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Luka Doncic, Mavs

Can Luka Doncic really become the youngest MVP in NBA history?

Luka Doncic has surprised many in NBA circles with his quick ascendance to the conversation for the league’s Most Valuable Player, quickly putting his name among some of the usual suspects for the highly-coveted award. At 20 years old, the Slovenian wonderkid can become the youngest-ever MVP, eclipsing Derrick Rose’s record after doing so at the ripe age of 22 during the 2010-11 season.

Rose was 22 years and five months old when he was crowned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, and Doncic, born on Feb. 28, 1999 — could be far and away the youngest to ever wear that crown.

Assuming the NBA Awards take place at the end of June as it’s been customary for the past two years, Doncic would be 21 years and (maybe even less than) four months old by the time he garners the award.

But doing so will be tougher than it sounds.

Doncic will be competing against a reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is putting even more eye-popping numbers than his past season. Others aiming at that crown are James Harden, who has pushed past the limits of statistics to become a juggernaut scorer — as well as LeBron James, who is always a preseason favorite, but a star with a realistic chance to reclaim his throne after seven seasons since he last held the trophy.

Luka is putting up similar numbers to Russell Westbrook during his 2016-17 campaign with 30.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.8 assists — he has the looks of an MVP season and the eye test is always a factor, no matter how much advanced-analytics lovers try to deny it.

More importantly, he has the Dallas Mavericks riding high to an unforeseeable 11-5 record, all largely due to his on-court magic, considering that Kristaps Porzingis is taking some time to adapt to playing NBA basketball again.

Antetokounmpo could have a tough time repeating as MVP, considering he’s now the only palpable candidate from the Eastern Conference. Harden has finished second in the race for quite a few seasons, and while this is a regular-season award, his playoff narrative is still a giant impediment in the eyes of many voters.

That leaves LeBron James, who has had the longest wait to become an MVP than any of the four candidates, though his new partner in crime Anthony Davis, who has helped his Los Angeles Lakers notch the top record in the league at 14-2, could also be his biggest deterrent from consideration.

Luka Doncic is doing this nearly all on his own, pushing the Mavericks past their opposition regardless of whether or not Porzingis and company show up to play. He keeps Dallas in the game, arguably more than any other candidate.

While Antetokounmpo, Harden, and James have managed to blow teams out of the water, Doncic has kept his team fighting, even in dire circumstances. Out of Dallas’ five losses this season, only their 10-point loss to the Boston Celtics is by double digits.

Doncic also has the best chance to stay healthy this season, depending much less on his athleticism than the aforementioned candidates, which gives him a boost once voters start to tally up the number of games played.

Luka Doncic has more than just a puncher’s chance to get the Most Valuable Player award, but a very feasible opportunity to do so. The 6-foot-6 forward already stole the hearts of many media members during his first season, which saw him get crowned as the Rookie of the Year over another darling in Trae Young.

Now it seems that he can do enough to muster those votes again, so long as he can keep up these strong performances until the end of the season and position the Mavericks for one of the top playoff spots.