Luka Doncic is a very special case of player. He did everything early both in his life and his basketball career. He became independent just in the age of 13 (2012) when he left Union Olimpija, his home team in Slovenia for Real Madrid.
Madrid proved to be the perfect destination for him and without exaggeration his second home in Europe. He was already an active member of the “Blancos” at the age of 16 and just a year ago Doncic conquered Europe both with Real Madrid and the national team of Slovenia.
Not bad for a basketball player who is just 18 years old. Naturally, last summer it was the time for his big step to the NBA. From day one his name was among the top choices in the draft and stayed there until the end.
Luka Doncic was selected by the Atlanta Hawks as the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft and was subsequently traded to the Mavericks for Trae Young and a 2019 protected first round pick. I think that this was a deal that will stay in history as a game-changer for the NBA history.
Dallas has been so far a very hospitable home for Doncic. The presence of Dirk Nowitzki, who has been through almost the exact same process in the past, and a group of players who have both experience and ambition to bring the Mavericks back to the playoffs offer Luka a significant headstart in his NBA journey.
And this is where the big, and kind of taboo, question comes up! Could Luka Doncic be the next Nowitzki for Dallas?
I know that many of the Dallas fans who see this sentence are ready to jump on their keyboards and start writing and long arguments why this can’t happen. But hear me out. Yes, Dirk is one and only and by now an NBA legend who will never be forgotten.
Nevertheless, it’s the first time after the magnificent NBA championship against the Miami Heat in 2011 that the basketball project of Dallas looks appealing. Of course, it’s not only Doncic who is responsible for that. But we have to agree that he is that little extra that makes the Mavericks a team with a very promising future.
“Luka is better than me when I was 19”
When Dirk Nowitzki, a living legend for the Dallas Mavericks, says that for you then there’s something you are doing right.
Is he better than you when you were 19?
“Oh yeah. I could shoot a little bit but I never had the court vision … the savviness that he brings to the game. Just the way he already reads the pick and roll … all the stuff like Chris Paul and these guys do … He’s going to be fun to watch especially with bigs like DeAndre (Jordan) and Dwight (Powell) rolling to the rim … He’s going to pick defenses apart and it’s going to be fun to watch.”, said Dirk Nowitzki.
And he added:
“I’m really liking what I’m seeing. He’s incredible with the ball for a big guy. He’s unbelievable in pick and roll play. His court vision is already unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I saw from a 19/20-year-old. He’s a good shooter when he has time and I think he’s going to be great for us for a long long time.”
These more than flattering words of Dirk for Luka Doncic shows what in the most emphatic way what we all see on the court. A player who can pass, shoot and be decisive when he has the ball in his hands. And most important, a player who is just 19 years old.
However, despite his remarkable maturity and talent it is extremely crucial that the Mavericks and the basketball fans in general don’t put too much pressure on him yet. After all, Luka is a player who has just started his basketball journey and who is still adjusting to the demanding NBA world.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, either. But coming over from a different country, I went through the same thing 20 years ago. It’s tough. You have to adjust to a lot of things. For me, that took a whole year. That year was really really tough.”, underlines Dirk.
What the numbers say
They say that actions speak louder than words and stats are here to prove in the case of Doncic. After 18 games in the league, Luka Doncic is averaging 19.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1 steal per game.
On top of that, Doncic had scored 198 points in his first ten games in the NBA. That’s the second-most than anyone who was 19 years old or younger. Just to give you an idea, Kevin Durant is the only who managed to score more (201 points).
But he didn’t stop there! Doncic became the first player under 20 years old to score 292 points in his first 15 games in the League.
If these performances continue, there is no doubt that Doncic will be the number one candidate for the Rookie of the Year award. In my opinion, with his achievements so far he deserves it for sure.
There is only one category where he could have done a little better and that’s his turnovers per game (3.8). But again, if we take into account that he is a point-guard this number isn’t that bad. And it is almost sure that it will get better as he plays more and gets more familiar with playing against the best in the world.
The stairway to success
Back to our initial question, I know that nobody can be sure at this point that Luka Doncic will be the successor of Nowitzki’s heavy legacy. Nonetheless, what we can be sure about is that he is only one who looks ready to take on this behemoth burden right now.
If Dallas supports him and most important shows patience then I don’t see any reason why this 19-year-old superstar can’t take the NBA by storm and write his name with golden letters in the Mavericks history.
Of course, there is a bunch of reasons who could bring things upside down. Injuries, bad roster, a trade and many more but thankfully these scenaria don’t look very likely.
The only thing that Luka needs to worry about is to avoid getting too comfortable in his own skin. We should not forget that he is still a kid and that his journey to adulthood, both in terms of basketball and life, is just in the beginning.
This is also where the role of the Mavericks organisation is deemed to be fundamental. Doncic is their most valuable asset right now and they have to do their best in order to help him evolve physically and mentally.
I strongly believe that Dallas should follow the example of the Bucks with Giannis. They brought him in the NBA in a very early stage of his career and they gave him the time and space to evolve. Now in the age of 23, we can confidently put Giannis in the same sentence with Lebron.
This doesn’t mean that Doncic is like Antetokounmpo but in his own scale Luka can already be a veteran in the age of 23 if Dallas plays its cards right.
And I’m pretty sure that if this happens Dirk Nowitzki will be in a corner watching Doncic playing and think “well, he is better than me in the age of 23, as well”. That will be the biggest victory for Doncic, for the Mavericks, and of course for basketball!
Halleluka: An ode to Luka Doncic
What a better way to finish this article than with a song made specifically for Luka Doncic. The team in Ringer showed their artistic side and prepared an ode to the biggest favorite for the Rookie Award of 2019.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is an ode to Mavericks’ savior. Enjoy responsibly!
Featured image: Sportsday.dallasnews.com