By: Ben Meyerson
The NBA’s popularity is growing everywhere…
The NBA is growing faster internationally than almost every other sport and it’s starting to show. About 1/4 of the NBA is made up of players from countries outside the United States, these aren’t just bench warmers they are stars. Looking at all-star weekend lets start with the rising stars challenge, (game between the best rookies and sophomores) the format of that game is completely changed and it is now U.S.A vs World (instead of rookies vs sophomores).
- Last years Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons (Australia)
- First overall pick DeAndre Ayton (Bahamas)
- Likely Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic (Slovenia)
- Leader in All-Star votes for the east Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece)
In last year’s NBA draft 14 of the 60 players drafted were international players and the league along with 2 of the top 3 picks. Programs like the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders the NBA is reaching far and wide to find the best basketball players all over the world. Joel Embiid is the latest player from that program to show just how valuable it can be, he’s already the best center in the league with many more years ahead of him. The NBA is also finding diamonds in the rough with guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was playing in Greece’s third division and was 17 years old when he was drafted was still taken 15th overall in 2013.
Luka’s historic rookie season…
With all the success of international players it was surprising that a player like Luka Doncic was not taken first overall (he was taken 3rd) and then he was traded on draft night for another player in the draft (Trae Young). He currently is averaging 20 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds per game this season, if he continues this he’ll be 2nd rookie ever to average 20/7/5 (the first was Oscar Robertson). The only other players to average 20/5/5 as a rookie are LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Tyreke Evans.
Statistics Per 36 minutes (rookie season)
So not only is Luka historically good but he’s also very efficient, only two of the guys in this table (MJ and Big O) have comparable statistics and the only guy to do significantly better is Oscar Robertson. The difference is Luka is currently playing 32.2 minutes per game (which will go up after the all-star break) and he is poised to only increase those unreal statistics. Jordan and Oscar each averaged 38 and 42 minutes per game and played in a significantly less talented league than Luka.
While Oscar Robertson is an all-time great and he had a great rookie season, it was in 1961 when 9 teams were playing and there were only a few great players in the league. Luka is in the western conference playing against LeBron James, Steph Curry, and James Harden and has an incredibly tough schedule the entire way. Another underrated aspect of Luka Doncic is that he’s 19, Jordan and Robertson were both 22 when they entered the league and dominated their rookie seasons, just imagine what Luka will be like in 3 years.
Luka can also do incredible things, like dribbling the ball between his legs and hitting a baseline fadeaway jumper
“Luka Doncic isn’t skillful” pic.twitter.com/EVpSjEIuLc
— Doncic Szn (@DoncicStepback) February 12, 2019
Luka can also hit buzzer-beater three’s to send the game to OT
— NBAextra (@NBAextra) December 24, 2018
He also has the ability to go on 11-0 runs by himself
Luka Doncic's basketball IQ. Houston switches a big onto him twice, and he gets rid of him with one move twice. Capela late on the help defense, Doncic immediately punishes, post finishing around a double team. Wow pic.twitter.com/0RymLNb5se
— Jay (Live/Love/Lab) (@JreedVick7) December 9, 2018