Let's take a second to reflect on what we were up to at age 16.
Probably not a whole lot of significance. Participating in high school sports, lounging with friends playing video games, riding the bike around the neighborhood...standard stuff. Heck, I didn't start following the NBA seriously until I was about 17 or 18. Late bloomer I guess.
Some of us don't find our true calling in life right off the bat. For many, it's a arduous, extensive process that brings about tons of pain, doubt, and fear. Take Joel Embiid of the 76ers, for example. He had a fairly normal upbringing in Cameroon and flew under the radar for quite sometime. It took a miraculous discovery by NBA veteran Luc Mbah a Moute to change his career trajectory. He didn't pick up a basketball until age 15 and wasn't stateside to dedicate all his time to the NBA journey until a year after that. Very late to the game when it comes to one of today's most polerizing stars in basketball. Still, he was popping up and college scouts radars as soon as he touched American soil, so he was still ahead of the game when compared to the general population. I.E. US. It was a pretty quick assent for Embiid once he started playing competitive basketball over here, but so different from the course most top professional prospects follow.
Enter Luka Doncic. He has been in the spotlight since he was a kid. Ok, technically we would still classify him as a kid, so maybe we should modify the criteria just a bit. For the sake of the story, we'll say he was a younger kid. Just how young was he though? This dude picked up a basketball for the first time at seven months old. Quite the contrast from Embiid's story, huh?
It gets crazier.
Doncic experienced the initial foray into organized basketball at age seven and progressed so quickly, he was ready to sign his first contract by 13. Imagine that. He spent his whole childhood playing up to such a degree that he found himself up against opponents three to four years his senior. Even then, he held his own and accumulated several awards during his Real Madrid tenure. I'll spare you the numerous details of his professional experience to this point, but just know that he was highly decorated while he played in Europe. As a result, he comes into his rookie campaign with Dallas as polished and skilled as humanly possible.
This individual ladies an gentlemen, would be commonly defined as a prodigy. Luka has been refining his game since he was in diapers and that manifested itself in a legendary performance in the Euroleague Championship last year. I feel good about selecting such a guy as my prediction for Rookie of the Year.
Doncic's game is tailor made for this era of NBA basketball. He brings a combination of size, skill, and shooting that can fit into almost any lineup or gameplan. What's his official position? I don't think anyone really knows. He is listed as a guard/forward on NBA.com and that's as specific as we can get with his classification, honestly. PG, SG, SF, even small ball PF...he can slide into a plethora of scenarios.
Take his shooting, for example. He is a capable shooter. He has yet to establish the consistency of an above average shooter, but he is passable from range so far in his career. he shot 32.9% from there his last go around with Real Madrid, but he has been as high as 37.1% in his 16-17 season. His form looks good and he does a good job of getting on balance before rising up. The long ball is up and down in his two preseason games to date with three going down in the first contest, but none in the second. It's safe to assume his percentages will rise with more minutes and reps.
His mechanics are consistant whether he is going off the dribble or coming off screens and spotting up. He's not a one trick pony when it comes to finding openings from 25-30 feet.
But of course, shooting is not his primary skill. That would be his incredible vision, which is aided by his ability to see over the defense with his 6-7 frame. He can hit the open man in the P&R, or transition, which is what he pulls off in this race up the floor during Eurobasket.
He's great at leading the break with his tight handle that he uses to manipulate the defense with look offs and misdirection. He can also utilize this crafty handle to create his own shot which granted, in this clip is still pretty difficult.
This brings up another area of analysis when it comes to Doncic: Athleticism. For all of the basketball IQ that he holds in his young mind, he will still have struggles getting optimal seperation and staying in front of more athletic defenders at the NBA level. Defense really doesn't mean much when it comes to this award, so I'll save that for another time. He should be able to get enough post looks and perimeter shots to score at a decent rate. I'd say around 12-13PPG. He is also an underrated rebounder and as stated before, he can grab and go.
Luka Doncic is the total package, especially when compared to this rookie class. He doesn't have a major flaw in his game and should contribute in a multitude of ways. He's spent his whole life playing against more experienced competition and the last four years holding his own in the second best league in the world.
Experience is the greatest advantage in the sports world and Luka hold that in spades. This ROY award will be his to lose. It's time for the basketball world to bear witness to the one who has captivated oversees audiences for years.