They call it Luka magic. Put the ball in the hands of this 6-foot-8 Slovenian and good things tend to happen on the pitch.
In fact, good is an understatement. Luka Doncic’s play leans, shakes and spins so often in the sublime that it would be unfair to describe it as anything else. Or indeed, as something less alluring or spellbinding than magic.
If you’ve caught one of Doncic’s three seasons in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, or even the previous four with Real Madrid in EuroLeague and Liga ACB, you’ll know exactly what “Luka Magic” entails.
According to tradition which tends to follow early greatness like this, clinging to his ankles to help explain a talent we would otherwise have a hard time understanding, Doncic first hit a basketball in the was seven months old and played with the miniature hoop in his bedroom by the time he was one.
At the age of seven he was on the grounds of his primary school in Ljubljana, at age eight with the local Union club Olimpija, where his father – Saša – made his own kite shots for the senior team. It continues like this. His prodigious abilities allowed him to last only 16 minutes of a training session with players his age.
Soon he was training with teammates for up to six years older, but league rules meant he could only compete against those who had a three or four year advantage in actual competition. At 13, he made up a triple-double of 54 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the Lido di Roma tournament final to seal the trophy and win MVP honors. This particular symphony was a sign of many more to come.
Real Madrid, who have been following the player for some time, had seen enough. Luka therefore signed on the dotted line and made the 1,200 mile trip to the Spanish capital in the hope of becoming a basketball player. It didn’t take long.
Three years later, at the age of 16, he made his professional debut. The season after he became a regular on the bench. The next one he was named EuroLeague Rising Star. A year later, EuroLeague champion and MVP. You can see where it’s going.
It’s unfathomable, Doncic is still only 22 years old. He was named First Teamer All-Star and All-NBA twice in three seasons. In the other, he won the rookie of the year title. Heading into the 2021-2022 season, a survey of NBA general managers found that a third of them believe he will win MVP honors this season, while 43% would sign him out of all of them. other league players if they start a franchise. zero.
Given his trajectory so far, an almost vertical cliff of progression, would you bet against him being named the best player in the league? As it stands, can you see anything other than Doncic ending his career with enough titles to fill Lake Bled?
This is where we are with Luka now, waiting to see how far the enchanted fabric will stretch.
New Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, named in June as part of a major overhaul of the coaching staff and front office, will try to squeeze every ounce of Doncic’s genius out this season. While his coaching career to date can be described as a mixed bag at best, Kidd’s profile as a player makes the new combination enticing, especially when it comes to how it could extend the already polished game. by Luka.
Kidd, a runaway freight train of a point guard capable of rebounding and trampolineing on a quick one-man break, or threading the needle to a runner on either side, might just be l perfect man to fill the void in Doncic.
Oversized himself at just one position, although not quite to Luka’s extent, Kidd was an excellent defender and playmaker (he currently sits second all-time in assists with over 12,000 ) but didn’t miss a touch until much later in his career, which hampered his score. .
In contrast, Doncic is already here, averaging over 28 points per game over the past two seasons – a number that jumps to 33.5 per game in the playoffs. Beyond that, Luka is vacuuming the boards at a rate Kidd has only matched once in his career (over 8 per game) and hit his ridiculous three at 35% rpm. last season, a number that seems low unless you factor in the circus difficulty of the shots he makes.
Again, that jumped to over 40% in the playoffs, a mark Kidd didn’t hit the three-point range until he was 33.
Kidd, however, was selfless at a foul on the field, leading the league in assists five times in his career and leading the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances as the best and only player in the game. All-Star caliber. .
Against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last season, Doncic took the series to almost seven games on his own.
In games 4 and 6 his three steps back did not fall and that may have made a difference in what was a very thin contest, but beyond that it was difficult to ask for more from a player who took two of the league’s best wing defensemen out of school time and time again.
At times it seemed like Paul George or Kawhi Leonard was avoiding the one-on-one match against Doncic, but in reality it was the point guard’s clever use of screens and pick and rolls to generate favorable shifts.
Even though either George or Leonard slumped into their defensive stance and slapped the ground in front of them, Luka just set them on fire like they were Nicolas Batum anyway, whether driving towards the basket for the and-one, by giving a dime without looking at an open shooter or dancing around them and throwing himself from the perimeter.
There’s no one-man squad, of course, but the Doncic Mavericks are the closest thing to the NBA.
He led the league in possession last season (8.9 seconds per touch) and in that series against the Clippers was responsible for Dallas’ 73 percent points against the Clippers in Game 5 (42 points and 14 assists ) and 77 percent in Game 7 (46 points and 14 other times).
This is revealing for several reasons. First of all, it shows that despite several attempts to stop him with a multitude of long defenders and a variety of ploys, Ty Lue and the Clippers (eighth in defensive standings last season) simply couldn’t stop Doncic to mark or create buckets for his teammates every time he jumped on the ground.
The second is that those performances still weren’t enough to win a playoff series.
It took Kidd until his sixth playoff appearance to clinch the first round and once he did, he led the Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. It might take patience. But then again, it’s clear as of the day that now, right now, Doncic is quite good enough to get through the notoriously competitive Western Conference, even as the only star on his squad.
One of two things will have to happen. Kidd is going to mix things up in Dallas after 13 seasons of Rick Carlisle, eke a bit more of the supporting cast – be it Tim Hardaway Jr, Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, or a more unexpected source – and the Mavericks will start doing the genre. of playoff pushes it seems inevitable with a player like Luka Doncic on the roster.
The other thing, and this one is really scary, is that Doncic is doing a little better, and a little better, and a little better, as he has done with every step of this spellbinding journey to date, until he got his hands on it. the MVP award, the Larry O’Brien Trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP.
Considering everything you’ve read and seen so far, I ask you once again: are you going to bet against him? It is magic, after all.