Luka Doncic is only 22 games into his NBA career, but he is already a household name. The 19-year-old from Slovenia was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in this summer’s draft. He was quickly sent to Dallas when the Mavericks made a deal with the Hawks for Oklahoma standout Trae Young. In the long run, the Mavericks look like they are going to get the better end of that deal.
The Mavericks came into this season expecting to be near the bottom of the league and add a player to go alongside Doncic, but they currently sit at 12-10 and in the seventh spot in the Western Conference. Doncic is leading the Mavericks with 18.6 points per game. This includes 11 games scoring 20 or more. He logged his career high of 31 against the San Antonio Spurs in a late October matchup.
Doncic had a leg up entering the NBA Draft thanks to his experience at such a young age. At the fresh age of 15, Doncic was already playing professional basketball. In 2015, he played in 12 games for Real Madrid in the EuroLeague, averaging only 3.5 points per game and taking 27 shots. Just two seasons later, Doncic was named EuroLeague MVP.
Turning 19 on the last day of February, Doncic won the award thanks to his ability to bring it every night and not take any games off. He averaged 16.1 points per game and scored double-figures in 27 of his 32 games played. He was the clear cut best player in the league and the first teenager to win the MVP award in EuroLeague history.
His name started coming up on radars mid-way through last year’s NBA season. Rumblings started about Luka Doncic, but not many people knew about him. Well, if they looked him up, they learned quick. Once the draft started getting closer, there was talks that he could possibly stay in the EuroLeague one more year, which had Knicks’ fans salivating. Doncic spoke publicly about his feelings on New York and has ties to Porzingis. But a shot at the NBA was too good to pass up. There was no doubt that he would be a top five pick, so on draft night, it came down to what team wanted him the most.
Doncic was a lethal scorer and shot maker in the EuroLeague. He was not afraid to take the big shot and that is transferring over nicely to the NBA.
Skill Set Perfect for Today’s NBA
Listed as a small forward, Doncic stands 6-foot-7 and weights 218 pounds. Watching his game, he is a prototypical guard that is made for this league. Players like Steph Curry have transformed the NBA into a three-point shooting league. Guys like Simmons are bringing back the style of the big point guard who can drive and dish. Doncic has shown the ability to do both.
Videos have gone viral already of Doncic going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best — and winning. At only 19, his game is not perfect, but he has shown the ability to do many things on a basketball court. He is shooting 44 percent from the field, 39 percent from three, and 79 percent from the free throw line. The fearlessness is the most impressive part, as he is attempting six 3-pointers per game. He uses his big body to grab 6.6 rebounds per game and also dishes 4.2 assists per game. He has not recorded one yet, but there are triple-doubles in his future for sure.
Doncic has a smooth stroke from beyond the arc and can get to the basket at will. He is attempting four free throws per game but that number will rise once he becomes more seasoned and experienced in the NBA. He has already begun to add some new moves into his game and take advantage of the rules in the league. When your step back jumper is being compared to James Harden, you are doing something right.
Comparison to All-Time Greats
Now, this is not to say that a 19-year-old with only 22 games under his belt is going to be an all-time great, that is yet to be seen. But, his numbers compared to some of the best players ever is enough to make an argument.
As a reminder, Doncic is averaging 18.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. When LeBron James was a 19-year-old fresh out of high school, his first season saw him average 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. Magic Johnson took the league by storm and is widely considered as the best point guard of all-time. After two great seasons at Michigan State, Magic averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game as a 20-year-old.
Michael Jordan is considered to be the best basketball player to ever live. His 22-year-old season saw him put up 22.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Now, while the league has changed a lot since Jordan’s days and it is more geared towards scoring, the numbers are still there for Doncic and they are impressive nonetheless. Again, this is not to say that Doncic will go on to be Magic, Jordan, or even LeBron, but his numbers are right up there with some of the greats when they were his age.
A Star is Born
The Mavericks have had 20 seasons with a great international player named Dirk Nowitzki. They are hoping they found another one. Watching Doncic play, it is clear that he possess the physical and mental ability to be a leader of a team. He is not afraid of the big moment and has the confidence to take it over.
Doncic will turn 20 during the season in February and has Mavericks’ fans excited about the future. After winning only 24 games last season, the Mavs clearly had a plan for their fifth overall draft pick. While they selected Young with it, they ended up with Doncic and basketball is back in Dallas.