Photo Credit: CBS Sports
The 2018 NBA draft class was heralded as one of the best classes in recent memory. For the most part, it has lived up to the hype. The top ten are all solidly contributing to their respective teams so one would think that the rookie of the year race would be tight and competitive. This is just simply not the case. Luka Doncic has been putting together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in recent memory.
The 19-year-old from Slovenia was highly regarded as the top international prospect in the 2018 class. He was playing in the second best league in the world and dominating grown men as an 18-year-old. His last season in the EuroLeague he was named MVP. Given his prior success overseas it shouldn’t be too surprising to see Luka playing so well in his first year in the NBA. However, he is exceeding everyone’s expectations so far this year.
It’s one thing to put up big numbers as a rookie for a team who is in the rebuilding phase and not necessarily in a “win-now” mode; it’s a completely different thing to be the star of a team who is currently contending for a playoff spot as a rookie. That’s what Luka Doncic is doing. He is the focal point of the 13-11 Dallas Mavericks and everything that they do offensively. His usage rate of 26% is in the 93rd percentile of NBA players. That’s insane for a rookie have to be relied upon that heavily on a team that is actually winning games. To put it in perspective, the only rookie with a higher usage rate is Trae Young who plays for a bottom feeding Atlanta Hawks team with very few offensive options. It’s not that Doncic is the only viable offensive option for Dallas as Young is for Atlanta, it’s that he is so good that they are running their offense through him out of their own volition. Doncic is currently averaging 18 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, and 4 assists per game with a true shooting percentage of 56%. The only two other rookies in NBA history to do that? Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson–pretty good company.
Luka’s stats speak for themselves, but what separates him from the rest of the rookies in his class is simply how comfortable and in control he is. Take Doncic’s recent performance against the Houston Rockets, for example. Dallas was down 102-94 with just a few minutes left. Luka proceeded to score 11 unanswered points to secure a come from behind win. Hitting clutch buckets is nothing new for him. Doncic is shooting over 60% in the clutch this year. Not even the Dallas Mavericks could have foreseen Doncic being this good this soon.
It looks like Dallas has their successor to Dirk. It looks like Luka has the potential for greatness. And, barring any injury or major setback, it looks like we have our 2018-2019 NBA Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic.