No Ordinary Rookie

Luka Doncic is by far the odds on favorite to win 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year. He is such a big favorite and NBA fans have discussed it all season to the point where I am not going to focus on whether or not Luka will be the ROY. As far as I am concerned it is a lock and I am not going to waste any more time on it.  No offense to some of the great Rookies this year, I think this will go down as a great NBA draft class, but Luka was far and away the best Rookie this season.

Luka Doncic Statistical Ranking Among 2018-2019 Rookies
Stat Luka Rookie Rank
PPG 21.2 1st
RPG 7.8 2nd
APG 6 2nd
FTM 4.8 1st
FTA 6.7 1st
3PM 2.3 1st
Steals 1.1 4th
Blocks 0.3 12th
PER 19.6 3rd
USG% 30.5% 1st
ORtg 107 10th
DRtg 109 3rd
OWS 2.1 5th
DWS 2.8 1st
WS 4.9 3rd
OBPM 2.9 1st
DBPM 1.2 4th
BPM 4.1 2nd
VORP 3.6 1st

The Rookie of the Year race is over, lets move on…

That fact that Luka Doncic is this good at such a young age is mind boggling. At 19 years old he plays like 10 year vet with elite skill, size, and basketball IQ. In order to get an accurate measure of how great Luka Doncic has been at such a young age, let us compare his 19 year year old rookie season with other teenage Rookie seasons throughout history.

There have been 57 teenage Rookies in NBA history who played 41+ games and averaged 15+ minutes per game. Among these 57 players are guys like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Drummond,  Stephon Marbury, Andrew Wiggins, Marvin Bagley III, Jason Tatum, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.  Obviously there are same great players on this list, MVPs, Hall-of-Famers, and some who are in the running for greatest of all time. But when it comes teenage Rookies, Luka does not just hold his own, he excels once again.

Doncic Statistical Ranking among other teenage rookies

•8th in minutes per game

•1st in Usage Percentage (USG%) with 30.5%, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant round out the top 5.

•1st in points per 36 minutes with 23.7, ahead of Kyrie Irving with 21.8.

•2nd in assists per 36 minutes with 6.7, behind Stephon Marbury.

•3rd in assist percentage with 31.6%, behind Stephon Marbury and Kyrie Irving.

•12th in rebounds per 36 minutes with 8.7, just behind Tyson Chandler and just ahead of Myles Turner.

•3rd in defensive rebounds per 36 minutes with 7.4, just ahead of Dwight Howard and just behind Real Madrid and Slovenian teammate Anthony Randolph.

•4th in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) with 19.6, behind Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, and Kyrie Irving.

•1st in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) with 3.6, LeBron James is the second best with 3.1.

•1st in free throw attempts per game with 6.7 and 3rd in free throws made with 4.8.

•Most three point attempts per 36 minutes with 8 and most threes made per 36 minutes with 2.4.

•18th in steals per 36 minutes with 1.2.

With all of this we see that the Dallas Mavericks have a young player in Luka Doncic who rebounds like Dwight Howard, makes plays like Kyrie Irving, and scores better than LeBron James when they were all the same age. Looking at all of this, I am confident saying that Luka Doncic is the greatest teenage Rookie in NBA history.

Per 36 minute stats for top 5 teenage Rookies since 1980
Player Year G FG% 3P 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK PTS
Luka 2018 72 43% 2.6 33% 7.5 71% 8.7 6.7 1.2 0.4 23.7
LeBron 2003 79 42% 0.7 29% 5.3 75% 5 5.4 1.5 0.7 19.1
Kyrie 2011 51 47% 1.7 40% 4.5 87% 4.4 6.4 1.2 0.5 21.8
KD 2007 80 43% 0.8 29% 5.8 87% 4.5 2.5 1 1 21.1
Melo 2003 82 43% 0.8 32% 6.3 78% 6 2.7 1.2 0.5 20.7

He’s the best Rookie this year, he’s the best Rookie teenager ever, so how does Luka stack up against the greatest Rookies of all time, regardless of age? A quick search on Basketball-Reference.com very easily shows that Luka is in fact NOT the greatest Rookie of all-time, not when guys like Wilt Chamberlain exist. In 1959 Wilt Chamberlain put up per 36 minute stats of 29.2 points and 20.9 rebounds. Since he actually played 46 minutes a night that season his per game numbers were even more ridiculous at 37.6 points and 27 rebounds. Rather than try to compare Luka to giants like Wilt and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, lets look at how Luka stacks up against other ball-handling forwards and guards. I will eliminate Centers and Power Forwards and see how Luka looks relative to the rest.

Luka Doncic is the 7th best scoring Rookie ever from the Guard or Small Forward position.

Rk Player Season Age Tm G PTS/36
1 Walter Davis 1977-78 23 PHO 81 27.2
2 Michael Jordan 1984-85 21 CHI 82 26.5
3 Oscar Robertson 1960-61 22 CIN 71 25.7
4 Rick Barry 1965-66 21 SFW 80 24.8
5 Geoff Petrie 1970-71 22 POR 82 24.1
6 Earl Monroe 1967-68 23 BAL 82 23.8
7 Luka Doncic 2018-19 19 DAL 72 23.7
8 Jay Vincent 1981-82 22 DAL 81 23.7

Beyond his incredible scoring rate, Luka also ranks 41st and 40th in assists and rebounds per game respectively among such Rookies. The real greatness of Luka Doncic is his ability to do it all; score, rebound, and assist. When you put the complete package together the field of players matching his production begins to shrink quickly.

For example, when it comes to Rookies averaging at least 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, it has only happened 29 times.  When you change that to 15, 5, and 5 the list grows narrower still, producing only 12 names: Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Tyreke Evans, Grant Hill, Steve Francis, Magic Johnson, Michael Carter-Williams, Chris Paul, Anfernee Hardaway, and Ben Simmons. Only 2 of these players ended the season without earning Rookie of the Year honors (Magic Johnson lost to Larry Bird and Penny Hardaway lost to Chris Webber).

When we increase the scoring qualification and filter for Rookies who had scored 20 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds per game, we are left with just 5 players, regardless of position or era:

Rookies who averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game
Player Year Age MP FGA FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL PTS
Robertson 1961 22 42.7 22.5 47% 82% 10.1 9.7 30.5
Jordan 1985 21 38.3 19.8 52% 17% 85% 6.5 5.9 2.4 28.2
Doncic 2019 19 32.2 16.5 43% 33% 71% 7.8 6 1.1 21.2
James 2004 19 39.5 18.9 42% 29% 75% 5.5 5.9 1.6 20.9
Evans 2010 20 37.2 16.2 46% 26% 75% 5.3 5.8 1.5 20.1
Rookies who average 20, 5, and 5 per game, stats adjusted for 36 minutes
Player Tm G FGA 3P FTA REB AST STL PTS
Oscar CIN 71 19 9.4 8.5 8.2 25.7
MJ CHI 82 18.6 0.1 8.5 6.1 5.5 2.2 26.5
Luka DAL 72 18.4 2.6 7.5 8.7 6.7 1.2 23.7
LeBron CLE 79 17.2 0.7 5.3 5 5.4 1.5 19.1
Tyreke SAC 72 15.7 0.5 6.3 5.1 5.6 1.5 19.5

On a per 36 minute basis things come down to Earth a little bit for Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan. When you look at it this way you can see that the Big-O is the only guy who can say he matched Luka’s combination of scoring, rebounding, and playmaking production in their Rookie season. The fact that Luka has the highest rebounds per 36 minutes of any of these 5 guys blows my mind. When you have athletes like Oscar, MJ, and LeBron yet it is actually Luka who rebounds at the highest rate, it is almost hard to fathom. Just incredible work by Luka Doncic.

Given his level of production and consistency as a Rookie I refuse to put a ceiling on what Luka Doncic is capable of. Coming into the 2018 draft Luka was one of the most accomplished and hyped prospects in recent memory and he has surpassed all expectations. He may not be the best Rookie of all-time but Luka has an all around game that rivals the likes of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James, some of the best to ever do it.

For more Luka Doncic content, check out Luka’s Top Rookie Moments.

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