Luka Doncic is by most reasonable measures the best basketball player on the planet not currently in the NBA. How will he impact the league when he begins his NBA career next season?
Before you compare Luka Doncic to previous international prospects lauded in the pre-draft process that ultimately flamed out in the NBA, understand this: What Luka Doncic is doing in the world’s second-best basketball league is unprecedented.
He is 18 years old and dominating a league filled with grown men, including former NBA and NCAA Division I players. He dominated in Eurobasket – a competition also filled with grown men, including current NBA All-Stars, starters and rotation players.
Players his age, if they even make it on the roster of a franchise of Real Madrid’s caliber, rarely if ever receive serious rotation minutes. He is receiving 25 minutes per game (Euroleague players generally receive smaller minutes loads than NBA players – 25 is standard for an upper-tier starter) on one of Europe’s best teams.
Not only has he managed to earn an opportunity that few, if any, players his age ever receive, he is thriving. He is currently putting up 23 points, 8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes with a hyper-efficient 60.8 true shooting percentage and 29 percent usage rate.
Here is an exhaustive list of NBA players to achieve 20-7-6 on 60 percent true shooting and 29 percent usage: Michael Jordan, James Harden and Lebron James (3x). Doncic is averaging fewer turnovers per 36 than any of them did, save LeBron James in his legendary 2013 campaign.
Granted he is doing this in Euroleague as opposed to the NBA. It is a step down, although not as much of one.
Counting stats on a per 36 minutes scale is a myopic way to project draft prospects, but that gives you an idea of how unique Doncic’s skills and production are. Even more myopic than using counting stats to predict future performance would be knocking him down your big board because of preconceptions of European prospects or competition.
There is little use in viewing him through the lens of historical precedent. There is no historical precedent for Doncic.
None of that is to argue he will be a guaranteed NBA success. It is just important to put his performance into context to evaluate him properly.
Although he is not without shortcomings, he possesses unteachable talent. Doncic is a next-level passer, an excellent scorer and an underrated defender and athlete. Let’s dive into it.