The list of NBA players that are overshadowed by nearly insurmountable expectations going into their rookie seasons are few and far between. There have been rookies who have performed either above or at the level of their expectations: Ben Simmons (a revolutionary point forward who refuses to shoot a three), Blake Griffin (a former lightning bolt of athleticism in an overwhelmingly large body), LeBron James (a fresh faced High School graduate who had been referred to as the Chosen One since he was only 17 years old), and now there is Luka Doncic (one of the most dominant forces in EuroLeague history who is only 19 years old and is taking the NBA world in the palm of his Slovenian hands and effortlessly tossing it into the basket following a deadly step-back off of his right foot).
Luka may not look like the prototypical NBA star. He's got a good amount of chub on his body that looks like it was meant to play hockey, and not basketball. His jersey number, #77, is actually more similar to that of a hockey player than it is a once-in-a-generation hooper. And finally, his athleticism is on the polar opposite end of the spectrum from the other future NBA talent that scouts are drooling over: Zion Williamson.
Putting Luka and Zion in the same room would be like putting Paul Giamatti and Chris Rock in the same room. Yes, they're both unbelievably good at what they do, and they'll make you laugh. But Chris Rock is going to make your abs hurt from laughing so hard, while Giamatti is more likely to keep you intrigued purely based on his fundamental output.
All of these lacks of stereotypical physicality and appearance aside; Luka is hands down the best rookie in his class, and may even be ahead of the class before him. While Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum have taken considerably large steps backwards during their sophomore seasons, Luka has only made progress through his first 30 or so games. He's beginning to see angles on the floor that only Ben Simmons, Chris Paul, and LeBron James can see; Tatum and Mitchell are practically playing with goggles in comparison to Luka when it comes to playmaking prowess.
Doncic is averaging a healthy 18.8/6.6/4.9, and the only downfall of his stat line is the 3.5 turnovers per game. This may be seen as a result of Luka trying to do too much, which is only natural for a rookie who is ecstatic to finally fulfill his dream of being an up and coming NBA star. Luka makes up for his give away deficiencies by shooting the rock at a deadly efficient clip for a rookie: 43.4/36.6/76.6. Luka will continue to improve in each of these areas going forward, which is a scary sight for the league. The more responsibility that the Dallas Mavericks allow Luka to control, the more turnovers and assists will be accumulated. But, as a result of this, his playmaking will perfectly collaborate alongside his natural knack for scoring.
The question is not how many moves does Luka have, but rather, how many moves does Luka not have? I know, I know, it sounds cliche as fuck to say that, but it's perfectly applicable to his skillset. Here's a list of all of the moves Luka has in his arsenal that are far superior to not just NBA rookies, but all players in general:
- STEP BAAAAACK. This move is so lethal that only videos of it can do it justice. (Watch the two differences between the two moves, they are similar in their nature but very different in their effectiveness. On the first one, Wiggins is attempting to blanket Luka, but has to respect his drive which allows Luka an ample amount of space to get his shot off after the move. On the second one, he's utilizing patience and vision more than he is strength and quickness.)
- His floater makes me want to practice floaters at a local YMCA until I've perfectly emulated his touch one thousand times in a row.
- I was once taught that every move you have in your package should always include a counter move. What's the counter to a stepback as lethal as Luka's? An up and under, of course, except not like a Kevin McHale up and under in the post, but one from twenty five feet out.
- Luka also has each of these moves that are so polished it feels as if he's a ten year veteran: post moves such as the up and under, post fadeaway bank shot, and the list could go on and on and on honestly.
There hasn't been a rookie in the league like Luka since the King himself. The young man is here to stay, and should be considered one of the most valuable players in the league for years to come. We should be thankful that trash organizations like the Suns, Hawks, and Kings all passed on Luka so that way we can observe him under a great organization like Dallas. Carlisle is the perfect coach to capitalize on all of Luka's super abilities, and he will become the face of the franchise once Dirk Nowitzki finally decides to retire. He's already the team's best player, but until he becomes the most popular sports figure in the state of Texas, I think it's safe to say that the Rookie of the Year award will do.