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Stephen A. Smith on whether Luka Dončić can become a Top 5 player by the end of the season


Jayson Tatum, the Boston Celtics star and one of the best young players in the association, appeared on a recent episode of Barstool Sports' "Million Dollaz Worth of Game" podcast and named his top five players in the NBA right now. Here's who he went with:

  1. LeBron James
  2. Kevin Durant
  3. Steph Curry
  4. James Harden
  5. Anthony Davis

"The guys at the top, I really respect the guys who got a championship," Tatum said, explaining his selection. "Everybody in that top 5 got a championship. Except James Harden, but he's 'different.'"

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Tatum left himself off the list, and fairly so -- the 23-year-old is great, but he's not on that level yet. However, Luka Dončić might be. Although having no postseason success, the trajectory the Mavs superstar is on might creep him into most people's Top 5 by the end of the postseason, assuming he can take his team further in the playoffs than last year. But even then, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith would be hesitant to put him in the Top 5.

We got LeBron; we got KD, we got James Harden, now he's back healthy, we got Steph Curry, we got cats like that. I don't know if I'll put Luka in the Top 10. He's Top 10, and he might be squeaking into Top 5; especially if he beats Kawhi, we'd definitely put him ahead of Kawhi. He's got to do that before he even warrants consideration on that Top 5 level.

Stephen A Smith, ESPN

Dončić averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists in last year's six-game first-round series against the Clippers. He put up 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists in a 113-103 Game 1 victory on Saturday, stealing home-court advantage from the team that eliminated Dallas from the postseason in '20.

Luka finished the 20/21 regular season, averaging 27.7 points, 8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists with an improved shooting efficiency across the board. Judging by his Playoff opener, he seems ready to take his game to the next level in the postseason.

How far does he need to take the Mavs for people to consider him one of the 5 best players in the association? It's hard to tell. But the fact is, even without any postseason success to his resume, Dončić is very close to joining the creme de la creme of today's NBA performers. And he's only 22!

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