NBA Rookie Luka Doncic is progressing towards a historic start, and has been cited to be having the best rookie season in the history of the NBA, together with a possible surprise inclusion in the 2019 All-Star as a front court starter. Shocking? Not really. Bear in mind that he is after all, the reigning EuroLeague MVP.
The 6-foot-7 Slovenian was so prioritized by the Dallas Mavericks that they traded away their fifth pick as well as a first-round pick of the 2019 draft to the Atlanta Hawks – who eventually selected Oklahoma Sooners’s Trae Young. Doncic is proving to be a valuable franchise player for the Mavericks, recording an average of 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, winning the NBA Rookie of the Month three consecutive times.
Starting off a professional basketball career since he was only 16, the experience and skills garnered were proven to be an essential asset in kick-starting a hopeful season for the Mavericks. Taking over the two-spot from Wesley Matthews, the team has provided ample playing time for Doncic himself to progress. In need of a team rebuild after a string of poor performance in their prior seasons, creating a competitive roster was a priority for the Mavericks if they were to perform better in the current season.
Doncic progressively transitioned into the starting lineup, and his performance sparked hope for the team’s playoff run for next season. The blockbuster addition of Kristapz Porzingis will elevate Dallas to greater heights and for the first time in NBA, feature a European duo.
Before the 2018–19 season started, ESPN considered him to be the favorite to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. However, many critics were not convinced by this statement. They had doubted his athleticism and defense. Touting at his height and slow lateral-speed, critics questioned the 19-year-old player’s adaptability to the NBA, which is a much larger and tougher playing field than the EuroLeague.
Remaining unfazed by the raving criticism, Doncic pushed his way through and wowed the crowds by breaking records. Against the San Antonio Spurs, Doncic scored 31 points and 8 rebounds which named him the youngest 30-point scorer in NBA history. He broke an NBA record by scoring 292 points in the first 15 games, which is also the highest set by a teenager. He was also named the youngest player to nail down seven 3’s.
Although not the fastest or most agile, his accuracy at the perimeter paired with his balance makes him exceptional in his role. His versatility in his game-play coined him as a “position-less guard” in the NBA, attributed to his multi-versed proficiency and skills in all the different positions in the game. An ace scorer behind the arc and with footwork to play under the post, his flexibility can be deadly to players that only watch tapes. His creative ball passes and energetic plays enable many to notice his court vision and talent for the game at such a tender age. His consistency in the game is unlike any rookie that many have seen – barring from generational talents such as LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
Image by Getty
Seen as such an attractive commodity, it is easy to see how he is distinct from the other rookies. His proficiency is also attributed to his basketball experience and progression as a player that steers away from the common rookies. Unlike the usual newcomers who started off competing in the NCAA, Doncic started his career off matching up against the professionals in Europe. Although the EuroLeague may not necessarily be as elite as the NBA, the European are definitely tier above when compared to college players. Competing against veterans, Doncic’s exposure to an extremely challenging competitive platform prepares and toughens him to reach a higher potential level that many other rookies in the NBA were not exposed to yet.
Although the top scoring rookie so far, he may think of competitor DeAndre Ayton (averaging a double-double) as a looming threat towards earning KIA Rookie of the Year. It is however, Trae Young, who was swapped with Doncic, to be his greatest threat. Young won the NBA Skills Challenge at the All-Star game and has since put up sky high numbers. He is averaging 28 points and seven assist since the break. Young in a game against Chicago, put up 49 points, 16 assists and seven rebounds.
Doncic nevertheless, has earned many praises by the big players of the league such as Damien Lillard, Stephen Curry, and even Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni.
Curry said after their game against the Mavericks, “Obviously, he’s a rookie, but he’s found a way to impose his will most nights, and it’s going to be good to see him develop in this league and a star.”
Mark Cuban’s front office also has a knack for important foreign talents that made their mark in the league – former finals MVP Dirk Nowitzski.
“Luka’s game is definitely ready. He needs to adjust to the speed and athleticism in this league. But everything else is there. He’s going to be great.” Nowitzki said about the new recruit.
When asked in an interview who would win in a one-on-one match, Nowitzki’s reply was a classic.
“He’s got a lot of moves in the one-on-one games. He’s got a lot of shots in his repertoire. I’d probably go with him now. But back in the days? No chance, no chance.”Leave a comment