Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic is next in line among the most anticipated international debuts

luka-doncic-101118-ftr-getty.jpg
Luka Doncic (NBA Getty Images)

The NBA is ready for Luka Doncic.

Though he may not have been the No. 1 overall pick in June's draft, the 19-year-old enters the season with more hype than any other newcomer as the basketball world sits on the edge of its seat to see how he transitions from life as a Euroleague MVP to NBA rookie.

You can make the case that Doncic arrives in America with more buzz than any other player to first play professionally in Europe. Here's a look back at some of the other most anticipated rookie seasons by international players...

Pau Gasol in 2001-02

When Gasol was drafted 3rd overall in 2001, he became the first European player to be taken inside of the top 3.

At the time, Gasol represented perhaps the most hyped international player to come over to the NBA. Though players like Drazen Petrovic and Arvydas Sabonis had previously made the trek over, both were already established stars - or, in the case of Sabonis, past his peak.

Keep up to date with all of the latest :tag: news!
Sure Not Now

Gasol was 21-years-old and fresh off the heels of winning Spanish League Finals MVP with Barcelona.

Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and traded to the Grizzlies on draft day for a package headlined by Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Gasol assumed face of the franchise status from Day 1 in the team's first season in Memphis after relocating from Vancouver. After a bumpy first few games, Gasol scored 27 points in his fourth game and would go on to win Rookie of the Year while averaging 17.6 points per game.

Dirk Nowitzki in 1998-99

Nowitzki was a star in Germany's second division, averaging over 28 points per game in his final season with DJK Wurzburg prior to coming to the NBA.

Before that season, Nowitzki turned heads in a 1997 Nike Hoop Heroes Tour exhibition game, scoring 52 points against a team headlined by Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. Several years ago, Barkley retold the story of how he first witnessed Nowitzki's basketball ability.

"I had Scottie Pippen with me, who was probably, at that time, the best defender in the world. I had a bunch of NBA players. We had like eight to 10 NBA players. So we go to Germany and Dirk is - I don't even know who he is. I see this tall, gangly kid out there. Dirks got 30 - 27, 28 points at halftime. So he's killing us. And I forget who the big guys on the team was. It might have been Elden Campbell or something like that, a couple of big guys.

So Scottie says, 'I got this, I got this. I'm going to lock this down in the second half.' So Dirk finishes with like 52, and I said 'Scottie, who is this guy right there?'"

When the 1998 draft rolled around, Nowitzki was taken 9th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and then traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert Traylor, who was taken 6th. Although in hindsight it's perhaps the most lopsided draft day trade in NBA history, Nowitzki really struggled in his first season.

He averaged 8.2 points per game while shooting just 40 percent from the field including a grizzly 14-68 from beyond the 3-point line. After shooting 21 percent from downtown and not making either All-Rookie team, it was next to impossible to imagine Nowitzki someday climbing into the top 10 on the NBA's all-time scoring list as the greatest shooting big man of all-time.

Ricky Rubio in 2011-12

In terms of hype entering the NBA following an early turn as a pro in Spain, Rubio might be the closest comparison to Doncic. The youngest to ever play in the Spanish ACB league, Rubio made his professional debut in 2005 at the age of 14.

Taken 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, a pricey contract buy-out with his team in Spain led to Rubio delaying his NBA career by two seasons as he instead joined Barcelona, winning a Spanish league title and EuroLeague title while also being named the EuroLeague Rising Star in 2010.

Rubio finally made it to the NBA in 2011 and flashed his elite playmaking skills from the onset. In his third game, Rubio finished with 12 assists in a 2-point loss to a Miami Heat team led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He finished the season a 1st-team All-Rookie selection while becoming just the 5th rookie in NBA history to average at least 8 assists and 2 steals per game.

Manu Ginobili in 2002-03

Like Rubio, Ginobili made the NBA wait.

Drafted towards the end of the second round by the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, the Argentinean didn't make his NBA debut until 2002-03, choosing instead to star in Italy where he won a pair of Italian league MVPs, an Italian league championship and a EuroLeague title, winning Finals MVP honours in 2001.

MORE: How good was Manu Ginobili?

In his rookie season in San Antonio, Ginobili averaged over 20 minutes per game as he came off the bench behind Steve Smith and Stephen Jackson. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Ginobili had assumed an even larger role, averaging nearly 29 minutes a game in the 6 game win over the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.

Though he averaged just 7.6 points per game as a rookie, Ginobili was recognized for his impact on an elite team as he was named to the 2nd-team All-Rookie squad.

Luka Doncic in 2018-19

So what can we expect from Doncic in 2018-19?

MORE: History of Rookie of the Year favourites

For starters, most expect him to be the best rookie. Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey combined all of the various player rankings released by various media outlets and found Doncic's median to be 64th, the highest among all rookies. The most optimistic projection comes from NBA Twitter itself, which has the Mavericks rookie pegged as the 48th best player for this upcoming season according to Bailey's own poll run on Twitter.

Doncic should stuff the box score as well, as ESPN's fantasy game projects him to be the top scorer among all rookies with averages of 17.1 points, 4.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Regardless of whether Doncic starts strong like Gasol or sputters early like Nowitzki, there's no denying that he'll have everyone's attention this upcoming season.

More from NBA.com

#Popovich
Popovich moves to fourth on NBA's all-time wins list
Benyam Kidane
#Lowry #Forbes #Harden
Around the NBA: Tuesday's top storylines, performers and highlights
Benyam Kidane
kyle-lowry-smile-clippers-121118-ftr-nba-getty
4 takeaways from Toronto's dominant win in LA
Gilbert McGregor
serge-ibaka-gortat-121218-ftr-nba-getty
Raptors earn big win over Clippers
Gilbert McGregor
kawhi-121118-ftr-getty.jpg
Kawhi Leonard out vs. Clippers
Scott Rafferty
nba-mexico-games-mural-screengrab-121118-ftr
Muralist commemorates NBA Mexico City Games
NBA.com Staff
More News