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Is Luka Doncic the most accomplished teenager in the history of basketball?

Real Madrid head coach Pablo Laso gives instructions to Luka Doncic. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Roar Rookie
29th July, 2018
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Recent third overall NBA draft pick Luka Doncic boasts a resume unlike any we have ever seen.

Despite being only 19 years of age, he has already achieved virtually everything possible in European basketball. The NBA was always the next step for such a prodigy.

The EuroLeague is unanimously regarded as the second-best basketball competition on Earth, behind only the NBA. Dončić is the reigning regular season MVP, Finals MVP and champion with Real Madrid. Not only that, he also picked up MVP honours and the title in the local Spanish ACB league.

Few players have achieved such honours in an entire career, yet here we have a teenager dominating grown men.

Doncic also won EuroBasket 2017 with the Slovenian national side, making light work of a Spanish team stacked with NBA talent, winning by 20 points, on the way to overall victory. Few would have backed Slovenia to win, but Doncic teamed up with NBA veteran Goran Dragic for Slovenia’s first title. Although Dragic deservedly won the MVP trophy, Doncic made the tournament’s all-star five and showed that he belonged among seasoned professionals.

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So Doncic is already a proven winner. But what about his individual numbers?

He averaged 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in the past EuroLeague season. He led the league in PIR (performance index rating), a measure of overall performance similar to the NBA’s efficiency (EFF) stat.

More impressive is the growth he showed from the previous season, as Doncic more than doubled his scoring average. While these stats may not appear eye-popping, they are MVP numbers when you compare him to his peers in the context of the EuroLeague.

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For those that view him as just another European unknown, think again. Dončić is coming off back-to-back EuroLeague Rising Star trophies, awarded to the best player under 22. Only two other players have won it twice: Nikola Mirotic, at age 21, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, at 22.

In short, no other European prospect in recent history even comes close to his achievements.

So why does the best player of the second-best league in the world fall to the third overall pick? The answer is because NBA teams pick for future potential as opposed to past achievements. To play devil’s advocate, Doncic’s American counterparts don’t have access to the same opportunities in playing professional basketball at such a young age. Furthermore, he isn’t the most explosive athlete, with many scouts hence questioning his ceiling.

Nonetheless, many good judges from Bill Simmons to Jonathan Givony believe he should have gone first, and I agree. His unprecedented accomplishments and year-on-year improvements far outweigh any concerns about athleticism.

Is it a stretch to say Doncic is the best 19-year-old prospect in the history of the sport? That question will be answered in the coming years.

The Dallas Mavericks have done very well to acquire Luka Doncic from fifth place on the board, with many analysts already declaring him as a draft steal. Hopefully, for the Mavs’ sake, the faith is vindicated.

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