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Yturralde: Luka Doncic — Young GOAT

| Monday, August 24, 2020

Luka Magic. Those are the only two words that anybody should be saying right now. 

Luka is the best thing that could have happened to Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks organization. He is the present and future of the NBA.

In game four of the first round series between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, Luka Doncic reminded all of the haters what he is worth. Putting up 43-17-13, the young guard carried his team to victory and evened the series at 2-2. Although there were no fans to cheer and no home court advantage to play for, this win meant a lot to the Mavericks.

Playing without Kristaps Porzingis was a huge blow to Dallas, both mentally and physically. The Latvian big man was brought in last season to be Luka’s No. 2. Unfortunately though, he missed this game due to concerns with his right knee.

That being said, Doncic was not completely himself, either. If the stats do not speak for themselves, the young guard charged into battle on a hurt ankle and looked like a man possessed. Doncic suffered a left ankle sprain in a painful Game 3 loss to the Clippers. Even with that, Luka powered through the pain in Game 4 and showed his team what true leadership looks like. They say that time heals all wounds, but, tonight, I think Luka’s wounds were healed by hard work, grit and a love of the game.

While it may seem like this young star appeared out of thin air, Doncic has been grinding for a long time. His James Harden-esque step backs and fine tuned basketball IQ all stem from years of hard work.

At the age of 13, the young Slovenian left his native country to join the highly esteemed Real Madrid. After three years within Madrid’s youth and development teams, Luka made his first team debut. At the age of 16, Doncic was the youngest player to ever play for Real Madrid and the third youngest ever in ACB league history.

In his third year with the first team, Luka helped lead Real Madrid to a EuroLeague title. Along the way, the Slovenian earned the EuroLeague MVP, Final Four MVP, ACB MVP and was selected to the EuroLeague 2010-20 All-Decade Team. It is fair to say that this was a breakout season for Doncic.

That summer, young Luka was drafted third overall in the 2018 draft by the Atlanta Hawks and was traded to Dallas shortly after. Since his NBA debut, the 21-year-old has done nothing but leave people in shock and awe.

Many critics claimed that European basketball is soft and that Luka did not have the physique or ability to make it in the NBA. Well, at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Doncic has proved to be a walking bucket.

In his first season with Dallas in 2018-2019, the young star averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 6.0 APG. Rookie status aside, these numbers are incredible, even for a veteran NBA player. The fact that Luka was saucing up the league like this as a teenager is a spectacle in and of itself.

Doncic went on to win Rookie of the Year for the 2018-19 season.

This year, leading the Mavericks to a much more successful season, Luka averaged 28.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG and 8.8 APG. Apart from the fact that he almost averaged a triple double as a sophomore in the league, Doncic took the Mavericks to the NBA Playoffs.

It is difficult to predict how any player will perform in their first playoff series. With that, Luka seems to be very comfortable in a high-pressure environment. 

Some could argue that the NBA Bubble provides Luka with an easier introduction to the playoffs than the normal format. There are no longer opposing fans booing you everytime you receive the ball or long flights between games. 

That being said, players can not go home to their families at the end of long days in the gym. They can bump into opposing players in the hotel hallway or around the campus. The NBA Bubble has created a new series of playoff difficulties to endure.

It seems like Luka Doncic was born to play basketball, no matter the circumstances. He has gone head-to-head against the best players in the world with no fear up to this point in his career. There are no signs that the remainder of the Mavericks’ playoff run will be any different.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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