Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic draws comparisons to Celtics legend Larry Bird
Luka Legend has a nice ring to it.
Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic is often described as a reincarnation of Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, with the two big, ball-handling forwards possessing gifts for scoring and passing, as well as highly competitive natures.
Mavericks coach and former Bird teammate Rick Carlisle and former Celtic Cedric Maxwell, as well as NBA fans and pundits alike, have compared the two playmakers on various occasions.
Just how high is the 22-year-old Doncic's ceiling, and is he on track to become the next Larry Bird?
According to Shannon Sharpe, the similarities between the two are as clear as day; however, Bird is recognized as the better shooter of the two, while Doncic boasts a more diverse all-around game.
"Now, although Luka, as I said, he's not the shooter, but he can rebound and facilitate just as good as Larry Bird ... and you know what I think of Larry Bird. He was my favorite player."
Doncic is coming off a performance in which he lit up the stat sheet while ending the Brooklyn Nets' nine-game win streak, notching 27 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Through 31 games this season, Doncic is averaging 28.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game while shooting 47.5% from the field and 35.1% from 3-point range.
Bird also stuffed the stat sheet in his third NBA season, averaging 22.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 50.3% shooting from the field and 21.2% from long range. It should be noted that players took far fewer 3-pointers during Bird's era (1980s and early '90s).
Despite the differences, Doncic is on pace to join Bird's party of one as the only players in NBA history to finish their careers averaging at least 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists. So far in Luka’s three seasons, he is averaging 25.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists. (LeBron James is likely to fall short of that mark, as he is on pace to average 27.0 points and 7.4 assists but only 7.5 rebounds per game.)
Despite the praise, Doncic doesn't believe he deserves to be in the same conversation as Bird quite yet.
"More, more games to go. A long time before you can compare me to Larry Bird," he said. "I just want to keep hooping, have fun playing basketball."
The levels of success the two achieved by this point in their careers are vastly different, as after two seasons, Bird had made the conference finals twice and won an NBA title, while Luka has played in only one postseason series (six postseason games) through his first two seasons.
Despite the Mavericks' lack of hardware with Doncic leading the way, Dallas owner Mark Cuban believes Doncic has just begun his journey, and his ability to grow means he has much potential yet to be unlocked.
"You can't speed him up. He plays at his own pace. He thinks three steps ahead of everybody. He knows where everyone is on the court. He's just got the ability ... he's gotten better every single year ... and to me, that's the true measure of a superstar. What can you add to your game?"
The franchise's trust in the young star is clear, as Dallas is asking Luka to do more, with a 33.9% career usage rate, while Bird’s usage rate in his first three seasons was 24.9%.
Doncic's minutes are being put to good use, as after a 9-14 start to the season, the Mavs have hit .500 (16-16) and look to get into the win column with a victory Monday over the Orlando Magic.