How Doncic is the NBA's next big thingDate: November 7, 2019
By: Justin Morris
Luka Doncic is the player in the NBA that has the most potential right now to turn his name into one that can be regarded on a one-time, first name basis, to transform himself to that superstar level in terms of transcendent talent. He’s barely twenty years old. I don’t want to place him on a list of potential greats too early – we’ve seen the likes of names like Greg Oden, Kwame Brown and Darius Miles garner comparisons to NBA hall of famers, only to see their sky-high potential flop upon donning actual NBA courts.
But in just 78 games, Doncic has solidified himself already as one of the league’s premier talents, and he can’t even legally buy himself a drink. There’s absolutely no denying this young man’s talent, and the flare and poise with which he’s carried himself in his short career is astounding.
Dirk Nowitzki knows a thing or two about special talent, and his game was one of the first to revolutionize the small-ball style of play we see so often in today’s game, where teams utilize a big man who employs more finesse than brute strength, allowing them to space the floor with a stretch four or five, and get out and run in transition. According to Nowitzki, “Doncic is incredible. He’s unbelievable in pick and roll play and with his court vision. I couldn’t believe what I saw from a 19/20-year-old.”
He went on to compare Doncic to himself at that age, “I could shoot a little bit but I never had the court vision... the savviness that he brings to the game. He’s going to pick defenses apart and it’s going to be fun to watch.”
We’ve never seen anything like it. Doncic though, is used to the bright lights and being the center of attention. He signed his first professional contract at 13 with Real Madrid’s youth program before a hint of bass could be found in his voice, often playing competition up to three years older than him. “I was always training and playing with older kids who had much more experience than me. Many of them were bigger and faster than me too, so I had to beat them with my brain”, he reflected on the time.
By 16, he had worked his way up to Madrid’s senior team, seeing NBA competition in preseason, and some of the best Europe had to offer. At 17 years-old, he was the league’s Rising Star award recipient, and upon coming of age, won that title back-to-back, riding multiple triple-double-esque numbers to an MVP award, and vaulting his name to the top of NBA draft leaderboards in the process.
We saw flashes of his brilliance in a stellar rookie campaign that would eventually net him rookie of the year: multiple 30-point games, becoming a constant triple double threat and solidifying himself as a viable late game closer, with multiple game-winning shots. This season, he only projects to get better. He’s already recorded his first triple double, hit a dazzling step-back winner, and we’re only in game six of the season. He and new running-mate Kristaps Porzingis have the Mavericks at fourth in the West, and Dallas is primed to make a playoff run this year.
Perhaps most telling about Doncic’s trajectory, were the comments that came directly from the King after their overtime bout with the Lakers Friday. They would end up losing the matchup, but Doncic and Lebron James went mano-a-mano in a showcase of two of the league’s most dominant talents. Doncic (who tied James in triple doubles last season) went for 31 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists, while James tallied 39, 12 and 16. James made sure find Doncic after the game, letting him know “he was a bad mother----” and to keep going - the ultimate show of respect.
This of course, coming from the player who has dubbed himself the greatest basketball player of all time, and who has many supporters of this sentiment. Now, Doncic does not have the career resume to be in the same conversation as Lebron James in terms of totality. But right now, at this very moment, the 20-year old and 34-year old are neck in neck in the MVP race.
Justin Morris can be reached at email@example.com.