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What is the ceiling for Luka Doncic?

Following Luka Doncic's historic performance, what does the future have in store for the 23-year-old star?

Luka Doncic posts 60 points, 10 assists & 21 rebounds vs. New York Knicks

On Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks unveiled a statue dedicated to Dirk Nowitzki, honoring the legacy of the franchise’s greatest player.

On Monday, we discussed which current players could receive a similar honor to celebrate their careers, including the possibility of Luka Doncic joining Dirk with a statue outside American Airlines Center in Dallas.

On Tuesday, Doncic delivered a transcendent performance, one never seen in NBA history: 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Dallas to an improbable comeback win over the New York Knicks.

The Mavericks erased a nine-point deficit in the final 34 seconds of regulation, capped off by Doncic pulling off an intentionally missed free throw, followed by an offensive rebound and putback to tie the game with one second remaining.

Dallas would go on to win the game in overtime, with Doncic single-handedly outscoring the Knicks in the extra five minutes. The reactions to Luka’s latest masterpiece came flooding in, including this timely gem from Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett:

At 23 years old and in his fifth NBA season, Doncic is a long way from seeing a statue in his likeness in Dallas, but performances like Tuesday night lay the foundation for such an honor.

60 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists.

Luka is the first player to reach at least 60 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in an NBA game. James Harden has the only other 60-point triple-double in league history and he did it with 11 fewer rebounds back in 2018.


Player Points Rebounds Assists Matchup Date
Luka Doncic 60 21 10 Dallas vs. New York (OT) Dec. 27, 2022
James Harden 60 10 11 Houston vs. Orlando Jan. 30, 2018

Doncic posted only the fourth triple-double in league history with at least 50 points and 20 rebounds, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. No player had hit those marks since Wilt in 1968. Yes, 54 years ago.


Player Points Rebounds Assists Matchup Date
Luka Doncic 60 21 10 Dallas vs. New York (OT) Dec. 27, 2022
Wilt Chamberlain 53 32 14 Philadelphia vs. Los Angeles Mar. 18, 1968
Elgin Baylor 52 25 10 Los Angeles vs. St. Louis (OT) Dec. 13, 1961
Wilt Chamberlain 51 29 11 San Francisco vs. Detroit (OT) Feb. 13, 1963

The phrase “since Wilt Chamberlain” is a common one for any discussion surrounding gaudy NBA statistical performances. When a player posts a ridiculous stat line, the tweets or game notes will often say: he’s the first player to reach those marks in a game since Wilt Chamberlain.

When Wilt is not mentioned it usually involves a stat line that includes steals and/or blocks, which were not officially tracked until 1976-77. Wilt’s career was over by then, but people that saw him play are quick to note that Wilt racked up those stats in massive numbers as well, even if they weren’t officially part of the box score and thus not included in the record books.

For Doncic to post a stat line that Wilt never accomplished — one that was within Wilt’s powers to do as points, rebounds and assists have been tracked throughout league history – or any other player that has played before or since, is remarkable.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd praises Luka Doncic after his historic triple-double.

“The history of the game is written by the players and it was written again tonight,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd after Tuesday’s game. “Doing something that’s never been done before, it’s hard to do. There’s been some great players before him. Elgin Baylor and Wilt, he was in that class, and then he separated himself and made his own class.”

Doncic not only set career-highs in both points (60) and rebounds (21), he broke Nowitzki’s franchise record for most points in a game (53) as Doncic posted his second 50-point game in just a five-day span. How many more of Dirk’s Mavericks records will Luka break over the course of his career?

Last week, Damian Lillard passed Clyde Drexler as the all-time leading scorer in Portland Trail Blazers franchise history, which led to discussions about which active players could potentially match that feat with their current franchise.

As the chart below illustrates, not all franchise records are created equal. Becoming the leading scorer in the history of the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks requires a player to score over 31,000 points with a single franchise. Only seven players have even reached 30,000 points, and only three – Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Nowitzki – did so with a single team.


Team Leading Scorer Points
Utah Karl Malone 36,374
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant 33,643
Dallas Dirk Nowitzki 31,560
Chicago Michael Jordan 29,277
Houston Hakeem Olajuwon 26,511
San Antonio Tim Duncan 26,496
Boston John Havlicek 26,395
Indiana Reggie Miller 25,279
New York Patrick Ewing 23,665
Atlanta Dominique Wilkins 23,292
Cleveland LeBron James^ 23,119
Sacramento Oscar Robertson 22,009
Denver Alex English 21,645
Philadelphia Hal Greer 21,586
Miami Dwyane Wade 21,556
Golden State Stephen Curry* 20,843
Minnesota Kevin Garnett 19,201
Oklahoma City Russell Westbrook^ 18,859
Detroit Isiah Thomas 18,822
Portland Damian Lillard* 18,115
Phoenix Walter Davis 15,666
Washington Elvin Hayes 15,551
Milwaukee Giannis Antetokounmpo* 15,195
Toronto DeMar DeRozan^ 13,296
LA Clippers Randy Smith 12,735
Charlotte Kemba Walker^ 12,009
Memphis Mike Conley^ 11,733
Orlando Dwight Howard 11,435
New Orleans Anthony Davis^ 11,059
Brooklyn Brook Lopez^ 10,444

*: active players that lead their current franchise (Curry, Lillard, Antetokounmpo)

^: active players that lead a former franchise (James, Westbrook, DeRozan, Walker, Conley, Davis, Lopez)

The combination of longevity, consistency and loyalty required for Luka to surpass Nowitzki as Dallas’ all-time leading scorer seems daunting. But Luka has already scored 8,038 points over his first 296 games and is still just 23 years old. Through his first 296 career games, Dirk had scored 5,587 points. At the same point in their careers, Luka has a 2,451-point lead on Dirk and is a year younger, as Dirk was 24 in his fifth NBA season.

After scoring 142 points over his past three games (47.3 ppg), Doncic has climbed to second in the league in scoring for the season at 33.6 ppg, narrowly trailing league leader Joel Embiid (33.7 ppg). When looking at the career scoring average leaderboard, there is a minimum of 400 games placed on the field, thus excluding Doncic from the rankings.


Rank Player Games Played Points Per Game
1 Michael Jordan 1,072 30.1
2 Wilt Chamberlain 1,045 30.1
3 Elgin Baylor 846 27.4
4 Kevin Durant 972 27.3
5 LeBron James 1,392 27.1

If we eliminated the minimum games played requirement, where would Doncic rank among these all-time great scorers? He would slide between Kevin Durant (27.3 ppg) and LeBron James (27.1 ppg) at 27.2 ppg. What makes the five players on the list above so impressive is that they maintained that level of excellence for well over a decade in the league. Luka isn’t even halfway into his first decade in the NBA, but if his start is an indication of his future, then the rest of the NBA is in trouble.

With less than a half-decade under his belt, Luka Doncic is on pace for a record-breaking career.

One of the biggest storylines entering the 2022-23 season was LeBron’s chase of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. Following Tuesday’s games, LeBron needs 602 points to pass the Captain as the top scorer in NBA history. The question that will follow is how high LeBron will push the mark for others to chase for years to come.

A key to LeBron’s rise up the scoring charts has been his unmatched consistency as he has averaged at least 25 points per game in every season of his career following his rookie year. LeBron is on pace to push his streak to 19 consecutive seasons as he’s currently averaging 27.8 ppg. After averaging 21.2 points as a rookie, Luka has never averaged fewer than 27.7 ppg in a season. Again, he has a long way to go to match LeBron’s consistency, but the foundation is in place.

Let’s look at another leaderboard that features both Luka and LeBron – the top 10 players with the most triple-doubles in league history – with Luka posting the 53rd of his career in historic fashion on Tuesday night.

Rank Player Triple-Doubles Games Played Triple-Double PCT
1 Russell Westbrook* 197 1,052 18.7%
2 Oscar Robertson 181 1,040 17.4%
3 Magic Johnson 138 906 15.2%
4 Jason Kidd 107 1,391 7.7%
5 LeBron James* 105 1,392 7.5%
6 Nikola Jokic* 83 557 14.9%
7 Wilt Chamberlain 78 1,045 7.5%
8 James Harden* 70 961 7.3%
9 Larry Bird 59 897 6.6%
10 Luka Doncic* 53 296 17.9%

*: active player

This leaderboard includes five active players – the all-time leader Westbrook, LeBron, Jokic, Harden and Doncic – with Luka being the youngest member of the top 10. Oscar Robertson’s record of 181 triple-doubles seemed insurmountable and stood for over 50 years before Westbrook’s meteoric triple-double pace began during his final three seasons in Oklahoma City.

While Westbrook is just three triple-doubles shy of reaching the 200 plateau, Doncic is on pace to challenge Westbrook’s mark as the two players have the highest triple-double percentages of all time. With 197 triple-doubles in 1,052 games played, Westbrook has recorded a triple-double in 18.7% of his total games played. Doncic is not far off that pace with 53 triple-doubles in just 296 games for a rate of 17.9%; among the top 10 all-time only Oscar, Magic Johnson and Jokic also have double-digit triple-double rates.

This is where the question about Luka’s ceiling comes into play. We have no idea if he can maintain this level of production and usage over the course of a long NBA career. There are myriad challenges that could throw Luka off this projected path. But a ceiling discussion assumes good health, consistent production and long-term success.

What does the best-case scenario of Luka Doncic’s career look like? Could he overtake Dirk as the greatest European player in league history? Can he reach 30,000 career points? Can he lead his team to one or multiple NBA championships? Can he catch Westbrook as the all-time leader in triple-doubles? And how many more “first-time ever” performances does he have in store for us to marvel at?