Dirk Nowitzki Says Teenage Luka Doncic Was Better Than He Was as a Teenager

Dallas' rookie stands a decent chance of competing for Rookie of the Year in 2018. That is, if he can survive the mountain of praise Dirk Nowitzki is shouldering on him.

Dirk Nowitzki
Image via USA Today Sports/Jerome Miron
Dirk Nowitzki

If you followed NBA Twitter over the last year, you'd come away thinking Luka Doncic is a hybrid of Chris Paul and Jason Kidd, but in the body of the 6-foot-9 Magic Johnson. Scouting reports noted his range and handle, but they went simply agog with delight when talking about his court vision and basketball smarts. That sort of outsized expectation can be difficult to live up to, and at least three teams in June's NBA Draft thought the same. Despite many considering him the best talent available, Doncic slid to the Dallas Mavericks at the No. 4 spot.

However, instead of easing the pressure, franchise cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki crammed even more effusive praise on the Euroleague wunderkind in a recent interview with 105.3 The Fan's Ben & Win show:

“Yeah, he’s been here now for a week. He’s scrimmaged every day and works hard. I’m really liking what I’m seeing. He’s incredible with the ball for a big guy. He’s unbelievable in pick and roll play. His court vision is already unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I saw from a 19/20-year-old. He’s a good shooter when he has time and I think he’s going to be great for us for a long, long time.”

When Dallas' future Hall of Famer was asked if he was a good as Luka at that age, Dirk doubled down on the heightened prospects for the Slovenian 19-year-old:

“Oh yeah. I could shoot a little bit but I never had the court vision … the savviness that he brings to the game. Just the way he already reads the pick and roll … all the stuff like Chris Paul and these guys do … He’s going to be fun to watch especially with bigs like DeAndre (Jordan) and Dwight (Powell) rolling to the rim … He’s going to pick defenses apart and it’s going to be fun to watch.”

Coach Rick Carlisle, one of the league's best, and Dirk can help Luka assimilate his game with the NBA (he already played a lot of pick and roll for Europe's top team, Real Madrid). Luka will partner with second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. in one of the most exciting backcourts in basketball. Still, Dallas isn't expected to do much of anything in a Western conference that only got stronger when LeBron James signed with the Lakers. Dirk still seems optimistic, though.


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