The NBA is a superstar’s league. That means, for teams to win, you need the best players you can find, surround them with the right roster, and trust them to take you to the promised land. It’s a formula that always worked. The Dallas Mavericks got one in their hands, although roster construction at this point is far from ideal. Well, if you got a guy named Luka Doncic, you still expect to compete and go deep in the postseason, even though he is just 23 years old. Speaking of, it’s a fair question to ask: How good is Luka Doncic?
What Makes Luka Doncic a Good NBA Player?
If we’re being honest, Doncic is not “good.” He is already great. To establish that fact, consider his body of work:
At 13, he signed a professional contract with Real Madrid and made their senior team at 16. He was the best player in Europe by 18 and left everyone no doubt by winning Euroleague MVP at 19. At 21, he was already a perennial All-NBA first team member and an MVP candidate. Yes, he is already a top 5 NBA player and, barring any career-ending injuries, may be viewed as such, at least for the next 10 years.
So, what makes Luka Doncic good at an age where most are still feeling out their place in the league? You can’t pinpoint one reason for his dominance, but it’s a combination of natural abilities and learned skills. Check out these more nuanced points about his game:
- Luka Doncic is what scouts would say an “average athlete.” That means he doesn’t jump very high or run incredibly fast, which gives a basketball player a natural advantage. However, Luka makes it up with immense basketball IQ and craftiness. He knows how to freeze people with his handles and takes advantage of any mistakes committed by the defense.
- Luka is always under control and is a master of using angles. Playing under control is never allowing opponents to rattle you or force you to play at their own pace. He always takes it nice and slow. He understands how to throw opponents off balance and then capitalize on it. That is sheer talent.
- A misconception about Luka is that he’s a better shooter than LeBron James. He isn’t. He’s not even an average free-throw shooter and only shot under 34% from the rainbow territory for his career. What he’s able to do, though, is he’s a master of off-balanced shots. It’s routine for him to take step-back 15-footers or post smaller players up with his frame and take fouls. Some people just make shots, and he is one of them.
- Luka keeps things simple. You don’t see him take risks like Steph Curry or Trae Young, which is the secret to his game’s sheer beauty. He’s just being intelligent, playing chess while everyone is playing checkers. He throws bounce passes when a defender’s hands are up and throws lobs if he catches defenders with their hands down.
- Put all of Luka’s tools together, and you get a perennial MVP candidate at a ridiculously young age. People forget Luka is 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds playing the point guard position.
On offense, Doncic is the closest thing we’ve seen to a prime LeBron James. Both are imposing point guards who are also among the league’s top scorers and passers. They play like seek-and-destroy submarines by using pick-and-roll. Once the defender sends help, they can always find the mismatch and the open player. LeBron may be the more athletic specimen, but Luka closes the gap with an incredible shiftiness and shot-making.
How Many PPG Does Luka Doncic Average?
As mentioned, the Luka Doncic stats already says he is a superstar. His PPG (points per game) is insane, and he has always been among the league leaders in that category for three years now. Last season, Luka averaged 28.4 points on top of nine assists and eight rebounds. For his career, Doncic is averaging 26.4 points per game. To put that in perspective, that’s more PPG average than Kobe Bryant, James Harden, or Kyrie Irving.
But what’s impressive about Doncic is the fact that he somehow manages to supersede his regular-season stats come playoff time. In fact, he has yet to average less than 31 PPG in any playoff run he’s been in. Look at what he did in Games 6 and 7 against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns, and you’ll see that he shows up when it matters the most.
Doncic scored 33 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 6, leading the Mavericks to a 27-point victory. Remember that this was an elimination game! Game 7 was even more devastating, with Luka scoring 35 points in only 30 minutes as the Mavericks ripped the Suns off their home floor in a 33-point victory that wasn’t even close. This was against Chris Paul, considered a top three point guard of all time. But even CP3 already lost four game 7s in his career.
Again, everything needs context here, but a point should be made. When push comes to shover, Luka has the habit of showing up when the team needs him the most.
What is Luka Doncic Style of Play?
Part of what makes Luka Doncic good is his style of play. He plays a heady basketball game, thinking two to three moves ahead of the defender. Some NBA legends note how skilled Luka is, which is perfect in a half-court setting. The Mavericks’ star can use his high-level basketball fundamentals to slow things down and deke his more athletic defenders whenever he wants.
Former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas called Doncic a “puppet master” out there and he’s not wrong. Some describe his playstyle as a cross between James Harden (craftiness), Larry Bird (mid-range shotmaking), and LeBron James (manipulating defenses and making the right play).
Whatever you think his playstyle is, it works. Luka Doncic is proof that if you just get really, really excellent at the fundamentals, you can be effective; you can cross up and own certain defenders with ease. Your plays will not be as visually appealing, but they will be more effective.
How Likely Luka Doncic Will Be an MVP in the NBA?
It’s not in everybody’s scope of skills to predict the future, but Luka is the surest thing in a long time. He is a highly-skilled basketball player, a superstar that can do it all, and somehow manages to be even better on the big stage.
Last year, Luka finished six in MPV voting behind the winner Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, and Chris Paul. Jokic repeats as the MVP in 2022, but Doncic placed fifth in the voting process. What can we make of this?
Among the perennial candidates, who is better than Luka Doncic? Right now, Jokic, Embiid, and Giannis are all in their primes and will probably be in the conversation for the years to come. These guys have something Doncic doesn’t yet, but he will figure it out. But then again, let’s not fail to mention that Luka is only 23 and may not have reached his prime yet. (Isn’t that scary?)
With that being said, what will Luka need to take his game to unprecedented heights? First, Luka needs to dodge the injury bullet and show that he can play at least 75 games. Doncic often starts slow and plays into game shape the rest of the season. If he wants to be an MVP, he needs to play like one from the opening tip. If he can do that, the sky is truly the limit for him.
Wrapping Things Up: How Good Is Luka Doncic? (And Why)
The NBA is full of fantastic players. There are fringe all-stars, perennial All-Stars, All-NBAers, and MVP candidates– all bringing something to the table that makes them command nine-figure salaries.
Here is the thing, though. Luka Doncic, at age 23, is already a yearly MVP candidate. He has been an All-NBA first team member since age 21, and his game shows that there is yet another level to reach. What makes Luka Doncic good, like this good, very early in his career?
Well, for one thing, Luka’s age is more of a smokescreen. He is already a multi-year vet of professional leagues, having played for Real Madrid in the Euroleague since he was 16. He captured the Euroleague MVP at 19 years of age, a record no one ever came close to touching.
Going into the NBA made him even better than he already was, and all the Luka Doncic stats provide solid proof. In his four-year stint with the Mavs, Luka averaged 26-8-8. It’s mind-boggling how he would up the ante in the playoffs, averaging 32.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 7.9 assists in 32 postseason games. He has made it to three consecutive All-NBA first teams and finished fifth in the MVP voting last season.
So, if someone asks you, “How good is Luka Doncic?” there is only one answer: He is not even good; that kid is GREAT! One look at his statistical accolades points out that he is a future MVP. He simply needs to play like one from Game 1 to Game 82.