“With the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks select…Luka Doncic.” These words became the birth of the newest young superstar in the making, a 19 year old from Slovenia.
Atlanta traded Doncic on draft night to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young, the scintillating shooter out of the University of Oklahoma. The direction of these two franchises changed over night.
Whereas the Hawks find themselves in the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Mavericks are a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference. Luka is the main reason why. He has vastly separated himself from the other rookies in his draft class. He will undoubtedly be this year’s Rookie of the Year.
In years past, European players have always been criticized for playing at a level lesser than the NBA, and general managers are skeptical about how their talent will transfer to the NBA. However, Luka appears to be playing at a level higher than he played in the Euroleague and is exceeding all expectations set for him.
Luka’s professional basketball career began when he was just 16 years old. He was a professional in his craft before he could even drive a car. The reason this seems so pivotal to me is the experience he gained at such a young age was invaluable. Many European professional basketball players are former college athletes from the states who are not able to make the NBA or those players who want to make more money than they would in the NBA G-League (development league).
Therefore, Luka was playing basketball against grown men who had years of competitive basketball experience when he was just a young teenager. And even with the high level of competition and all the pressure put on him, he was able to lead Real Madrid to a Euroleague Championship last season, where he was also named the Euroleague Most Valuable Player. Even now at age 19, Luka’s pure natural basketball talent is impossible to ignore. With his confidence growing and his extremely high basketball IQ, Doncic is not only holding his own in the NBA, but also performing to the level of an all-star in just his first season.
Luka Doncic vs LeBron James
The below is a comparison of statistics between LeBron James’ rookie season and Luka’s. They say numbers don’t lie, and I have to say the similarities in stats are uncanny.
Now, I am not by any means claiming Luka Doncic is the second coming of LeBron James. However, his on court play has to be terrifying for the other 29 teams in the league. The Atlanta Hawks must be having nightmares of the draft night trade; even though Trae Young isn’t a bust, he is definitely not Luka.
Superstars all across the league have been quick to recognize his game. From Steph Curry and Kevin Durant to Draymond Green and LeBron James. Additionally, those players just mentioned will all be out of the league before Doncic turns 30. They’ll be out of their prime years, even before that. This presents an exciting opportunity for Doncic. He currently ranks first in points per game, second in assists per game and third in PER on the Mavericks roster.
The one flaw that is pretty easy to see in Luka’s game is his turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio needs work. That is because he attempts a lot of tight passes looking for highlight plays. Luka’s confidence in his game is what causes him to try to make these special plays. Unfortunately for Dallas, that confidence is also his greatest quality.
Playing behind arguably the greatest European basketball player of all time in Dirk Nowitzki will be indispensable to his growth. As the title says, learn his name now. Luka Doncic will be a superstar in the NBA in short order.