When Luka Doncic takes the court in Chicago for the 2020 NBA All-Star game, the 20-year-old will represent more than just Team LeBron. As Doncic elevates, so do the Dallas Mavericks.
Doncic started All-Star weekend on Friday night with his second appearance in the rising stars game, representing Team World versus the United States roster.
The Slovenian is a true global superstar. Doncic was the best player in Europe as a teenager, winning the EuroLeague MVP award in 2018, his final year in Real Madrid.
As he transitioned to the NBA, the decorated Point Forward faced the same whispers foreign stars generally receive. Unfair as it is, any young superstars touted as the next Dirk Nowitzki or Giannis Antetokounmpo come with an asterisk pointing to Andrea Bargnani or Darko Milicic.
Doncic shuttered any remaining pundits relatively quickly, being named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2018 and becoming a legitimate league MVP candidate before he could legally hit up a Deep Ellum dive.
A lot of that criticism is still rooted in the belief that prospects that have faced or are selected from legacy college programs pose less risk, so seeing Doncic continue to outshine his fellow 2018 draft class is *chef’s kiss*.
Luka’s World team allowed folks to daydream about Doncic alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander together in the backcourt throwing lobs to Deandre Ayton. Ayton skipped the action but Doncic faced a U.S roster featuring Zion Williamson, Trae Young, and Memphis teammates Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.
Young defending Doncic creates buzz anytime they’re in the same building as the two All-Stars were traded for each other at the draft in 2018. The world also got their first look at Doncic vs. the 2019 draft’s top guard Morant. Luka’s ankle injury made us miss out on seeing the hotly anticipated match-up earlier this month, but the Rising Stars game gave us a juicy consolation.
The camaraderie and rivalries built with the NBA’s younger stars during these exhibitions will shape the marquee match-ups Maverick fans can look forward to for the next decade.
Looking forward to Sunday, Doncic will suit up as a starter in the 2020 NBA All-Star game, becoming only the third Dallas Maverick EVER to do so, joining Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.
He is more than deserving. Doncic reaches the All-Star break averaging 28.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists for the season, with eyes on being named the league’s Most Valuable Player while lifting the Mavericks from mediocrity to surefire playoff contender.
The All-Star game has moved on from Conference match-ups to feature a playground gimmick of captains picking their rosters. The two captains are the top overall vote getters in their respective conferences, with Antetokounmpo and LeBron James dividing the all-stars as they saw fit. Doncic finished second to James, showing his meteoric rise in popularity among the fanbase and a place no other Maverick has ever been in before.
Doncic sending lobs to LeBron will be plentiful. Doncic no-look passes to Anthony Davis or Kawhi Leonard are coming, and the Dallas brass couldn’t be happier.
While the league missed out on having their two most exciting young stars running the ship by a few thousand votes, a future in which the league’s preeminent player is wearing Dallas across his chest is not too far off. LeBron, the Millennial generation’s flagship star, is 35 and will cede control over the landscape in the next few years as he ages out gracefully.
Doncic, in his second year in the league, is showing the poise and swagger of a player ten years his elder.
He was also born in 1999.
Remember Smashmouth and the Grammy award-winning 1999 hit Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty off the multi-platinum album Supernatural?
Doncic doesn’t and that’s a good thing. Dallas has its anchor to compete for Gen Z players and fans alike.
A big criticism of the Mavs over the years has been their inability to attract top talent when they are on the open market. This thought is misguided, as the team was successful in building a roster through transactions to support Nowitzki while keeping their payroll among the league’s highest.
Through Dirk’s prime, the Mavs took advantage of less stringent cap rules and made additions through trades. The current landscape makes that team building strategy obsolete, but Dallas has the perfect counter.
The Luka aura that will be on full display during All-Star weekend and will continue to pay off long after the conclusion of his first All-Star game. We have already seen Luka’s impact with the re-signing of Kristaps Porzingis to a max deal last summer. Porzingis had the ability to wait out the clock and pick where he wanted to play. He chose to stick around and team up with Doncic.
We can worry about Los Angeles’ eventual recruitment of Doncic later. Luka is the new kid in school that’s been accepted by the prominent clique relatively quickly. Sneakerheads are already anticipating the debut of his Jordan line. As long as Dallas keeps him happy, the Mavs have an in and a chance to attract top talent for the next 15 years.
A true generational talent, and he wears Dallas blue.
How do you think Luka Doncic will do in front of the world stage in his first All-Star game? Share your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.