As the Dallas Mavericks prepares to close its chapter with Dirk Nowitzki, the rebuilding franchise is embracing a new storyline starring Luka Doncic, the kid from Slovenia

By Klyde Manansala | Lead photo from Twitter

Until now, we’re pretty uncertain at how the Atlanta Hawks took Luka Doncic’s debut with the Dallas Mavericks.

There is nothing more painful than seeing the rookie you gave up on evolve as one of the league’s best player—just ask the Charlotte Hornets who traded Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers a day after drafting him.

Point given, the Mavericks played a non-bearing pre-season game against an average Chinese team, but the next set of decades are ours to spend debating on who’s the real winner between the intriguing trade between the Mavericks and Hawks. Last night, Doncic gave us a glimpse of what to expect from his rookie year, and all we could say is that Dallas’ future is definitely bright.

At this year’s NBA draft, two teams passed on Doncic: the Phoenix Suns and the Sacramento Kings. And when the Hawks drafted him third overall, they traded their draft rights on Doncic in exchange for Trae Young—a smaller version of Stephen Curry whose skill set and frame are miles away from Doncic’s. Sure, his shooting range is remarkable from practically anywhere on the court but Young’s offensive prowess is sorely impaired by his poor defense. Contrary to Doncic, the Slovenian delivers on every aspect of his game.

Doncic, at such an early age, has already made an exceptional mark overseas, which became his resume entering the biggest league in the planet. He once spearheaded Real Madrid into a championship title while also winning the MVP hardware before crossing the pond to test his mettle in the US. And his first game wearing a Dallas uniform reminded everyone why the rebuilding Mavs went hard after him.

Doncic hit it from all cylinders as he finished with 16 points (5-of-7 field goals), two assists, six boards, and three blocks.

His very first Mavericks bucket is a coast-to-coast nippy lay-up coming off his own defensive rebound:

Doncic is a point-forward who can take it from anywhere on the floor. He runs in transition, he can post up, he can pass. His hefty frame and length also allow him to grab rebounds with ease, plus, he can also light it up from the outside:

Doncic can also fill in the task of running the offense to lighten the load for his co-star Dennis Smith, Jr., who loves to cut to the basket for an explosive finish. He has the ability to orchestrate offensive attacks efficiently, be it on a half court play or fast break opportunity. Here’s Doncic crashing the board and pushing hard on the offensive end, eventually kicking the ball out to his wide open teammate for the spot-up three:

Expect to see more plays like this from him all year long. You couldn’t ask for more for a big man who’s good at surveying the floor and runs the floor often. However, Doncic lacks the foot speed to blow past defenders on isolation plays. But, he’s smart enough to use his huge frame to absorb contact when driving in the lane. Here’s Doncic executing a behind the back crossover and attacking the rim, making a tough off-balance fadeaway that sent social media into a frenzy:

Doncic capped off his debut on a very positive note. He has set the bar high way before he went to the NBA. We haven’t seen enough of his passing skills—off pick-and-rolls, cross court, and outlets—but we have the rest of the year, and our lives, to witness the kid from Slovenia exhibit his full physical capacity in the NBA and help his franchise get back into the playoffs. It’s a long season. Way to go, Luka.