By now, Luka Doncic has become a household name for basketball fans across the world. His short career in the NBA has seen him explode onto the scene faster than anyone since Lebron James. The man affectionately called “The Jedi” has rewritten the NBA record books as the youngest player to several incredible milestones in such a short time. Sure you can attribute his fast start to his experience playing professionally overseas, but he has far surpassed even the best projections for what he would become this early in his career.
In 2017-18 Doncic was named the Euroleague MVP, the youngest ever to win the award in what is widely considered the second best basketball league in the world. He led Real Madrid to the Euroleague championship at 18 averaging 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Those numbers are good, but they are a far cry from his rookie season in the NBA which saw the Mavs superstar win the Rookie of the Year averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists. Those numbers put Doncic in elite company, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Lebron James and Tyreke Evans as the only rookies in NBA history to average 20 points 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
No one would have been too disappointed if he wasn’t able to live up to those lofty numbers again, since many players suffer a “sophomore slump” once opposing coaches have some game film on them. Well he didn’t live up to those numbers this season,he completely blew them away. In almost the same number of minutes per game this year he has upped his per game averages to 28.8 points 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists, nearly averaging a triple double and finishing sixth in scoring and third in assists. While he was 18th in rebounds, he was first among guards and outrebounded the likes of Anthony Davis, Stephen Adams and Serge Ibaka.
Once again his second season in the league has left him in exclusive company, as he became just the 8th player in NBA history to record a 20/8/8 season. The list is Doncic, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson. Up it to 28/9/8 and the list is just Doncic, Robertson, and Westbrook. Not even Lebron or Jordan, the two players talked about most in the greatest of all time conversation, have had a statistical season like this. If you prefer analytics to counting stats take a look at the list of 20 year olds with a PER of 20 or more; Doncic, James and Anthony Davis. Anyway you look at it, Luka Doncic is one of the greatest 2nd year players we’ve ever witnessed in NBA history.
The best thing about all this if you are a Mavs fan, or a fan of great basketball in general, is that Doncic shows all the signs of player who still has plenty of room to grow. He has a fairly effective step-back already, even though he isn’t yet a sure fire knockdown shooter from three. While he only shoots 31% he has shown he has a smooth, natural jumper; and his 76% from the line means he should develop that portion of his game with more experience. He already has an almost supernatural feel on the court, and has court vision few in the league posses. He needs to work on his defense, which is something many young players struggle with early in their careers. He’s not awful though, posting 2.3 defensive win shares, tying him with players known for their defense such as Paul George, PJ Tucker, and Nerlens Noel. It’s not as if he’s Trey Young or Bradley Beal on defense, he’s already a serviceable NBA defender.
He’s also going to develop his body with a few more years of an NBA training program under his belt. The thing that really sets him apart from most first and second year players though is the fact that no moment is too big for the Slovenian superstar. Many times you see a young player really lighting up the scoreboard night after night like Doncic has this year, the team isn’t playing winning basketball and those stats are coming in garbage time. With Luka, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Doncic led the Dallas Mavericks to the 7th seed and a playoff birth after several years of mediocrity.
If you are like most fans, you’ve been glued to your TV since the season restarted a few weeks ago in Orlando, and while there have been several great performances, Luka and the Mavs have been can’t miss television. Not only did he up his averages again, he averaged a triple double during the eight seeding games. If you’ve been watching their first round series against the favored Clippers and Kawhi Leonard, he’s shown time and again that when the lights are the brightest, he’s at his best, and game 4 on Sunday night was his biggest moment yet.
Everyone watching knew exactly what was going to happen. Luka was on fire all night en route to the first 40 point triple double in NBA history. The Dallas Mavericks had no business being in that game against the heavily favored Clippers, especially without Kristaps Porzingis. Could there have been a more fitting way to cap off one of the greatest single-game performances in NBA history? It was fitting that one of the games premier young players hit one of the games premier shots, a step-back three, to tie their first round series on Sunday night. No matter what he does for an encore in game 5, the Legend of Luka is growing bigger with every moment.
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/ Associated Press
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