There is one simple tip for those who have just started watching a new sport – follow the teams and athletes on form within the sport. If you have decided to start watching basketball, then there are few other players making waves like Luka Doncic of Spanish powerhouse, Real Madrid.
A simple (and understandable) question may have just popped up in your heads – why should I need to watch Real Madrid playing in the Euroleague, while world famous National Basketball Association (NBA) has got Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks riding a wave of irresistible form, not to mention the Superteam era that overtook the league last year.
The simple answer is, there are no other 18-year-olds in the world doing what Doncic is doing. In basketball it is common to consider players that are under the age of 20 as prospects. Most U20 players are still playing in college, second or third-tier divisions in the European leagues.
If he was just a role player last season with an average of 7.8 points per game, he is now averaging a staggering 21.6 points per game after 5 games with Euroleague’s table-topping Real Madrid. Just before the 2017-18 basketball season, Doncic made substancial waves for himself during the summer – winning European Championship gold with the Slovenian men’s basketball team, alongside Goran Dragic of NBA’s Miami Heat. A great achievement and wonderful national team debut for an 18-year-old. Impressive? He averaged 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 29 minutes per game.
Many basketball enthusiasts compare Luka Doncic to “La Pistola” (an allusion to “Pistol” Pete Maravich) Ricky Rubio, a point guard who made his debut with Team Spain at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. At the time, Ricky was 17 years old and had nothing more to prove to his peers. The biggest difference between them however, is the view of their respective coaching staffs. Ricky needed to be given the chance of being starting point guard in advance. He hasn‘t been as good recently, averaging less than 7 points per game. Luka Doncic on current form however, will improve any team he walks into.
*- age while starting a season
As we can see, his numbers are outstanding. Of course though, it’s not enough for a coach. Speaking about his profile on the court, players like Luka Doncic are god’s gift for a coach, who use rotation not as necessity, but as strategy. He can play as a point guard, shooting guard or small forward, which means that people can call him a combo guard or a swingman, but the most correct title would be a point forward. His ability to adapt to the game helps him, and more importantly his team, win games simply by having him on the court.
Luka’s efficiency this season has increased incredibly, although, his numbers will drop a little bit as well as his 60-41-90 shooting performance, but being a part of the European 50-40-90 club is still impressive.
What makes him different from the others, especially teenage players, is his mind set. Most youngsters rush things on the court, ending up with a turnover and being made to warm the bench until the game ends. Luka can change the tempo to make his opponents struggle, from quick to sinking and from sinking to quick. It reminds me of swingman Ramunas Siskauskas and point forward Dejan Bodiroga – legendary small forwards who changed the concept of this position forever. It turns out that this Slovenian talent will also be a game changer at European basketball.
Sometimes he receives some criticism on his lack of athleticism. But once again, it’s all about mind set. With this, he uses his physical abilities properly and it is much better than relying on vertical leap, speed, quickness and strength only.
Coming back to the numbers, it is clear that his efficiency has doubled from the season before. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that his efficiency next season will be as good, but, this season will likely be the most pivotal in his career. Forget about the Euroleague Rising Star trophy – he’s a serious candidate for the Euroleague MVP title, becoming probably the youngest most valuable player since 2001. He does not have anything to prove in the Euroleague individually. His team will aim to become the best team in Europe, but obviously this is not his own, but his team’s agenda.