It’s almost painful to watch, and even more painful to admit, but Luka Doncic has been better than advertised as a rookie in the NBA. The 19-year old is even putting up better stats this year than he did last year in the EuroLeague- when he led Real Madrid to a EuroLeague title and captured the MVP award.
Through 24 games with the Mavericks, Doncic is averaging 17.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He’s also shooting the ball at a respectable percentage from the field (42.8%) and even more impressively from three-point range (37.1%). However, it’s not the stats that have NBA fans around the league in awe of the Wonder Boy. It’s the swagger.
Here’s him going on an 11-0 run by himself a few nights ago against the Rockets.
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 9, 2018
His game is so silky smooth and it comes with an understanding of how to play basketball the right way. From there, comes confidence that you shouldn’t be seeing in a 19-year old kid playing amongst grown men. NBA execs and players alike have already acknowledged he has a fantastic opportunity to become the greatest European player to ever play in the NBA. And yes, that includes his current teammate and future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Meanwhile, Trae Young’s sizzling start has hit a major speed bump over the last month or so. Surprisingly, it has been his shot that has been failing him. In the month of November, Young averaged 14.0 points but on 35.5% shooting from the field and an astonishing 19.8% from behind the arc. At least, the only possible direction is up for him in December- right? Wrong. In his first three games of this month, he’s actually managed to shoot an even worse 33.3% from the field and 18.2% from three.
I will say, it’s unfair to attempt to project Young’s career because of this recent poor shooting stretch. He has impressed in a number of other areas besides shooting. As a passer, he’s well ahead of anybody else in his draft class, and he’s actually proven to be a bit of a maestro at finishing around the rim and creating contact in the lane. There’s still plenty of hope for Young to become one of the top point guards in this league. After all, he’s only one year removed from high school basketball, while Luka Doncic’s European pro experience made him much more primed for the NBA.
However, if you assume the same type of upward trajectory with Luka Doncic that you do with Trae Young, things begin to look scary. Doncic has the potential of being an all-time great- and at the very least- a top 15 player in his prime. It’s not even out of the question that he will be the best player in the league at some point. And when you start to think about that as a Hawks fan, it has to make your stomach churn.
The Hawks as a franchise have been the worst kind of cursed. They haven’t had a trend of bad luck preventing them from achieving greatness. No, all of their heartbreak has been self-inflicted. Every time they have a genuine opportunity to bring in a real superstar, they screw it up.
In 2001, they passed on Pau Gasol and traded him to the Grizzlies. Three years later, they selected Josh Childress over future All-Stars like Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala. They famously selected Marvin Williams over Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA draft- even though Paul made it clear he wanted to be in Atlanta. The following year, they drafted Sheldon Williams with the fifth overall pick, who averaged 4.5 points per game over his six-year career.
Finally, in 2007, the Hawks landed on a pick by drafting Al Horford third overall. The only sad part about that is he never really became anything more than a borderline All-Star, and Kevin Durant was selected the pick before him. Horford was able to anchor the Hawks to ten straight postseason appearances, but that just made it harder to accumulate talent around him. Now, Atlanta has finally hit the rebuild button again, and with their first opportunity to make a splash, it appears they made a major gaff- just like old times.
Trae Young could be an All-Star in the NBA. However, Luka Doncic appears to be an all-time great. Time will tell, but this trade is not off to the best start for Atlanta.