Dallas Mavericks’ star Luka Doncic is already rewriting the standard as a 20-year-old phenom but is there still room for improvement? What does his ceiling look like?
It’s hard to fathom the gravity of what Luka Doncic is doing in the NBA; it’s even harder once you consider that the Dallas Mavericks guard can’t even legally buy an alcoholic beverage in the United States.
He’s single-handedly rewriting the standard and putting an emphasis on unconventional draft routes teams can take outside of college basketball.
And the most terrifying aspect about all of this is that he’s having such a profound effect on the game while still being years away from the prime of his career. At the ripe age of 20, his statistics are unparalleled—which makes his ceiling all the more difficult to predict.
Luka Doncic is the only player in NBA history to average better than 25 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per contest at his age.
Per Cleaning the Glass, he’s scoring 120.5 points per 100 shot attempts (88th percentile), has a ridiculous assist percentage of 45.3 percent (100th percentile), while handling a usage rate of 41.4 percent (again, 100th percentile) as a sophomore.
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Under the orchestration of Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks boast an offensive rating of 116.3—good for first in the league.
He took the reigns from former franchise cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki and is leading the next generation of Dallas basketball with synonymous levels elegance and grace.
He’s never going to be the most athletic player on the court, but his lightning-quick first step compounded with a seemingly endless bag of dribble packages make him the versatile offensive threat he is.
Likewise, his strength and physical stature help him a great deal when taking the rock into a flood of bigs. Oh, and if you surround him with shooters, he can get them looks with stunning beyond-his-age court vision and abilities as a passer.
Despite early successes that already have him on the trajectory of legendary status, there is still room for the basketball enigma that is Luka Doncic to improve.
Doncic is connecting on 3.0 three-point field goals per contest, but his efficiency is sacrificed due to the degree of difficulty in his attempts and the volume in which he hoists them. For the season, he’s shooting 32.7 percent (same mark as his rookie campaign) from distance.
I mean, when you can utilize a behind-the-back crossover into a deep step-back three with such fluidity, you’re doing something alright.
You also have to provide additional context in that only 23.3 percent of his threes are assisted, but even on 1.2 catch and shoot triples a game he’s shooting a meager 29.6 percent. There is room for improvement there.
Pointing out his turnovers given his high-usage rate and age is, let’s be honest, unfair, but it’s still relatively notable. Though his assist to turnover ratio is a pretty-respectable 2.1, he’s still prone to some careless turnovers with erratic passes. He’s currently 4th in the NBA in turnovers per game (4.2). Again, totally expected given the circumstances, but also something he’s likely to improve upon as his career progresses and he matures as a player.
Offensively, you have to nitpick for areas where improvement is possible. He’s second in the NBA amongst shooting guards in Offensive Real Plus/Minus (ORPM) at 4.62 but 114th in Defensive Real Plus/Minus (DRPM) at -1.58.
The Dallas Mavericks aren’t exactly a stout defensive squad, ranking 18th in the NBA in defensive rating (110.6)—which is also the worst of any above-.500 squad. So Doncic’s defensive metrics are reflective of the team’s inadequacies on that end to a degree, but he, himself, is not exactly ’03-04 Ron Artest reincarnated. However, that’s not necessarily ever going to be asked of him.
He has a high basketball I.Q., which he does utilize on that end. He’s got solid physical attributes at his disposal and isn’t exactly a defensive liability, even on situations on-ball. He’s not going to switch and guard positions 1-4, but again, his offense more than compensates for any deficiencies on defense.
As long as he stays serviceable on that end—especially once May-June rounds—he’ll be fine.
Overall, it’s hard to compare Doncic to any NBA legend, because he’s really the first of his kind. His offensive approach in terms of shot selection and usage is similar to that of a James Harden, but what he’s doing at such a young age really slights any comparison.
As Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers eloquently said, “He’s Luka.”
His ceiling is among those deeply enshrined in basketball lore; those who have to be mentioned when discussing the history of the game. At this rate, it’s clear he’s going to be a perennial All-Star, All-NBA member, and part of talking heads’ favorite individual in-season narrative: The MVP conversation.