The legend of Luka Doncic is already starting to grow.
Yes, other rookies have impressed. Yes, other players have been better. But there's a certain buzz around Doncic that just feels different, let alone for a 19-year old rookie with a veteran's feel for the game.
It seems like every time he steps on the floor, there's a new play, new stat, or new anecdote that has NBA fans everywhere buzzing. As it unfolds, we're chronicling every game with the best of the best from his head-turning rookie season.
BEST OF THE BEST (JUMP TO A MOMENT)
THE 11-0 RUN | FILTHY STEPBACK | TAKING DOWN THE DUBS | HISTORIC 1ST 10 GAMES | THE SHOT
Game 34: Respect
Luka's Line: 25 points, 9-19 FG, 4-11 3PT
Result: Mavericks def. Thunder, 105-103.
In the second-last game of 2018 for Dallas, Doncic led the Mavericks to a victory over Russell Westbrook and Paul George's Thunder.
After the game, George said that Doncic is "a special talent" who "has game."
"He's got an advantage over most rookies," George explained. "He's played professionally a lot sooner than a lot of these guys and it shows. He has a veteran, pro-level game."
Game 33: Get buckets
Luka's Line: 34 points, 10-16 FG, 7-13 FT
Result: Mavericks lost to Pelicans, 114-112
Doncic dazzled in defeat, scoring a career-high 34 points and nearly pulling off yet another superman act down the stretch. Though his potential game-tying shot was blocked with 34 seconds left, he still finished 3-4 in the clutch and for the season is 21-38 from the field in the final five minutes and score within five.
Of the over 50 players with at least 20 clutch-time FG attempts, only Giannis Antetokounmpoo and Victor Oladipo are shooting a higher percentage.
In terms of rookies, Doncic's 21 makes are three times as many as anyone else.
Game 32: Another near triple-double
Luka's Line: 21 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 11-12 FT
Result: Mavericks def. Pelicans, 122-119
It feels like it's only a matter of time before Doncic records that first triple-double.
In a three-point win over the Pelicans, the rookie phenom stuffed the stat sheet to help his team snap a six-game skid.
Luke Doncic finished with 21 PTS, 10 AST & 9 REB in the @dallasmavs WIN over the @PelicansNBA!- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) December 27, 2018
Rookie Highlights are presented by @juicyfruit. pic.twitter.com/ETW3qGIDxb
Game 31: The Shot
Luka's Line: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 7-9 FT
Result: Mavericks lost to Trail Blazers, 121-118 (OT)
Down three points with 0.6 seconds remaining, Luka sank what is quite possibly the most impressive shot of his young career.
And every Mavs fan shouted Halleluka. pic.twitter.com/cBKM9SKnhp- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 24, 2018
The Mavs would ultimately fall to the Blazers in OT, but Luka had the highlight of the night.
Game 30: Playing above the rim at ORACLE
Luka's Line: 19 points, 5 assists
Result: Mavericks lost to Warriors, 120-116
Despite a late run from the Mavericks, the Warriors avenged their loss from earlier in the season. Per usual, Doncic found a way to impress with a few above the rim finishes.
OH MY! 😱 @luka7doncic pic.twitter.com/UvkgXkk6Lm- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 23, 2018
Game 29: A new career-high
Luka's Line: 32 points, 10-20 FG, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Clippers, 125-121
In a four-point loss, Doncic scored the second of what will likely be many 30-point games in his rookie season, setting a new career high of 32 points.
Game 28: Dropping Dimes
Luka's Line: 23 points, 12 assists, 10-12 FT (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Nuggets, 126-118
The Mavericks may have lost the game, but this was Doncic's best playmaking game of the season as he finished with a career-high 12 assists. Here's a look at all 12 of his dimes.
Game 27: A week of rookie matchups
Luka's Line: 28 points, 9-15 FG, 9 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Kings, 120-113
This game concluded a week in which Doncic squared off against each of the three teams that passed on him in June (Suns and Kings did not draft him; Hawks traded him to Dallas). Here's how Doncic stacks up so far this season with the other rookies.
|Marvin Bagley III||12.7||53.6||6.1||0.9|
Game 26: Doncic-Ayton II
Luka's Line: 13 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Suns, 99-89
Not too much to write home about in Phoenix as the Suns fans saw Doncic in action for the second time this season after Dallas opened the season there back in October.
Game 25: Doncic-Young II
Luka's Line: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Hawks, 114-107
Luka Doncic and Trae Young will forever be linked thanks to the draft day trade. This was the final time they'll play this season and both played well, dropping 24 points each. In two games against each other this season, both of them averaged over 20 points per game.
Game 24: Flirting with the trip-dub
Luka's Line: 7 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Magic, 101-76
Doncic was well on his way to dropping his first career triple-double and the first by a rookie this season had it not been for the Mavericks steam-rolling the Magic. This game served as yet another reminder of how the 19-year old finds ways to impact the game even when his shot isn't falling, as he finished just 2-11 from the field and missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
Also... here's a nice reminder that he's still a kid who just flat out enjoys the game.
Doncic is very GIFable pic.twitter.com/TGqtJEpFeA- Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 11, 2018
Game 23: The 11-0 Run
Luka's Line: 21 points, 7-17 FG, 7 rebounds, 3 steals (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Rockets, 107-104
Truth be told, this my Doncic's signature moment thus far. With 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks trailed 102-94. At that moment, Doncic was struggling as he was just 3-13 from the field with 10 points. What happened next? A personal 11-0 run to steal the win for Dallas.
That time @luka7doncic went on an 11-0 run... pic.twitter.com/w9Y85cV9RR- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 9, 2018
Game 22: The Speedbump
Luka's Line: 8 points, 2-8 FG, 6 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Pelicans, 132-106
On the second night of a back-to-back, Doncic served up a reminder that he is in fact a teenage rookie. Not every night is one for the highlight reel. Next!
Game 21: The Stepback
Luka's Line: 21 points, 6-14 FG, 9 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Trail Blazers, 111-102
LOL. Are you kidding me? You can make a case that Doncic already has one of the NBA's most deadly step back jumpers. Just look at this to ice it (not to mention the full court TD pass moment later).
Luka Doncic said this game a wrap bye pic.twitter.com/Oo7QdyX45u- Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 5, 2018
Here is the step back paused one second apart. Just filthy.
#Separation- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) December 5, 2018
Doncic out here creating 8 feet of space in one second.
Game 20: Stuffing LeBron... twice
Luka's Line: 6 points, 2-13 FG, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Lakers, 114-103
Luka Doncic, rim protector? Not exactly known for his shot blocking, the rookie got LeBron James twice on one play.
Luka blocked LeBron not once, but twice! 🚫🚫 pic.twitter.com/E4H8DP1nVQ- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 1, 2018
After the game, the 4-time MVP gave the rook some love for his defensive chops.
Game 19: Lighting up the Rockets
Luka's Line: 20 points, 6-11 FG, 3-7 3-pt FG (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Rockets, 128-108
Sure, he 'only' scored 20. Given the manner in which he did it, it felt more like 40. Your casual reminder that he's still 19.
Game 18: Doncic or Tatum?
Luka's Line: 15 points, 5-11 FG, 8 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Celtics, 128-108
Doncic dropped eight dimes, tying a career high in an impressive win over the Celtics. Some of them were absolutely gems. Like this skip out of a double team.
Jayson Tatum certainly played we for Boston but it also got us to thinking.
Who will be the better player in three years?
We have to poll it I think . . .- Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) November 24, 2018
Better player three years from now, Luka Doncic or Jayson Tatum?https://t.co/BTc9ZD6Sea
Game 17: Cleaning the glass
Luka's Line: 21 points, 5-11 FG, 9 rebounds, 9-11 FT (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Nets, 119-113
I'd like to talk about the rebounding. Can we talk about the rebounding? OK good.
Doncic finished with nine rebounds, more than every Nets starter and as many as reserve big Ed Davis who finished with a team-high nine for Brooklyn. This after snagging 10 boards in the last game against Memphis.
He's rebounding 11 percent of misses while on the floor, a mark not matched by LeBron James - perhaps the most gifted all-around perimeter player ever - until his fifth season in the league.
Game 16: A Fourth to Forget
Luka's Line: 15 points, 6-20 FG, 10 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Grizzlies, 98-88
A dud down the stretch. Tied entering the fourth quarter, the Mavericks were outscored 24-14 over the final 12 minutes with Doncic going scoreless and finishing 0-3 with two turnovers and just a single assist. He was badly outplayed late by Memphiss lead playmaker Mike Conley who scored or assisted on seven of the Grizzlies' nine made FG.
Game 15: Shades of Magic and Oscar
Luka's Line: 24 points, 9-20 FG, 9 rebounds, 4 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Warriors, 112-109
This was the 15th game of his career and so far he's averaging 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Only two players in NBA history have matched or exceeded ALL of those numbers through 15 games. You've probably heard of them. (Shoutout to the fine folks over @bball_ref)
Luka Doncic played his 15th game tonight.- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) November 18, 2018
The last two players with as many points, rebounds AND assists through 15 career games?
Game 14: No soup for Favors
Luka's Line: 13 points, 5-13 FG, 2 steals, 1 block (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Jazz, 118-68
He only played 25 minutes but Doncic had his fingerprints all over this 50-point demolition of the Jazz, perhaps no more so than when he denied Utah power forward Derrick Favors at the rim.
Luka Doncic protects the rim for the @dallasmavs!#MFFL 20#TeamIsEverything 20- NBA (@NBA) November 15, 2018
WATCH on #NBA League Pass: https://t.co/L3VurkatG8 pic.twitter.com/NZ2IG87cp9
Game 13: The inevitable random Jordan comp
Luka's Line: 11 points, 3-12 FG, 6 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Bulls, 103-98
OK, so Doncic most definitely did NOT look like Michael Jordan in this game. Entering this game, Doncic was averaging over 20 points, six rebounds and four assists per game, something no rookie has done for an entire season since Jordan back in 1984-85.
What did Jordan do in his 13th game? 35 points and 13 boards. So yeah... maybe he's not actually Michael Jordan.
Game 12: Texas Two Step
Luka's Line: 22 points, 9-15 FG, 8 assists, 6 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Thunder, 111-96
Raise your hand if you had Luka Doncic and JJ Barea as the most scintillating backcourt duo in Texas this season?
Doncic scored 22 and Barea added 21 off the bench. These two continue to wreck havoc together and so far this season, have now outscored opponents by 17.3 points per 100 possessions, the best of any Mavericks 2-man combination.
Game 11: No rest, no problem
Luka's Line: 24 points, 7-14 FG, 3-4 3-pt FG, 6 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Jazz, 117-102
Playing on a back-to-back for the second time this season, Doncic scored 24 points in a loss after dropping 31 on his only previous game with no rest. Yes, we're dealing with incredibly small sample size theater here but that's incredibly prolific scoring for short rest.
In fact, the only two players so far this season averaging more points per game on the second game of back-to-back are Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson.
There's obviously an incredibly far ways to go but over the last 50 years, the only rookies to average more than that for an entire season are Lew Alcindor and Michael Jordan.
To be clear, we don't think Doncic will actually sustain that. But still... credit where it's due!
Game 10: Historic start through 10 games
Luka's Line: 23 points, 9-16 FG, 7 rebounds, 3 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Wizards, 119-100
Doncic dropped a cool 23 points in his 10th career game. We've seen rookies score like this before, but rare is it that someone gets off to a start quite like this.
Over the last 35 years, here's how Doncic stacks up historically:
- Only 14 other players have scored as many points
- Of those 14, only 4 pulled down more rebounds - Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Paul Pierce
- Of those 14, only 5 handed out more assists - Brandon Jennings, Allen Iverson, Grant Hill, Ron Harper and Michael Jordan
- Of those 14, only Kevin Durant was a teenager
Game 9: Mastering the step back... already
Luka's Line: 18 points, 8-15 FG, 9 rebounds, 6 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Knicks, 118-106
The Mavericks dropped their sixth straight game, but Doncic was still on his step-back game, hitting a few show-stopping shots.
Last season, James Harden was far and away the league leader in step back jumpers. Nobody was even close as it became his signature move en route to winning the MVP award. As it stands right now, Doncic has already canned nine of them, just two fewer than Harden so far this season.
Game 8: Luka nearly leads comeback vs LeBron
Luka's Line: 14 points, 5-11 FG, 7 assists, 5 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Lakers, 114-113
In his first game against LeBron James, Doncic saved his offence for the 2nd half when he made all five of his shots from the field including the game-tying shot with seven seconds left. He led the Mavericks all the way back from 19 points down before finally falling as James hit the game-winning free throw after Doncic tied it.
Here are all of Doncic's buckets in the 2nd half.
Game 7: Drop 30, combared to MJ and Bird
Luka's Line: 31 points, 11-18 FG, 8 rebounds, 4 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Spurs, 113-108 (OT)
"He's killing it. He's a special player... He's one of those gyys that is a unique talent and his maturity level has been off the charts for years now." That was Pau Gasol on Doncic prior to this game as told to the San Antonio Express-News.
Although he missed a game winner towards the end of regulation, Doncic exploded for 31 points including 8 points in a 2-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter.
It's early but Doncic is now averaging over 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game. The last two guys to do that as a rookie? Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
Game 6: Behind the back in traffic
Luka's Line: 14 points, 5-13 FG, 5 assists, 5 turnovers (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Jazz, 113-104
A pretty ho-hum game as Luka mania took a night off. He did have this crafty dime in transition after going behind his back in traffic.
Game 5: 20 Spots with Doncic and Dirk
Luka's Line: 22 points, 7-14 FG, 4-6 3-pt FG (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Raptors, 116-107
In his fifth career game, Doncic notched his third 20-point game. How far ahead of the curve is Doncic compared to the man whose torch he's set to take?
Dirk Nowitzki dropped 20 just three times his entire rookie season, the third of which did not come until his 44th game.
Through five games, Doncic is averaging 19.6 PPG, exactly twice as much as Nowitzki through five games (9.8 PPG).
Game 4: Doncic-Young I
Luka's Line: 21 points, 7-18 FG, 9 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Hawks, 111-104
The first showdown with Trae Young who he was traded for on draft night. Doncic outscored Young 21-17 but was outplayed by Young down the final stretch. Young scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter while Doncic score four points on 2-4 shooting and no assists in the final quarter.
Game 3: Made you look
Luka's Line: 19 points, 7-14 FG, 6 assists (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Bulls 115-109
Prior to the game, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was already waxing poetic about the 19-year old rookie.
"Doncic is an unbelievable talent. Just his ability with that size and the skill set that he has. It makes him such a difficult cover. His handle. His ability to shoot the ball and pass it. It's most impressive in tight spaces: the way he can deliver the ball on time on target to shooters. He does so many things that make him a tough player. And he's been doing it for a long time."
Then, he did this (as it turns out, the "made you look pump fake" will become a staple in Luka mania):
Game 2: Doncic with shades of Durant
Luka's Line: 26 points, 8-16 FG, 6 rebounds (box score)
Result: Mavericks def. Timberwolves 140-136
Making his home debut, Luka Doncic put on a show in front of his new fans. How special was Doncic's maiden voyage in front of the Dallas crowd?
It's been over 10 years since a rookie scored at least 25 points while playing in front of his hometown crowd for the first time. The last player to do it?
Kevin Durant in Seattle.
Game 1: The Debut
Luka's Line: 10 points, 5-16 FG, 0-5 3-pt FG (box score)
Result: Mavericks lost to Suns, 121-100
A rookie showdown to kick off the season as Doncic's NBA debut came against No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton. Perhaps someday, Phoenix may regret passing on Doncic, but not on this night as the center from Arizona badly outplayed the European phenom.
In a long season, it's a play that will likely be forgotten... but he did have this sick behind he back dime in traffic.