Luka Doncic left no doubt throughout the season and on Monday night, it was confirmed.
The 20-year-old Dallas Mavericks guard/forward was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year at the league’s award show in Los Angeles.
The Slovenian native was a lock to win the award after sweeping all five monthly Western Conference rookie honors. He’s the first Maverick to win the award since Jason Kidd shared the award with co-winner Grant Hill of the Pistons in 1995.
Doncic beat the other two finalists Oklahoma ex Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns.
Doncic congratulated the other finalists during his brief acceptance speech.
“I want to congratulate Trae and Deandre for amazing season. Not just them, but the whole rookie class. I think it’s amazing. We can make something big,” Doncic said. He also thanked his girlfriend Anamaria Goltes, who was in the audience, and coach Rick Carlisle and his teammates.
“My heart was beating a lot. When I heard my name, I was like in tears,” Doncic told Mavs.com. “I knew it was me, so it’s a great feeling.”
It didn’t take long to realize Doncic, who turned 20 on Feb. 28, came into the league with superior basketball skills and game management acumen than most 19-year-olds. He joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only rookies to average at least 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists a game. Think about that for a second.
NBA veteran players and coaches such as the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich offered praise throughout the season.
“He’s a beautiful basketball player. He does everything,” Popovich said. “He has a pace about him that is never frantic. He’s calm in everything that he does. He understands spatial relationships and understands where everybody is on the court, what’s needed at the time and he’s got courage. He’ll take big shots and do what needs to be done to try to win a basketball game.”
Doncic is only the second player to win the award without playing college or high school basketball in the United States. Pau Gasol did it in 2002.
Of the five triple-doubles in NBA history by a teenager, Doncic has four of them. He finished with eight, tied with LeBron James — LEBRON JAMES! — for fourth-most this season.
Doncic, who averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists, was so smooth and so good so quickly that at times it was easy to overlook how steady he remained during the season. He never toiled in a long slump, never looked overwhelmed, and was typically up for the big shot when the Mavs needed one in the final seconds.
“The sky’s the limit for Luka,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban told Mavs.com. “He has the talent, the drive, the skill and the physical abilities.”