Can any NBA opponent stop Luka Doncic, the dynamic point guard for the Dallas Mavericks? If you’d asked during the NBA bubble in Orlando, the answer would have been “fat chance.” Doncic was dominant down the stretch and in the first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
With the start of the new NBA season a week away, the answer is still “fat chance,” but for an entirely different reason. And it has to worry the Mavericks, at least a little bit.
The Dallas Mavericks guard is only 21 but has been a star for years
Luka Doncic grew up playing for the Olimpija Basketball Club in his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then signed his first contract with Real Madrid in September 2012 at the age of 13. The club placed Doncic on its under-16 team, and he was virtually unstoppable from the start, earning MVP honors at the national tournament.
Doncic moved up to the under-18 team for the 2014-15 season, again excelling against older competition. He was just 16 years old when he made his pro debut for Real Madrid in 2015 and worked his way into the rotation. His breakthrough came a year later as Doncic began posting occasional double-doubles.
Doncic’s final season in Europe beginning in the fall of 2017 saw him lead Real Madrid to the EuroLeague championship. He captured MVP honors by averaging 16 points and 4.3 assists. At that point, Doncic was 19 years old but ready to take on a bigger challenge an ocean away from Spain.
Doncic entered the 2018 NBA draft, where the Atlanta Hawks made him the No. 3 overall pick. The Dallas Mavericks took Trae Young at No. 5 and then worked a trade to bring Doncic to Dallas, where he earned the league’s top rookie honor by a 98-2 margin over Young.
Luka Doncic is now one of the NBA’s big names
Luka Doncic averaged 21.2 points and 6.0 assists as a rookie. Last season, he was averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists through 54 games when the pandemic shut down the league for 20 weeks. In June, six weeks before the season resumed in Orlando, Doncic’s personal trainer told a Russian media outlet that the 6-foot-7 guard was “not in the best shape.” However, he added that there was plenty of time to prepare and that Doncic would have been ready to go on short notice.
The assessment proved accurate. Doncic finished the regular season at 28.8 points and 8.8. assists a game, then used the Dallas Mavericks’ brief playoff run to captivate the TV audience.
Doncic averaged 31 points, 9.8. rebounds, and 8.7 assists in the six-game series, highlighted by 43 points, 17 rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 4, which ended with him burying a 3-pointer over Reggie Jackson of the Los Angeles Clippers at the overtime buzzer.
Doncic finished fourth in MVP voting behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and James Harden.
Luka Doncic is looking chunky these days
The Dallas Mavericks open their regular season Dec. 23 against the Phoenix Suns to start a stretch of three games in five days. If he logs his usual 33 minutes a game, Luka Doncic could be sucking wind by the end of that third game.
Multiple observers on Twitter noted that Doncic looked overweight during the 128-112 exhibition victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 14. Doncic was 3-for-8 from beyond the arc but just 6-for-10 on free throws.
Oh, yeah: He finished with 27 points and eight rebounds. Imagine what’ll happen once he drops the extra pounds.
“What can I say? I’ve never been a muscular guy,” Doncic told the Dallas Morning News. “I mean, people on Twitter say every (kind of) stuff. But, it’s true I’m not in my best shape. I will get there for sure. But, you know, I’ve never been a muscular guy, so what can I say?”
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference