Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic is putting together a rookie campaign thus far that rivals some of the best rookie seasons ever.
The Dallas Mavericks were very high on Luka Doncic entering the 2018 draft. Offering next year’s, lightly-protected first round pick to move up just two spots says a lot about their fascination for the Slovenian teenager turned EuroLeague MVP. So far, he has been worth the asking price.
Doncic was already supposed to be the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft, yet he is somehow found a way to outperform expectations. The rookie is ultra-smooth with the ball in his hands. He seems to understand the game better than most NBA veterans.
Through 12 games, Doncic has clearly been the best player on a struggling Mavericks team. If Dallas can start translating his successes into more wins, Luka might have himself a case to make the All-Star game.
Compared to his peers, Doncic is the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. That’s really saying something considering the early successes of guys like Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, and Wendell Carter Jr. Luka Doncic is just that good.
Comparing to legends
The Dallas Mavericks have never had a rookie come in and dominate the way Doncic has so far this season. Not Dirk, not Jason Kidd, not Dennis Smith, nobody.
After 12 games, Luka Doncic is currently averaging 20.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while posting a shockingly impressive 57.2 effective field goal percentage for a rookie.
The tweet below compares Doncic’s rookie numbers to Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Ben Simmons. Luka Doncic is holding his own despite playing the second-fewest minutes of the group.
Doncic has been the most efficient of the six, as demonstrated by his eFG%, but has also coughed the ball up more than any of the others. When you look at his per 100 possessions numbers, Doncic looks even more impressive.
Luka Doncic is doing all of this as a 19-year-old. He is the youngest of all six of these players at the time of their rookie seasons. Here are the players with their ages in parentheses Bird (23), Jordan (21), Simmons (21), Magic (20), and even LeBron James who was two months older than Doncic as a rookie.
Expectations going forward
Doncic has 12 games under his belt to this point, but there is no reason to expect a drop-off in production. Look no further than last year when Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, and Jason Tatum only saw their numbers rise as the season went along.
Doncic had professional experience coming into this season that probably made the transition easier for him. Nothing can truly substitute for real NBA experience, though.
If something ends up holding Doncic back this year, it’ll be his body. Clearly, he has shown that he is athletic enough to create for himself and others, but is he in good enough shape to not fade down the stretch? Fatigue definitely affected Doncic last season for Real Madrid, how much it affects his game towards the end of the year this season will be something to monitor.
This has not been the start the Dallas Mavericks were hoping for. Some of the veterans have underperformed relative to expectations and Dennis Smith’s development will continue to take time.
Irregardless, the start to this season should be categorized as nothing short of a resounding success because it is clear Luka Doncic has superstar potential. The franchise and its fans can let out a collective sigh of relief because it finally found someone who can effectively take the torch from Dirk Nowitzki. Everything else at this point is extra.