No one ever saw Luka Doncic becoming as good as he is that fast. He was one of the most promising prospects in the league but there were some growing pains expected out of him, as it happens to all young players.
Doncic took the league by storm during his rookie year and somehow got even better for his sophomore season. He averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game this season and led the Dallas Mavericks to the 7th seed in the Western Conference.
Moreover, he almost averaged a triple-double with 35 points on his very first playoff series, including a game-winning three-pointer vs. the Los Angeles Clippers and their physical, asphyxiating defense.
The Clippers went to Doncic over and over and tried to provoke him. Marcus Morris literally tried to hurt him but he stayed put and continued to lead his team, even despite having a rolled ankle. That's why his coach Carlisle lauded him as one of the toughest players he's ever seen:
"He's one of the toughest players that I've ever seen in this league, and that goes back 35 or 36 years. He is a great young player that's getting better each year. He's rookie of the year last year, this year he's up for most improved. I'd like to know if that's ever happened before," Carlisle started, as quoted by ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
Carlisle went on to add that he expects Doncic to take his game even further next season, and judging by what we've seen, there's no reason to believe he can become even better:
"I expect that he'll come back next year even better with something new in his game. The same way that Bird and Magic and Jordan, all those great players did every summer. The summer's a little different. Now it's going to be a fall and whenever we reconvene as a league again. But he has an irrepressible enthusiasm for the game, for his teammates, and for winning. Today it was hard getting him out of the game. Second half we didn't do it until the very end. We're so fortunate to have him and now we've got to get our roster completely healthy and keep working to get the right players around him," Carlisle concluded.
Doncic is already one of the best players in the league. There's still room for improvement as a shooter and a defender but we're talking about a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent here. The future is bright for the Mavericks, especially if Kristaps Porzingis can stay healthy.