Luka Doncic is all but a lock for the Rookie of the Year award. But somehow, that might be an understatement. Doncic is putting up numbers that we haven’t seen from a rookie since Jordan graced the hardwood. Luka rivals LeBron and Carmelo in all-time great rookie seasons. And to make it even better…he just turned 20.
Rookie of the Year is one thing but Doncic looks like he could be one of the all-time greats. He doesn’t just put up phenomenal numbers; he has a strategy. He’s modeled his game after one of the best in the modern NBA, James Harden.
In the age of analytics, basketball is changing. Doncic has come of age at a time when players are starting to maximize their potential in a new way. He has the benefit of the kind of statistical data that didn’t exist in Jordan’s day. He may only be 20 years old but he’s already taking advantage of the information available to him. It’s early days yet but Doncic is on pace to change the game of basketball as we know it.
How is he Doing it?
Doncic subscribes to a school of thought in basketball that maximizes scoring. That is, if you’re talented enough to make it work. Luka doesn’t have a midrange game. It’s not that he can’t shoot midrange jump shots. He surely could. But that’s the least efficient place to shoot from. If you’re inside the three-point arc you should shoot as close to the basket as possible in order to increase your chances of scoring. And if you’re outside, you should make sure to step behind the three-point line. Otherwise you’re just shooting a difficult, far-away shot, and getting two points for it.
This is James Harden’s game as well. The man is a master of the three-pointer-or-drive-to-the-basket type of game. There are other similarities between Doncic and Harden as well. Both shoot an inordinate number of step-back threes. The step-back is made possible with the jab step. But the jab step only works if the defender is afraid of his opponent driving to the hoop. Something Harden and Doncic share is an ability to beat guys off the dribble.
This type of game is proving to be the way things are going in the NBA. Players don’t want to waste their time with a midrange game. The fact that Doncic has already mastered this style of play bodes well for his career in the NBA.
An Unheard of Stat Line
Doncic is an exciting young player. But he is way more than that. If he keeps his numbers up, he is looking at averaging over 20 points with about six rebounds and five assists per game. No rookie has put up numbers like these since Michael Jordan’s rookie season. It’s no joke when you get compared to MJ. But it doesn’t stop there.
Doncic is only averaging 32 minutes per game. Averaging under 40 minutes means that he needs to be incredibly efficient when he’s on the court. And of course, he’s doing just that.
Back in 2010-2011, Blake Griffin averaged about 22 points per game in his rookie season. This was an impressive feat. But he was also playing an average of 38 minutes per game.
Doncic is already a star and he came into the league this season as a teenager. He’s arguably the best teenager we’ve ever seen in the NBA. Well, maybe not better than LeBron but even being in the same company as The King is impressive.
So Doncic most likely wins the Rookie of the Year award this year but it’s what he does after that that is most interesting. Dallas isn’t having a good season, despite what Luka has been able to do. But with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis and a possible high draft pick this summer, Dallas could be a top contender next season.
Which rookie could be the best we’ve seen since Jordan?