Before the season started all eyes were on Trae Young, the elite sharpshooter and finisher with Steph Curry range who led the NCAA in both scoring and assists last year. There was also a lot of talk about the absolute physical specimen that is DeAndre Ayton, who was supposed to be the Shaq to Devin Booker’s Kobe in Phoenix.
Admittedly, there was also a lot of talk around Luka Doncic. However, not all of it was praise. While there was certainly promise due to all that he accomplished overseas, many questioned how well Luka Doncic’s game would translate from the EuroLeague courts to the NBA. There were concerns over his inconsistent shooting and his lack of athleticism and what that would mean for his defense.
Two months into the season however, and all those concerns seem to have vanished because the kid is looking like a legitimate star.
In fact, those concerns are so far gone that if the season were to end today, there is not a doubt in my mind that Luka Doncic would not only unanimously win the Rookie of the Year award, but be amongst the top 20 in discussion for MVP.
Not to discredit what Young and Ayton are doing right now because they are absolutely killing it as well, but unlike the two big name draftees, Luka’s high level of play is actually translating to wins.
In the 2017-2018 NBA season the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, and Dallas Mavericks all finished with similar records, with a difference of only three wins between them. However, this season is a whole different story.
After starting the season a dismal 2-7, Doncic has helped the Dallas Mavericks bounce back in a big way, with impressive wins in their past few games over the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, not to mention a 50-point massacre of the Utah Jazz. The Mavericks are now sitting at an even 9-9 record to place themselves 10th in the western conference. As bad as that may sound, they are only four games behind the number one seed, a huge improvement over their 13th seed ranking last season. The Hawks and Suns meanwhile are the 14th and 15th seed of their respective conferences, and at this rate are projected to win 20 and 16 games respectively, somehow worse than the year before.
While part of the Maverick’s newfound success could be attributed to the free-agent signing of former Clippers star center DeAndre Jordan, who has much improved his free throw shooting this season, the real answer lies in their 19-year-old rookie.
Selected with the third pick in the 2018 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks and then traded to the Mavericks for Trae Young and a future first-round draft pick in 2019, Doncic has been absolutely sensational thus far.
Leading all rookies in scoring and made three pointers, Doncic is also second in assists, third in rebounds and among the top five in steals. As a proud fantasy owner who was roasted for drafting him with the 50th pick, I can attest to the fact that his stats have been nothing short of spectacular.
Surprisingly, unlike many other draftees, Doncic did not play D1 NCAA basketball. In fact, he never played college basketball at all. From the time since he was an adolescent teen, he had been dominating the EuroLeague. With back-to-back EuroLeague Rising Star Awards, an MVP and a championship all under his belt, Doncic is no stranger to competition.
At 6’7 and nearly 220 pounds, Doncic is a guard in a forwards body. Able to bully smaller guards with his size and strength, he has the ability to shoot from anywhere on the court and can handle the ball extremely well. The EuroLeague stud has virtually zero holes in his offensive game and his defense is sure to improve with more time spent in the league. With skills and talent far beyond his years, combined with his elite court vision and basketball IQ, it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that the kid is still just a rookie (seriously it blows my mind that he is only a few months older than me). Doncic is far and away the best rookie in a draft class loaded with future stars.
Maybe you think I’m selling him a little high because he’s on my fantasy team, but I truly believe we are looking at someone special, a once-in-a-generation type talent, like LeBron, Steph or KD. And perhaps he was overshadowed by the pre-draft hype surrounding the “next Steph” and “next Shaq” in his own draft class, but I have a feeling we will be saying the same thing about future rookies, calling them the “next Luka Doncic”.