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Luka Dončić

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Luka Dončić
Luka Dončić.jpg
Dončić with Real Madrid in 2017
No. 77 – Dallas Mavericks
Position Shooting guard / Small forward
League NBA
Personal information
Born (1999-02-28) February 28, 1999 (age 19)
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Nationality Slovenian
Listed height 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight 218 lb (99 kg)
Career information
NBA draft 2018 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall
Selected by the Atlanta Hawks
Playing career 2015–present
Career history
2015–2018 Real Madrid
2018–present Dallas Mavericks
Career highlights and awards
Stats at NBA.com
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

Luka Dončić (Slovene: [ˈlùːka ˈdòːntʃitʃ]; born February 28, 1999) is a Slovenian professional basketball player for the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He represents the senior Slovenian national team, which he helped win its first EuroBasket title in 2017. Listed as a 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), 218-pound (99 kg) point guard,[1][2] he is considered one of the best international prospects of his generation.[3][4][5]

A native of Ljubljana, Dončić began his basketball career with the youth teams of Slovenian club Union Olimpija, joining at eight years of age. In 2012, he joined Real Madrid in Spain, eventually rising in profile on the reserve team. At age 16, in the 2014–15 season, Dončić debuted for Real Madrid in both the Liga ACB and EuroLeague, becoming the youngest player in club history to suit up in either competition. He found an increasing presence on the senior team in 2016–17, winning the EuroLeague Rising Star and ACB Best Young Player Award. In the 2017–18 season, Dončić assumed a leading role for Real Madrid, replacing its injured star player Sergio Llull for much of the season. Guiding his team to the 2018 EuroLeague title at age 19, he became the youngest recipient of the EuroLeague MVP and EuroLeague Final Four MVP awards. He was also the youngest player to ever be named ACB Most Valuable Player. In addition, Dončić earned EuroLeague Rising Star and ACB Best Young Player accolades for his second straight season.

Dončić was projected to be a top-three selection, and a contender for the first overall pick, in the NBA Draft on June 21, 2018.[6] He ended up being selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks, and was then traded immediately to the Dallas Mavericks.[2]

Early life[edit]

Dončić was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to Saša Dončić and Mirjam Polerbin. His father is a basketball coach and former player with experience in the Slovenian League and EuroLeague, while his mother is a former hurdler, model, dancer and owner of a beauty salon in Ljubljana.[5][7][8][9][10][11] Saša Dončić is a Slovenian of Serbian descent, with his family originating from the village of Biča, near Klina.[10][11]

According to his family, Dončić first touched a basketball when he was seven months old, and by age one, he was frequently playing with a miniature hoop that his parents put in his room.[5][12] He played a variety of sports in his childhood, including football, which he later quit after growing too tall.[13] At age seven, he began playing organized basketball at primary school in Ljubljana.[12][14] His opponents at the time were up to ten years old, as Dončić reflected: "I was always training and playing with older kids who had much more experience than me. Many of them were bigger and faster than me too, so I had to beat them with my brain."[14] He admired Greek professional basketball player Vassilis Spanoulis starting in his early teenage years, stating he felt enchanted by the Greek star.[15]

Youth career[edit]

When Dončić was eight, his father started playing for Slovenian club Union Olimpija, and Luka began training in the club's youth sections.[16] He was initially expected to practice with players his age, but only 16 minutes into his first training session, he was moved to the 11-year-old group. Beginning in the following session, he primarily practiced with Olimpija's under-14 team, but due to league rules, he only played for the club's under-12 selection team, coming off the bench against opponents three or four years older than him.[12][14] Despite his exclusion from under-14 games at the time, Dončić often asked to attend practice, even when his coach asked him to stay home.[12]

Dončić is interviewed after a youth game with Real Madrid in May 2014.

Representing Olimpija at the under-14 Vasas Intesa Sanpaolo Cup in Budapest in September 2011, Dončić was named most valuable player (MVP) despite finishing as runners-up to FC Barcelona.[17] In February 2012, he was loaned to Spanish club Real Madrid for the Minicopa Endesa, an under-14 Spanish club competition.[18][19] Dončić, who was among the youngest players on his team, averaged 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 3.3 steals per game to win tournament MVP honours, leading Real Madrid to a second-place finish.[19] In April 2012, he took part in the under-13 Lido di Roma Tournament for Olimpija, finishing as MVP and leading scorer with 34.5 points per game. In the semifinal round of the event against Victoria Fermo, he posted 29 points and 15 rebounds, and in a title-clinching win over Lazio, he erupted for 54 points.[20]

In September 2012, at 13 years of age, Dončić signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid, immediately standing out on the under-16 team with coach Paco Redondo.[14][21] He moved to Madrid, living with football and basketball prospects, and he had to learn to speak Spanish.[5] In February 2013, Dončić led Real Madrid to a Minicopa Endesa win, averaging 24.5 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 steals per game. In the final game of the tournament, he contributed 25 points, 16 rebounds, and 5 steals to defeat FC Barcelona and win MVP honours.[22] In March, Dončić earned MVP accolades of the under-16 Spain Championship, scoring 25 points in a championship game win over the Gran Canaria youth team.[23]

In the 2014–15 season, Dončić mainly played with Real Madrid's under-18 team and reserve team. With the reserve team, he averaged 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists, helping them win Group B of the Liga EBA, the amateur fourth-division of Spanish basketball.[24][25] By the end of the season, he earned all-league honourable mention accolades from the basketball website Eurobasket.com.[24] In January 2015, Dončić won the under-18 Ciutat de L'Hospitalet Tournament and was selected to the All-Tournament Team, despite being two years younger than the rest of the team.[26] At the event, on January 6, against the youth team of his former club Union Olimpija, he posted a double-double of 13 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.[27] In May 2015, he also won the under-18 Next Generation Tournament, for which he was selected MVP after helping defeat defending champions Crvena zvezda Belgrade in the final.[28]

Professional career[edit]

Real Madrid (2015–2018)[edit]

Early years[edit]

On April 30, 2015, Dončić became the youngest player to debut with Real Madrid in the Liga ACB (the top-tier Spanish League), at the age of 16 years, 61 days. He scored a three-pointer in Real Madrid's 2014–15 season win against Unicaja. In the history of the Liga ACB competition, he is the third-youngest player to make his debut, behind Ricky Rubio (who was 14 years and 11 months of age when he debuted), and Ángel Rebolo (who was 15 years and 3 months of age when he debuted).[29]

In the 2015–16 season, Dončić became a part of the main 12-man roster of Real Madrid in every competition, including the 2015–16 ACB season (being the youngest player in the league),[30] and the EuroLeague 2015–16 season. He made his debut in the European-wide top-tier level, the EuroLeague, on October 16, 2015, at the age of 16, in a road loss against Khimki. His appearance made him the eleventh-youngest debutant in the EuroLeague since the 2000–01 season. Dončić scored 2 points in the game.[31] In week 8 of the Liga ACB, in a match against Bilbao Basket, he set his personal best in the Spanish League in the categories of points scored, rebounds, assists, and Performance Index Rating (PIR), also setting the records in scoring and PIR for a player under the age of 17, in the history of the Liga ACB.[32]

2016–17 season[edit]

Dončić warms up with Real Madrid in December 2016.

During the 2016–17 season, Dončić got a place in the rotation of Real Madrid, and was also an occasional starter. Dončić was named player of the week in the Liga ACB, for the first time, in round 11 of the 2016–17 season, after scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, for a PIR of 34,[33] in Real Madrid's 92–76 victory against Montakit Fuenlabrada. In round 13 of the 2016–17 EuroLeague, Dončić won his first EuroLeague MVP of the Round award, after scoring 16 points, to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists, for a PIR of 25, in a win over Brose Bamberg.[34] After winning three more EuroLeague MVP of the Round awards, Dončić won the EuroLeague Rising Star award, by a unanimous vote.[35] On February 17, 2017, it was announced Dončić had signed with agent Bill Duffy of BDA Sports.[36]

2017–18 season[edit]

During October 2017, Dončić was named the EuroLeague MVP of the Month for the performances he put up that month, most notably in Rounds 3 and 4, where he won back-to-back EuroLeague MVP of the Round honours, with leading PIR scores in wins over AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan and Žalgiris Kaunas, respectively. On December 8, 2017, Dončić recorded a career-high 33 points, in Real Madrid's 92–84 EuroLeague defeat against Olympiacos Piraeus. On January 1, 2018, the Liga ACB named Dončić their Player of the Month, of December 2017, thus making Dončić the youngest player to win the award, at an age of 18 years and 10 months old.[37] On March 30, 2018, a day after Dončić hit a game-winning buzzer-beating three-pointer in an 82–79 win over Crvena zvezda Belgrade, his mother confirmed that he would declare for the 2018 NBA draft.[38]

Dončić (left) with teammate Sergio Llull (middle) and Madrid regional premier Cristina Cifuentes (right) in 2017

On May 8, 2018, Dončić repeated as the winner of the EuroLeague Rising Star award, joining Nikola Mirotić and Bogdan Bogdanović as the only repeat winners of the award.[39] A day later, he recorded his first triple-double in the Liga ACB, with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assist against Real Betis Energía Plus, in 22 minutes of playing time. With that achievement, he became the youngest player to record a triple-double in the competition.[40] The next day, he garnered All-EuroLeague First Team honours, being the youngest player in league history to do so. On May 18, Dončić recorded 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists, in a 92–83 over CSKA Moscow in the EuroLeague semifinals.[41] Real Madrid defeated defending champions Fenerbahçe Doğuş in the finals game, by a score of 85–80, winning the 10th EuroLeague title in club history.[42] Dončić was named the EuroLeague Final Four MVP, after recording 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists, to go alongside his stats recorded against CSKA Moscow.[43] Over 33 EuroLeague games, Dončić averaged career-highs of 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He was also named the 2018 EuroLeague MVP (and also recorded the highest PIR of the entire season), thus being the youngest winner of the award in the process.[44]

On May 22, 2018, he was named a member of the All-Liga ACB Team. A day later, Dončić was given the ACB Best Young Player Award once again, for being the best player in the league under the age of 22. He also earned his third straight appearance on the All-ACB Best Young Players Team. The next day, he was named the Liga ACB's MVP of the season.[45] Dončić helped Real Madrid win their third ACB championship in four years, defeating Kirolbet Baskonia. Following the victory, Dončić accepted a late invitation to attend the 2018 NBA Draft in person.[46] On June 29, 2018, Dončić parted ways with Real Madrid.[47][48]

Dallas Mavericks (2018–present)[edit]

On June 21, 2018, Dončić was selected with the third overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018 NBA draft. He was then traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the draft rights to Trae Young and a protected future first round pick in 2019.[49][50] After the draft, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said, "At one point, we thought there might be a slight chance Dončić could fall to us, but a couple of days ago it was pretty clear that there was no way that was going to happen. He’s just too good. We get a guy we think is franchise foundation piece."[51] He signed his rookie contract on July 9, 2018, but would not play in the 2018 NBA Summer League in relation to his contract.[52]

National team career[edit]

Junior national team[edit]

Dončić, during EuroBasket 2017

Dončić was set to play at the 2014 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship's second level B tournament but had to withdraw from the tournament, due to an injury. In December 2014, he played with in a friendly game tournament in Hungary. Dončić averaged 35.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 81% from two-point field goal range, and 57% on three-pointers.[26]

Senior national team[edit]

On September 22, 2016, Dončić announced that he would represent the senior men's Slovenian national team for the rest of his career.[53] He had previously been linked with a number of other national teams, including Montenegro, Serbia, and Spain.[54]

Dončić was a member of the Slovenian squad for EuroBasket 2017, where his country won its first gold medal, after going undefeated (9–0) in the tournament.[55] In Slovenia's 103–97 win over Latvia in the quarterfinals, he scored 27 points, while also recording 9 rebounds.[56] He recorded 11 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists, in the 92–72 semi-final win over Spain.[57] In the final, which Slovenia won by a score of 93–85 over Serbia, he had 8 points and 7 rebounds, before falling out of the game, due to an injury, in the game's third quarter.[58] Dončić was also named to the competition's All-Tournament Team, joining teammate Goran Dragić, who was also voted the EuroBasket MVP.[59]

Player profile[edit]

Dončić has been described as a "position-less guard" who can play the point guard, shooting guard, and small forward positions.[60] Listed at 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) and weighing 218 pounds (98.9 kg), he has been praised for his exceptional size and strength for the guard position, which helps him on the defensive end.[61] His basketball IQ, intangibles, and skills have been considered his primary assets, and he is seen as an elite facilitator, especially on the pick and roll.[62] As an NBA draft prospect, his lack of lateral quickness to stay in front most NBA point guards and wings has been labeled as a point of concern.[63][64]

In June 2018, CBS Sports projected him to "immediately be one of the best passers in the NBA."[61] As a scorer, Dončić is capable of making three-pointers and mid-range jump shots, and converting on floaters and shots in the post.[63] Basketball journalist and scout Austin Green compared him to Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson,[65] while commentator Fran Fraschilla said that Dončić possesses the skill level and body type of Gordon Hayward and the mind of Manu Ginóbili.[64] Dončić has compared himself to Ben Simmons due to his versatility.[66]

Career statistics[edit]

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  PIR  Performance Index Rating
 Bold  Career high

Note: The EuroLeague is not the only competition in which the player participated for the team during the season. He also played in domestic competition, and regional competition if applicable.

Denotes season in which Dončić's team won the EuroLeague
Led the league

EuroLeague[edit]

[67]

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG PIR
2015–16 Real Madrid 12 0 11.1 .407 .313 .882 2.3 2.0 .2 .3 3.5 6.2
2016–17 Real Madrid 35 15 19.9 .433 .371 .844 4.5 4.2 .9 .2 7.8 13.3
2017–18 Real Madrid 33 17 25.9 .451 .329 .816 4.8 4.3 1.1 .3 16.0 21.5
Career 80 32 21.0 .443 .344 .828 4.3 3.9 .9 .3 10.6 15.6

Liga ACB[edit]

[68]

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG PIR
2014–15 Real Madrid 5 0 4.8 .333 .333 .750 1.2 .0 .0 .0 1.6 1.8
2015–16 Real Madrid 39 0 12.9 .526 .392 .708 2.6 1.7 .4 .3 4.5 5.9
2016–17 Real Madrid 42 11 19.8 .441 .295 .785 4.4 3.0 .6 .3 7.5 11.9
2017–18 Real Madrid 37 21 24.3 .462 .293 .752 5.7 4.7 1.1 .4 12.5 18.4
Career 123 32 18.3 .463 .310 .754 4.1 3.0 .7 .3 7.8 11.6

Personal life[edit]

Dončić's parents filed for divorce in 2008, with custody and legal guardianship being granted to his mother.[7][9][8] His godfather is former NBA player Radoslav Nesterović.[12] Dončić is a fan of the Crvena zvezda basketball club.[69][70]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Ellentuck, Matt (June 21, 2018). "Luka Doncic is the most accomplished NBA prospect in decades. Congratulations, Mavericks fans". SB Nation. Retrieved July 2, 2018. 
  4. ^ Tjarks, Jonathan (July 20, 2017). "Luka Doncic Might Be the Best European NBA Prospect of the 21st Century". The Ringer. Retrieved July 2, 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c d Laird, Sam (May 15, 2018). "Luka Doncic is the Best International Prospect Ever". Slam. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  6. ^ Packham, Drew (May 23, 2018). "Consensus Mock Draft: Will Suns go with Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic at No. 1?". NBA.com. Retrieved May 27, 2018. 
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External links[edit]