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Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic turns 20: 20 of the best quotes on his rookie season

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Happy Birthday, Luka! (NBA.com Illustration)

By now it's no secret: Luka Doncic is putting forth one of the best rookie seasons the NBA has ever seen.

Through 57 games, he's averaged 20.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists to amass totals of 1,194 points, 415 rebounds and 324 assists - all while still a teenager.

From his confidence and poise to his vision, passing and penchant for step-back 3-pointers, it has become harder and harder to find the proper adjectives to describe the wonders of his game.

While it's difficult to put Doncic's game into words, who better to assess his play than the players and coaches he competes against on a nightly basis?

In celebration of his 20th birthday, here are 20 of the best quotes on the budding superstar from those around the league this season:

1. Dirk Nowitzki - Sep. 22, 2018

At media day, the 21-year veteran was asked about his rookie teammate's preparedness for the NBA game. In response, Nowitzki told reporters that Doncic was in further off than he was when he first came to the league in 1999.

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"He plays with a savviness that I never had - I might still not have it. Honestly, the way he carries himself in scrimmages… the way he reads the situations in pick-and-rolls, passes, he's fantastic. His court vision is something that I haven't seen in a young player like that in probably forever."

2. Donovan Mitchell - Oct. 28, 2018

Donovan Mitchell knows a thing or two about being a standout rookie. In the sixth game of Luka's NBA career, he finished with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists in a loss to the Jazz. In retrospect, this seems like a modest stat line for Doncic, but Mitchell was definitely impressed:

"He does a lot of things - he creates space, hits tough shots. One thing that impressed me most was his vision… to see what he was looking at was very impressive with the reads he was making at 19 because I know last year that I didn't have half the reads that he has now. So his poise, his calm and his demeanour are definitely impressive."

3. LeBron James - Oct. 31, 2018

Luka has not hesitated to let people know that four-time MVP LeBron James is his idol. The respect is mutual. Ahead of their first meeting, James was complimentary of Doncic's poise, and credited his development:

"I don't think [the NBA game] is intimidating to him. I don't think this game is something he hasn't seen before. That's the best thing about European basketball, pro basketball over there, they develop their players so early."

After the game, James gifted Doncic his jersey:

4. D'Angelo Russell - Nov. 21, 2018

17 games into his rookie season, Doncic finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists in a win over Brooklyn. The Nets All-Star point guard spoke on his flawless offensive game:

"He's good, I think he doesn't really have any flaws in his game offensively - he can get to the rim, he can shoot it, he's got a nice touch and can pass it."

5. Brad Stevens - Nov. 24, 2018

Luka's first NBA game against the Celtics came in Nov. 2018. Prior to the game, head coach Brad Stevens shared that he knew Doncic was destined for big things when he played in a preseason game against Boston as a 16-year-old member of Real Madrid in 2015:

"We played against Luka when he was 16 at Real Madrid, so you didn't see much of him in that game, but you knew since he was 16 and on Real Madrid that he was special.

"He's special. He stretches you from deep. He posts you if you're smaller. He's got all of the savvy moves of older guys, and the game seems awfully slow for him. He can just kind of manipulate the game as it goes along."

6. Mike D'Antoni - Nov. 28, 2018

"It's amazing. If you're really good, the transition is easy. He is really good. You knew he would be really good, or I thought he would be, just because at 18 or 17, doing what he did in Europe, that's not easy. Men do that. Obviously, he's a man with his game. What he has done and his resume leads you to believe, he can really play."

7. James Harden - Nov. 28, 2018

The reigning MVP kept it simple, uttering just three words that hold a lot of weight.

"He can play."

8. Rick Carlisle - Nov. 29, 2018

Rick Carlisle played with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton. He's coached the likes of Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, and Dirk Nowitzki. Still, in a feature for Sports Illustrated, Carlisle said that he's never seen anyone like Luka Doncic.

"He's an authentic original. He's truly unlike any specific player that I've ever seen."

9. Goran Dragic - Dec. 12, 2018

No NBA player knows Luka Doncic as well as Goran Dragic does. As a fellow native of Slovenia, Dragic has known Doncic for years and has been able to witness his development and compete with him. For these reasons, he shared with reporters that Doncic's success comes as no surprise:

"He doesn't surprise me. I've known him since he was a kid and we're together until now with the national team. It's nothing new. Some were skeptical because of his EuroLeague background but he proved them wrong."

10. Draymond Green - Dec. 22, 2018

After leading the Mavs to a win over the Warriors in November, Doncic finished with 19 points, five assists and three rebounds in a close road loss to the defending champs. After two games going head-to-head, three-time champion Draymond Green had seen enough to proclaim that Luka has a bright future:

"That dude good. Yeah, he got it. He's going to be a problem - he already a problem. He's going to be really good for a long time… He's kind of lifted that franchise - I don't even think they were really expected to be good this year, and now they're right there."

11. Damian Lillard - Dec. 23, 2018

On Dec. 23, Doncic hit one of the biggest shots of his young NBA career - an improbable clutch 3-pointer with under a second left to send things to overtime against the Blazers.

While the Blazers would end up getting the win, 2013 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard shared his thoughts on Doncic:

"Something told me when he threw it up in the air. I was like 'that s-- going in.' He's a really, really, really good player. Not just for a rookie."

12. Paul George - Dec. 31, 2018

OKC and Dallas closed the 2018 calendar year with back-to-back meetings on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31. Over that two-game span, Doncic averaged 21.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds, earning the respect of MVP candidate Paul George in the process:

"He's got an advantage over most rookies. He's played professionally a lot sooner than a lot of these guys, and it shows. He has a veteran, pro-level game. He's a special talent. He has game."

13. Stephen Curry - Jan. 13, 2019

As All-Star Break neared, the rookie was one of the Western Conference's leading vote-getters and rightly so - he was averaging 20.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists after a 26-point, six-rebound, five-assist performance against the Warriors.

While his All-Star status had yet to be determined, the Warriors Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and head coach Steve Kerr all weighed in on his game:

"He's unbelievable. You can tell he is experienced in terms of playing high-level basketball. He is a guy that is always at his own pace. I'm sure he heard all the doubters and the people talking about his game who really didn't know much about him. He's made himself known, for sure, so it's fun to watch just in terms of the future of the league, talented guys all across the board, and he's one of them."

14. Kevin Durant - Jan. 13, 2019

"But just his poise for the game, his step back three is patented now, and that's what he wants to get to most of the time. He's big and strong and can play in the pick-and-roll… And you can tell that he's not shy, he's not afraid of the moment, and he's going to be a force."

15. Steve Kerr - Jan. 13, 2019

"Whether he makes it or not, he's an All-Star. Certain guys just stand out. You see what they do, you see what they mean to the game. If he doesn't make it this year, he's going to make it soon enough."

16. Gregg Popovich - Jan. 16, 2019

A compliment from five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich could very well be the ultimate honour. After the Spurs defeated the Mavs in mid-Jan., Popovich did not hold back when giving praise to the then-19-year-old.

"I think his demeanour. He has a pace about him that is never frantic. He's calm in everything that he does. He understands spatial relationships and understands where everybody is on the court, what's needed at the time and he's got courage. He'll take big shots and do what needs to be done to try to win a basketball game.

"He obviously attracts the respect of his teammates. That's pretty tough for a rookie to do as quickly as he did. All of that makes him one hell of a basketball player and person. The young man is phenomenal. He does a great job. Such great pace, skill. He's got the whole package."

17. Doc Rivers - Jan. 22, 2019

Luka's 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists led the Mavs to an eight-point win over the Clippers on Jan. 22, and Doc Rivers shared that Doncic is one of his favourite players to watch in the league:

"He's my favourite player to watch almost and not talking just rookies. First of all, he plays with a great joy - I love that. And he's just so advanced in the way he plays. The sky's the limit for him. Wait until he gets in shape."

18. Kawhi Leonard - Jan. 27, 2019

35 points. 12 rebounds. 10 assists. In a three-point loss to the Raptors, Luka Doncic recorded the second triple-double of his young career. All-Star Kawhi Leonard was impressed:

"He's great - he's leading this Mavericks team, tonight he had [over] 30 and a triple-double - he's playing well. You see that circus shot he took at the end and he makes it, so…he has everything."

19. Giannis Antetokounmpo - Feb. 8, 2019

Following Doncic's 20-point performance against the Bucks, MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo shared with reporters that he has known that the rookie would be special for some time now.

"He's amazing. He's an amazing player - he can find his teammates, he can create his own shot - high IQ player… He played against my brother two years ago and I saw him up close and I knew he was special since the day I saw him. He's a big part of this team and the sky's the limit for him."

20. Dwyane Wade - Feb. 13, 2019

Dwyane Wade spent over four seasons as teammates with LeBron James. Following Doncic's near triple-double (18 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists) against the Heat on Feb. 13, the three-time champ drew a parallel with Doncic and his former teammate.

"Quote me right where I say this - it's LeBron James-like from the standpoint of how he's able to rope that pass to shooters in corners, getting blitzed. There's not many guys who can do that and put it right there. He does an amazing job of it."

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