Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are getting dangerously close to missing the playoffs. They are currently 11th in the West with six games left to play in the regular season. They have the same record as the Oklahoma City Thunder, who currently hold the final play-in spot.
Anytime you have a superstar of Doncic's caliber, lack of postseason success could be costly. When you flirt with missing the playoffs completely after collapsing following a trade for another star, we're talking potential disaster. They could even miss the play-in tournament, finishing behind the New Orleans Pelicans, who have been without Zion Williamson for most of the season, and the rebuilding Thunder.
At worst, losing presumably impacts Doncic's desire to play for Dallas long-term. We've seen countless superstars leave for less consequential reasons than missing the playoffs. At the very least, they are wasting a prime season of one of the league's best players.
Doncic is averaging 32.9 points per game this season. No player has missed the playoffs with a scoring average of more than 33 points since Tiny Archibald, 50 years ago. Only five players in NBA history have missed the postseason with a scoring average of at least 32 points.
Here's the rundown:
- Stephen Curry won a scoring title with 32.0 points per game in 2020-21, but the Warriors finished eighth in the West and lost in the play-in tournament.
- Bernard King scored 32.9 points per game in 1984-85, but the Knicks lost 58 games.
- Allen Iverson averaged 33.0 points per game in 2005-06, when the 76ers finished 38-44. That was his last full season with Philadelphia.
- The aforementioned Tiny Archibald led the NBA in scoring (34.0 points per game) and assists (11.4 per game) in 1972-73 but the Kings finished 10 games below .500.
- And then there's Wilt Chamberlain. He averaged 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds per game in 1962-63 but the Warriors finished 31-49.
Speaking of a wasted season, Damian Lillard and his 32.2 ppg will be a virtual lock to join this list with the Trail Blazers shutting down their superstar for the rest of the season given that their path to the postseason is all but an impossible one.
Most PPG by player to miss playoffs in NBA history
The way Dallas is playing since trading for Kyrie Irving, missing the playoffs is now a harsh reality. They are 8-13 since Irving debuted, including a 4-8 mark when both Doncic and Irving play. They've gone from fifth to 11th in the West in that span, with their playoff odds dropping from 58% to 15% per SportsLine simulations.
They hit rock bottom over the weekend, losing back-to-back games to the lowly Charlotte Hornets as a 16-point and 12.5-point favorite, their largest upset losses of the season.
While they recovered with a win in Indiana on Monday, their road trip continues with their next three games against Eastern Conference playoff contenders, the 76ers, Heat and Hawks.
Based on the fact that Doncic is flirting with this dubious history, even putting up monster offensive numbers might not be enough to save a Mavericks team that is bottom 10 in defensive rating, and hasn't improved with Irving.
Dallas also faces the possibility of missing Doncic for a critical game down the stretch. One more technical foul would draw an automatic one-game suspension, something that nearly cost the Mavericks on Monday before his 16th technical was rescinded.
The Mavericks playoff slide is one of the top storylines to watch over the final week-plus of the regular season. The wrong side of history Doncic can land on further highlights just how bad it would be.