By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Admit it. If you were a complete stranger to the world of EuroLeague and someone told you that a 17-year-old would win weekly MVP honors twice in the same season (while still midway), you’d quite possibly treat said person like a nuthouse escapee.
Then again, even those familiar with the immense talent and gargantuan potential of Luka Doncic rub their eyes in amazement with the prime basketball quality he delivers.
What was the new episode in “The Slovenian boy-wonder” series (refusing to use the word “kid” because he’s simply not a kid anymore) we’re watching this year? A near “triple-double” show, after scoring 10 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists, to lead Real Madrid through a comeback victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in Spain.
His exploits earned him 32 points in the EuroLeague PIR evaluation system, more than any other player out of a winning team had in this round. Thus, he’s automatically MVP of the Week. For the second time this year.
If you consider the above stat line as amazing – and you should think of nothing less given his age – here’s the best part: He had zero turnovers. 0. “NADA”. In the 26 minutes he spent on court, sometimes assuming floor-general duties and having to face an energetic defense able to give him a handful and make his life fairly difficult.
Try to fully grasp it: An underage baller was two dimes short from a triple-double playing in the highest level of basketball outside of the NBA. While making no turnovers. Insane.
It’s not only about numbers though. The way he “reads” every situation to determine what the right choice is when he wants to score, his decision making when he passes the ball and his positioning in order to even dominate the boards (as he did vs Maccabi with a career-high 11 rebounds) is pretty much phenomenal and wise beyond his years. Actually, it’s quite reminiscent of the “modus operandi” we find in European basketball luminaries.
(Let’s not drops names now, because you’ll accuse me of being sacrilegious and making comparisons that aren’t “right”, “proper” or whatever. But I have in mind two Greek dudes, at least one Croat and a fair number of Serbs)
The deep understanding and strong feel that Doncic has for the game are more than obvious in the threads he weaves on the floor. More importantly he converts them into big production ratings. And victories for his team.
This kind of advanced and simultaneously fruitful game perception is a key characteristic of everything that is holy and beautiful in European basketball. The “I Love This Game” of Europe has more to do with the cerebral aspect of the sport, rather than the flashy, highlight-rich facet of it.
The most important, perhaps legendary, basketball representatives from the “old continent “were flowing abundantly with an almost inherent ability to scan the floor no matter their position, processing game data with a remarkable speed to recognize opportunities for themselves and their teammates (or even create them out of thin air – there lies a major factor that distinguishes “pretty good” from “great” ) in any given setting, and transforming them into beneficial action, often on both ends.
There’s absolutely no exaggeration on saying that these are exactly the stuff Doncic actually does to be honest. That’s how he prefers to work, at least most of the time. He’s transcending his game by using his mind, designing every play with precision and maturity found in basketball sages. While 17 years old.
Even when he prefers to trust his raw instinct it looks like a a calculated move. Like he did against Zalgiris Kaunas where he drained some clutch, gutsy downtown buckets that saved his team from an upset.
And he brings this kind of performances not on a school yard or next to players of his age but on fighting grounds where he is surrounded by experienced veteran stars, millionaires with NBA experience (and sometimes near-certain future) or sturdy athletes that can eat you alive with their robustness and speed.
You do realize that he has to take the bus to go to practice, right? He’s now even allowed to drive a car yet since you have to be above 18 to do that in Spain.
Oh and to answer a possible lingering question: Triple-doubles are far from an everyday scenario in EuroLeague. Only Croatian center Nikola Vujcic has managed to achieve such a thing, twice in his career in fact.
That’s how rare triple-doubles are and another reason why Doncic’s latest feat is so freakishly awesome. Take a look at how he won MVP of the Week.
Doncic had also been named MVP in Week 13 of the regular season when he propelled Real Madrid to beat Brose Bamberg 95 – 72 with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. But he had to “share” the award with Mike James of Panathinaikos who had recorded the same index rating (25).
But not this time. This week Luka Doncic’s MVP honor belongs exclusively to himself and is one of the many that’ll come. Not necessarily on this side of the Atlantic ocean.