The 2018 NBA Draft has produced its fair share of rising stars. However, none of the 2018 draftees are shining quite as brightly as Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. The 20-year-old Slovenian has taken the league by storm, excelling in essentially every facet of the game.
However, Luka didn't just explode into the league out of nowhere. In fact, he's been building and improving his game for years, sharpening his skills in the EuroLeague as a teenager.
Let’s take a look at the newest NBA sensation!
Luka's Early Life
Luka Doncic was born on the 28th of February in 1999 in the city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The son of beauty salon owner Mirjam Poterbin and basketball coach Sasa Doncic, he picked up the game of basketball at a very young age. In fact, he was playing on a mini-hoop in his house at the age of just 1.
While Luka indulged in other sports such as soccer, his life primarily revolved around basketball. He began playing the sport in an organized fashion at the age of 7, and he began to take the game more and more seriously from that point on.
From the time he started playing basketball, he was competing with, and against, kids who were two to three years older than him. Because of this, he gained an understanding that superior intelligence and preparation could make up for a lack of speed, strength, and height.
During his childhood, Luka admired a variety of professional basketball players. On the European circuit, Greek player Vassilis Spanoulis was the player he most looked up to. As far as the NBA went, he idolized superstar forward LeBron James.
Luka's Measurables and Playing Style
Some basketball players excel at shooting the ball. Some players are accomplished dribblers. Some are just otherworldly athletes.
Luka Doncic has a little bit of everything. While he's not necessarily the best in any one area of the game, he is toward the top of the totem pole in a wide variety of categories.
He's not the flashiest ballhandler in the league, but he's more than capable of cutting through defenses with both his left and right hands.
He's not the greatest shooter you'll ever lay your eyes on, but he can put the ball in the basket at a respectable clip.
He's not a lockdown defender, but he's not a liability on defense either.
Where Doncic truly excels is his vision, his passing, and his basketball IQ. He has a knack for offensive positioning and does a superb job of getting the ball to his teammates at the right time. This skill is what makes him such a terrific facilitator.
It doesn't hurt that he combines a point guard skill set with small forward size. Measuring in at 6 feet 7 inches and weighing in at 218 pounds, he's great at using his height and his strength to his advantage. When you combine his size, his strength, and his basketball IQ, it nullifies any speed or quickness that he might be lacking.
Doncic has been compared to a number of different players, including Manu Ginobili, Paul Pierce, and Ben Simmons, to name just a few. Some even compare him to LeBron James due to the fact that they both possess an extremely versatile skill set.
However, in the end, Luka Doncic is Luka Doncic. There's nobody else in the NBA right now who's quite like him. He brings a unique style of play that's almost impossible to emulate.
Luka's European Basketball Career
For most Americans, Luka Doncic is a relatively new phenomenon. For Europeans, however, Luka Doncic has been a superstar for quite some time.
Even at a young age, Luka Doncic was a dominant basketball player. Signing with Spanish team Real Madrid at 13 years old, he was a force of nature in the under-16 league. In his first season with the team, he won MVP honors at both the Minicopa Endesa and the Under-16 Spain Championship.
In his second season, at just 15 years old, he would move up to the under-18 team. While he was a reserve for this team, he still played well enough to earn all-league honorable mention credit.
National Team Career
When it comes to international play, Doncic represents his home country of Slovenia. In fact, he has made a verbal agreement to play for the Slovenian national team for the rest of his playing days.
As of right now, Luka's playing time with the national team has been limited. However, in the games that he has played, he has been superb, as usual.
In fact, in the EuroBasket 2017 tournament, he helped Slovenia to win the gold medal. During this tournament, he also played well enough to earn All-Tournament Team honors.
EuroLeague Professional Career (2015-2016)
In 2015, at just 16 years of age, Luka made his professional basketball debut, playing for Real Madrid in the Liga ACB. As of right now, he ranks as the third youngest player in the history of the league.
In that same year, Doncic made his first start in the EuroLeague. At the time, he was just the 21st player in the history of the league to play in a game before turning 17.
While Luka's 2015-2016 season was far from dominant, it was still fairly impressive, especially for a 16-year-old kid. His best game during that season was a 15-point, 4-assist, 6-rebound effort while competing against Bilbao.
EuroLeague Professional Career (2016-2017)
For Luka Doncic, the 2016-2017 season was his coming out party. In that season, he evolved from a 16-year-old, scarcely-used reserve, to a 17-year-old game-changing phenom.
Luka started the 2016-2017 season on limited minutes. However, after several games of high-quality play, he became more and more prominent in the team's game plan.
In the ACB Liga, he earned his first ever Player of the Week honor. He did this after posting a 23-point, 11-assist game against Montakit Fuenlabrada.
EuroLeague Professional Career (2017-2018)
Luka's 2017-2018 season is what sent him into the stratosphere and made him a star. During this season, he was given a substantial amount of playing time, as he was expected to fill the void left by injured teammate Sergio Llull.
He most certainly took advantage of his increased playing time, winning the EuroLeague MVP of the Round on several occasions, and the ACB Player of the Round on several occasions.
He was also named Player of the Month once in both leagues. In both cases, he was the youngest player ever to do so.
His 2017-2018 season was not just characterized by individual success, though. His team had a great deal of success as well.
In fact, his team, Real Madrid, went on to win the finals in both the ACB Liga and the EuroLeague. He won the MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four and contributed greatly to the team's success during the ACB finals.
At year's end, Doncic collected numerous awards, including the season MVP Award for both the ACB Liga and the EuroLeague. In both leagues, he was the youngest season MVP recipient of all-time.
By the end of his 2017-2018 season, Doncic was not just a well-known name in European basketball, but in American basketball as well. Numerous NBA scouts had taken notice of his talents, and he was widely considered one of the best young players in the world. For this reason, he opted to leave Real Madrid and enter the NBA Draft.
Luka's NBA Career
Luka Doncic's NBA career is only a single season long at this point. However, in this one season, he has already proven himself to be one of the league's elite players.
Coming into the 2018 NBA Draft, there was a great deal of hype surrounding Luka Doncic. However, due to the fact that he was an international player, and that several international players had flopped big in the NBA before, some were skeptical as to whether or not he could hang with the best players in the world.
Two teams, the Phoenix Suns and the Sacramento Kings, chose to pass on Doncic. However, with the third pick, the Atlanta Hawks decided he was their man, only to eventually trade him to the Dallas Mavericks for Oklahoma University point guard Trae Young, as well as a 2019 protected first round pick.
The Mavericks, who were slated to choose fifth in the draft, had wanted Doncic from the beginning. They saw him as a player that could be the foundation of a franchise, much in the same way that fellow European Dirk Nowitzki had been their franchise cornerstone for the past two decades.
NBA Rookie Season (2018-2019)
Once the 2018-2019 season began, it didn't take long for Luka to show his potential. In his first 10 NBA games, he became the youngest 20-point scorer and youngest 30-point scorer in Mavericks history. Within approximately a month, he had earned his first double-double, doing so with a 15-point, 10-rebound performance against Grizzlies.
For the month of November, he was awarded the NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month. He then accomplished that feat again in December, also breaking a record for being the youngest player to make 7 3-pointers in a single game.
As the season rolled into 2019, Luka continued to improve. In late January against the Bucks, he produced his first NBA triple-double. He did this by posting 18 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds.
In February, he posted his second NBA triple-double, doing so against the Raptors with a line of 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. At 19 years of age, he became the only teenager ever to post a 30-point triple-double in league history.
Doncic finished second in All-Star fan voting behind only LeBron James. Though he was not selected to participate in the NBA All-Star Game, he was selected to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge.
After the All-Star break, Luka just got better and better, posting both his 3rd and 4th NBA triple-doubles. He became the youngest player in league history to ever post 3 triple-doubles.
While he hasn't won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award just yet, he seems to be well on his way. As of right now, he's essentially crushing the competition, and he's got the potential to be one of the best foreign NBA playersof all time.
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