How Luka Doncic is a Legitimate Superstar

Benjamin White ‘23

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In a 2018 FloHoops article, writer and professional NBA data analyst Fri Lavey reported that NBA scouts and other 2018 NBA rookies had concerns over Luka Doncic’s future, criticizing, “his athleticism and shooting [leading] him to slip to third, before he was eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks for the fifth pick (Trae Young) and a future first-round pick. In the NBA Rookie survey released this week, in which each year’s rookies were asked to forecast the future of their draft class, Luka tied for third place (with nine percent of the vote) for who was most likely to win Rookie of the Year, but in a surprising turn he was snubbed from some of the other main categories, receiving zero votes for most likely to have the best career or be the best shooter” (1). In the following season, Doncic proved the doubters wrong. Despite only having 9% of the Rookie of the Year vote by fellow rookies, Doncic dominated in his rookie season and seemingly won it in a landslide. In said season, Doncic solidified himself as the Maverick’s new franchise player, as it was the same season the Dirk Nowitzki’s Maverick tenure finally came to an end. With the franchise in his hands, a 20 year old Doncic headed into his sophomore season with new expectations along with new teammate, Kristaps Porzingis. Somehow, Doncic has exceeded expectations again.

 

Through the first 24 games of the season, Luka Doncic has averaged 30.4 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game, and 9.2 assists per game, almost averaging a triple double on the season. As impressive as those numbers are, the most impressive stat has to be his scoring. Doncic is third in the league in points per game, only behind James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two players who finished top two in MVP votes last season. At 20 years of age, Doncic has gone from rookie of the year to a top 3 scorer in the whole entire league. At 6’ 7”, Doncic is extremely versatile. His court vision and playmaking ability allows him to play either guard position, but he can still play forward due to his height. With 9.9 rebounds per game, Doncic is 13th in the league in rebounds per game, with everybody ahead of him being a center, power forward, or just the freak of nature that is Giannis Antetokounmpo. With 9.2 assists per game, Doncic is second in the league in that category, only behind LeBron James. Despite only shooting 32.8% from three, his high volume of threes at 9.7 attempts per game forces defenders to never lose sight of Doncic. He’s also been effective at getting to the free throw line, only behind Harden and Giannis again.

 

As impressive as stats can be, they do not tell the whole story. The most important part of basketball is and always will be winning. 20 year olds doing too much with the ball can translate to stats such as Doncic’s while also leading to a losing record (Trae Young, anyone?). What is fascinating about Doncic is that he has not been doing too much. Doncic seems to play at his own pace, slowing down the game by finding open shooters off of screens, or by perfectly executing the pick and roll. There is no stat that can show how comfortable Doncic has been in his sophomore season other than a team record. Just like everything else about Doncic, the Maverick’s record has even exceeded expectations. Through the team’s first 24 games, the Mavericks are 17-7– good for third in the western conference. Doncic is only behind the dynamic duos of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. All of those four players have finished top four in MVP votes at some point in career, and Doncic is just barely behind them. Meanwhile, the Luka led Mavericks are ahead of the Houston Rockets who have two previous MVPs in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. They are also ahead of both teams that made the western conference finals last year, the Portland Trailblazers and Golden State Warriors (That last part might not be too impressive considering Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both missed several games and are expected to miss the majority of the season).

 

Luka Doncic is not an athletic freak of nature by any means. He is a physical defender who is simply elite on offense. Questions about Doncic’s athleticism might have been justified, but they have yet to matter. The Mavericks are 20th in the league when it comes to fastbreak points per game, demonstrating the concerns over Luka’s agility and speed when it comes to playing with pace. Despite that, Doncic is tremendous in halfcourt sets, as despite being a weak transition team, the Mavericks are third in points per game as a team. Doncic playing at his own pace has not only put himself amongst the NBA’s elites, but it has transformed the Dallas Mavericks into a top tier team in the NBA.

 

All the concerns and doubts regarding Doncic’s game translating from the Euroleague to the NBA has been completely irrelevant throughout Luka’s career. Despite having no votes by his fellow rookies back in 2018 as to who would have the best career out of the 2018 draft class, Doncic has been the most successful of the bunch. Both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley lll have been sidelined due to injuries (or in Ayton’s case, a suspension for violating the Anti-Drug policy) and while still having plenty of time to catch up to Doncic, both do not look like they will ever match the superstar quality player that Doncic already is. The closest player to Doncic in the 2018 draft class is Trae Young, who was actually traded for Doncic in a pick swap between the Mavericks and Hawks. Trae Young has been almost as impressive as Doncic, averaging 27.7 points per game and 8.6 assists per game. The difference between the two has been winning. While the Mavericks are 3rd in the west at 17-7, the Atlanta Hawks are 14th in the east with a record of 6-20. Nobody from that 2018 draft class has matched Doncic’s game, despite all the talk surrounding him before the 2018-2019 season started.

 

I could go on and on about how Doncic is seemingly light years ahead of his fellow 2018 draft class athletes, and about how Doncic has already become one of the best players in the NBA. The truth is, I don’t need to. Anybody paying attention to the Mavericks has already taken notice of how spectacular Luka Doncic is. What people seem to forget is the Doncic is only 20 years old. He has plenty of seasons left in him of dominating the league. The Mavericks organization and fans should be excited about what the next decade or two holds in store. In a league where there is a ridiculous amount of player movement, Doncic staying in Dallas for over a decade should be considered unlikely, but Mark Cuban and the Dallas front office has kept a European megastar in Dallas before. If you are still not convinced, just look at Dirk Nowitzki. Luka Doncic is already dominating in Dallas, and expect him to be for a long, long time.

 

[1] https://www.flohoops.com/articles