The Dallas Mavericks may have lost their game to the Miami Heat on Friday, but that didn’t stop members of the NBA from throwing a party for one of their own at a South Beach hot spot afterward.
What had the Dallas Mavericks in a festive mood?
Friday’s 126-118 loss to the Miami Heat despite 37 points from Seth Curry on 13-for-15 shooting dropped the Dallas Mavericks to 36-24 for the season. The outcome left them three games back in the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
Still, the Mavericks made it a memorable night with a visit to the well-known LIV Nightclub on Miami Beach. The reason for the party was a birthday celebration for one of the top young stars in the NBA: Point guard Luka Doncic turned 21 years old at the start of the day.
Doncic was already a sensation in Europe when he entered the 2018 NBA draft and he was selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks then flipped Doncic to the Mavericks in exchange for Trae Young and a future first-round draft pick.
Luka Doncic is off to a superb start in the NBA
Although the quality of basketball in the top European leagues is good, there often is apprehension in the United States over how players from there will do in the NBA with its long schedule, deep rosters, and extensive travel.
There were few doubts about the likelihood of Luka Doncic fitting in other than his age. He had a superb career in junior leagues and made his debut outings for Real Madrid at the age of 16 and Slovenia’s National Team at 17. A year later the 6-foot-7 teen starred for Real Madrid’s EuroLeague championship team.
Doncic’s rookie season in the NBA was everything the Mavericks could have dreamed. Though he shot just 42.7% from the field, Doncic made 32.7% of his 3-pointers and averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. That earned him Rookie of the Year honors at the age of 20.
Doncic has shown improvement in all facets of his game in his second season. After chalking up 23 points in the loss to the Miami Heat, he is averaging 28.6 points a game on 46.3% shooting. Add in the 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game and he is close to averaging a triple-double for the season.
Luka Doncic is in elite company
Luka Doncic posted 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists earlier in the week in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs to tie the Dallas Mavericks record for career triple-doubles and extend his NBA mark in that category for players under 21 years old.
Doncic compares favorably to other players who have entered the NBA in recent years at the age of 19 or younger. At 24.2 points per game for his career, he has been more productive than LeBron James (24.1) and Kevin Durant (22.7) were at approximately the same stage.
Doncic’s average of 7.1 assists trails Magic Johnson (7.3) but tops James. And his 8.5 rebounds figure tops Johnson (7.7) and Kevin Garnett (7.1). His field-goal percentage lags the aforementioned players but is slightly ahead of where Kobe Bryant was by the time he turned 21.