We have written a lot about Luka Doncic. Not just “we” as in Mavs.com. No, if you’ve been online at any point in the last 12 months or so, you’ve found no shortage of Luka content. And rightfully so. He just wrapped up one of the best and most productive rookie seasons we’ve seen from a player in a long, long time.
After all the words that have been written, videos edited, podcasts recorded, and analysis performed about him and his incredible season, it was admittedly kind of tough to think of new things to write about him. What more can you say about a 20-year-old who’s already drawing favorable comparisons to James Harden? It’s tough to find a unique angle to go with, especially because most of the best things written about Doncic have come from some of the most talented and most respected scribes in the game. But they found new things, so I can at least try, too.
Here, then, are some things that you might not have seen anywhere else about his rookie season.
It’s very uncommon for a rookie to have a positive box plus/minus at both the offensive and defensive end. In fact, only seven qualified first-year players who’ve debuted since 2014 posted both a positive offensive and defensive BPM. A few of those players made a stronger impact defensively than Doncic, but none of them had a higher OBPM.
In fact, Doncic isn’t necessarily in a class alone when it comes to his 2.9 OBPM. Plenty of other rookies have performed even better in that regard. But, combined with his 1.2 DBPM, he’s in some exclusive company. The only rookies in league history with at least a 2.9 OBPM and a 1.2 DBPM are Doncic, Alvan Adams, Chris Webber, Chris Paul, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Each of the players to come before Doncic won Rookie of the Year — except for Magic, who only finished runner-up to Larry Bird. Not bad.
Things get very interesting when we do that. Let’s take Doncic’s counting stats and round them down — 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game — and see how many players, regardless of experience, have done that recently. It turns out the list is very short. How short? In the last 15 years, the only other players to do that are LeBron James (12 times), Russell Westbrook (five), and James Harden (once). Westbrook was 26 before he did it for the first time, and Harden was 27. Doncic turned 20 in February.
Only six of the 17 players on the all-time list of 21/7/6 qualifiers are not currently in the Hall of Fame, and that’s because four of them are active and another, Kevin Garnett, isn’t yet eligible to be enshrined. The only player on the list to come before Doncic who likely won’t earn an HOF nod is Steve Francis, but his resume still includes three All-Star appearances and a Rookie of the Year award. Fifteen out of 16 ain’t bad. That’s the company that Doncic, the 17th player ever to average 21/7/6, now finds himself in.
The record-holder, Donovan Mitchell, debuted last season, as did sixth-place Kyle Kuzma. All in all, five of the top-10 were rookies in the last two seasons. One-time record-holder Steph Curry made us all re-imagine what 3-point shooting could be. He is now fifth place on the list.
Amazingly, Doncic ranks just 46th all-time in rookie free throw attempts. The record belongs to Wilt Chamberlain, who hoisted a mind-numbing 991 of them in 1959-60, nearly 14 per game. Thankfully for all of us, the NBA has changed free throw rules since then, but that didn’t stop David Robinson from attempting 837 of them — more than 10 per game — in his debut 1989-90 season.
This was just a small sample of jaw-dropping stats from Doncic’s unbelievable rookie season. He was incredibly productive in virtually all facets of the game, and he was clearly a positive contributor to the Mavericks relative to his first-year peers, both this season and historically. I have no idea what the future holds for him, but judging by the only players who have ever done what he’s also done in their rookie campaigns, I can guess that it’s going to be pretty, pretty good.