In only 24 games into his professional career, 19-year old Luka Doncic from Slovenia is not just making a case for NBA Rookie of the Year, but he’s arguably the MVP of the upstart Dallas Mavericks.
Doncic leads the Mavericks in scoring this season with 17.8 points per game. Against reigning-MVP James Harden and the Houston Rockets, the rookie put on sizzling 21-point performance. He seized control of the game in the fourth quarter as he led the Mavs to an emotional win over their division rival.
The Mavericks (14-11) are in second place in the Southwest Division and only a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies.
At the start of the season, experts predicted the Houston Rockets would be leading the way, but the Rockets have been in a tailspin after the Carmelo Anthony experiment failed miserably. The San Antonio Spurs struggled mightily after the Kawhi Leonard trade. Now, the Raptors are the top team in the Eastern Conference and the Spurs are fighting the Rockets for last place in the Southwest.
The Mavericks started the season 3-8 including a six-game losing streak in late October that spilled into November. The Mavs are 12-4 since the early season hiccup and have not lost consecutive games since snapping their six-game skid. During the recent stretch, the Mavs defeated the LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and the Utah Jazz.
Theme from the Bottom
Last season, the Mavs won only 24 games and were considered one of the worst teams in the NBA. They landed a lottery pick and traded up to acquire Luka Doncic from the Atlanta Hawks for Trae Young.
The risky move on draft day made many fans grumble, but only a quarter into the NBA season, everyone has jumped on the Luka Doncic bandwagon.
“The kid from Slovenia has exceeded expectations,” said long-time Mavericks fan, Alan B. Treotch. “He’s a big gamer. Not afraid of the big shot. Everyone wants a #77 jersey now.”
Despite being a rookie, Doncic played pro ball in Spain since he was in his early teens. The level of talent is significantly greater in the NBA than in Europe, but the 19-year old quickly adjusted to playing against the world’s elite players.
It’s not a surprise that Doncic is leading the rookie of the year race. Doncic topped the Mavs in scoring in ten games so far and he’s averaging 17.8 points per game, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. In November, the NBA awarded Doncic the Rookie of the Month honor.
The 6-foot-7 Doncic embraced his role in the era of positionless basketball. The swingman is quick enough to play both guard positions and he’s strong enough to handle the forward position.
The rookie’s clutch performance against the Houston Rockets last weekend is what everyone is still talking about. Although James Harden led all scorers with 35 points, Doncic countered with 21 points and the win. The rookie shrugged off a poor shooting night and finished strong. Doncic unleashed an avalanche of scoring in a short span and dropped 11-straight points including a trio of three-pointers that fired up the home-town crowd in Dallas.
“It’s pretty clear that he’s got a flair for the moment,” said Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s unafraid. You don’t see that every day. It’s a unique three or four minutes, whatever he put together there.”
Even if Doncic never played another game in the NBA, he could still go to the grave knowing that his step-back trey against Clint Capela is one of the sickest moves in recent years.
The Mavericks started the season as 250-1 favorites to win the NBA championship. After their strong start, the Mavs improved to 200-1 odds.