Luka Doncic is only 23 years old, but he's been to the playoffs three times. If the Dallas Mavericks fans were asked, the Slovenian wunderkind should have advanced deeper in the playoffs in the past. This is how great Doncic had been playing in the postseason: a young player capable of putting the weight of a franchise on his back. We've seen the same story before, and that story belonged to the man who would become the Greatest of All Time.
Luka Doncic MJ-like in the playoffs
Doncic and Michael Jordan were born 36 years apart, but their numbers are very similar, especially in the first years of the playoffs they were part of. After scoring 45 points in Game 1 of their series against the Phoenix Suns, Luka has now tied Jordan's playoff scoring average of 33.4 points per game. This type of Herculean effort had been witnessed by fans and experts before. According to TV analyst Jason McIntyre, MJ was also like this when he was young. And he reminded this fact to Twitter user @Rikar___.
"Did you watch Michael Jordan for the first 6 years of his career? That's who Luka Doncic is right now. He'll get his Pippen, eventually."
Let's compare the numbers. Jordan lost all the first three playoffs in his career: against the Milwaukee Bucks (3-1) and the Boston Celtics twice in consecutive years, both sweeps (3-0). He averaged 29.2 points against the Bucks and 43.6 and 35.6 against the Celtics in the 1986 and 1987 playoffs. MJ was able to turn things around and finally won a playoff series in 1988, which was coincidentally the first playoff series that Scottie Pippen played in.
Meanwhile, Doncic lost to the L.A. Clippers twice in consecutive years. He averaged 31 points and 35.7 points in those series. This year, Luka tasted his first playoff success after the Mavericks dismantled the Utah Jazz in six games. He missed the first two games in that series, but Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie stepped up big time, which enabled Dallas to contend without their star player. Has Doncic found his Scottie Pippen in Brunson and Dinwiddie?
Who could be Luka Doncic's Scottie Pippen?
The front office tried pairing Luka with Kristaps Porzingis. On paper, the tandem looked like it would work, and in some stretches, it did. But Dallas decided to ship Porzingis away because he had been reduced to a spot-up shooter and a secondary defender in the paint instead of being an outside-inside threat that the fans envisioned him to be. Cracks in their relationships showed when the ball stayed in Luka's hands more often. This proves that finding a Scottie Pippen is more complicated because of how the Slovenian plays the game.
Can Brunson and Dinwiddie be Luka's Pippen? They have the qualities to do so, but they failed to show it in the Game 1 loss against the Suns. Both can create plays for others and themselves, but they need to be consistent and impact other aspects of the game if the shots are not falling. Timmy Hardaway Jr. has also shown flashes that he could play as Robin, but he must be healthy in long stretches first.
Luka's Pippen should be someone who can exactly play like Scottie: handle the ball well, create plays, defend the perimeter and provide scoring when needed. Plus, he must have the emotional maturity to let Doncic shine or be willing to set personal goals for the team's success. Right now, it's hard to find someone like that, but Jimmy Butler fits the bill, and Nikola Jokic who has the same qualities as Luka's. But let's be real: they will not come to Dallas to play with Doncic. Instead, Bradley Beal or Khris Middleton looks nice on paper, or even Rudy Gobert, who can provide elite defense but limited offense.
Anyone can become Scottie Pippen to Doncic as long as he is willing to do what is being asked and help their leading man succeed. Meanwhile, Luka must also think that anyone can become his Scottie Pippen if he's willing to share the limelight and trust his teammates more.