mavericks. Incredibly, he has 8 in just 26 games compared to Nowitzki’s 7 in 145 games. But there is an underlying stat to explore here too.
Dirk Nowitzki won 6 of his 7 games where he scored 40 or more points in the playoffs. In stark contrast, Luka has only won 2 of his 8 games scoring 40 or more points.
This could be down to him being the primary scorer and creator on an undermanned team. And the superior opponents in every postseason could also be a factor. On the flip side, Luka has done it in higher pressure situations. 5 of his 8 40-point games came away from home, unlike Nowitzki. Dirk only had 3 away from home.
At just 23, Doncic is already heading a franchise’s legacy. It is a promise for what is to come, and an ode to what was.