Luka Doncic vs Anthony Edwards: Why there’s more at stake than just an NBA Finals appearance

The most refreshing thing about the 2024 NBA playoffs is the ascension of young superstars across both conferences.

Between Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, Jayson Tatum and Tyrese Haliburton, one of these superstars will be crowned champion for the first time in their young careers. All but one of these players is younger than 25 and Tatum just turned 26 earlier this year in March.

It’s further proof that the NBA is moving to the next generation with future Hall of Famers like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Stephen Curry having early exits from the playoffs. Even the big men that seemed poised to take over the league like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are out of the the picture.

There’s a vacuum growing at the top of the NBA for the next face of the league and that’s why the Dallas Mavericks’ Western Conference Finals matchup against the Timberwolves will have more at stake than just an appearance in the NBA Finals.

For the Mavericks’ Doncic and the Timberwolves’ Edwards, the victor will be one step closer to having a claim to be the next face of the NBA and ushering in a new era where it’s officially a young man’s game in the league.

Each of the two have compelling arguments to be made about why they should be considered the future of the league. Doncic came into the league with loads of hype after being a prolific score in Spain with Real Madrid.

His scoring prowess immediately transferred to the NBA and in his second season he was already an All-Star and leading the Mavericks to the NBA playoffs. He’s made four straight first team All-NBA teams and will likely make it again this season after leading the league in scoring.

Doncic is already one of the best playoff performers of all-time, averaging 32.5 points per game in the postseason so far. A finals appearance at 24 would just add onto Doncic’s growing lore as arguably the top scorer in the best league in the world.

On the flip side Edwards is a homegrown, American star who is equally charismatic at the podium as he is on the court. A consensus five-star prospect from Atlanta, Edwards spurned numerous basketball powerhouses to stay in-state at Georgia, whose basketball program is nothing like its football program.

It was a move that earned him respect even with the Bulldogs struggling as Edwards made his own path and tried to change things at a losing program. That’s just one reason it’s so easy for Edwards’ personality to resonate with everyone, fan and foe alike.

He’s fearless and trash talks all-time greats like Durant and even fans in hostile environments. He’s a high-flyer who is willing to dunk over a big man or soar to block a shot off the backboard. His two-way prowess and playing style have earned him a ton of comparisons to Michael Jordan, a comparison Edwards has tried to distance himself from, but every highlight brings the conversation back to this question: Can he be the next Jordan?

Knocking off the defending champion Denver Nuggets is the Western Conference semifinals was another signature moment to add to Edwards’ budding résumé.

Players don’t usually win championships at Doncic or Edwards’ age, so the fact that both teams are here is just a testament to their greatness. Their leadership is another similarity they share that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Their secondary co-stars had a ton of baggage that needed to be sorted through. The Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving had more controversies and injuries than playoff series wins in Brooklyn and Boston.

Edwards’ teammate Karl Anthony-Towns was supposed to be the next Kevin Garnett, but he was basically called out by Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat for being soft and that narrative, along with some others, has stuck with the former No. 1 pick.

Now in Dallas, Irving has been closer to the player he was in Cleveland with LeBron James. He’s been engaged, focused on basketball and willing to sacrifice points and shots to help the Mavs win like he did multiple times against Oklahoma City.

Towns went from proclaiming himself to be the best shooting big man in league history to actually playing like a big man this playoff. He’s guarded Jokic and Durant, and his putback against the Nuggets in Game 7 sealed the series and may be the biggest shot in franchise history.

Even if Irving and Towns’ numbers aren’t quite as prolific as their past seasons, there’s no question both are playing winning basketball and that’s because they’re following behind Doncic and Edwards.

Their games and personalities are different, but both are bona fide superstars that would do well as faces of the NBA. Doncic vs. Edwards will be absolute cinema. Get your popcorn ready.