By Dorothy J. Gentry
“I always feel confident, but, like I said, Deandre [Ayton] and Trae [Young] had amazing seasons so I wasn’t that confident,” Luka Doncic. “But, I’m happy to have it and it’s, like I said, special.”
“It” is the 2018-19 KIA NBA Rookie of the Year Award which Doncic, star guard/forward for the Dallas Mavericks, won Monday night. He joins Jason Kidd as the only Mavericks ever to win the award (Kidd shared the honor with Detroit’s Grant Hill in 1994-95), and also becomes the first international player who did not attend a U.S. high school or college to receive the honor since Spain’s Pau Gasol won it for Memphis in 2001-02.
“There was like so many people persons to help me,” Doncic said shortly after winning the award. “First of all, my family, of course, and my teammates and coaches and everybody behind me. You know, there has been just a lot of players, a lot of people that helped me.” Doncic averaged a team-high 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and a team-best 6.0 assists per game in 72 games (all starts) for Dallas this past season.
He joined Oscar Robertson as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per contest. The 20-year-old Slovenian, a unanimous All-Rookie First Team selection and a former EuroLeague MVP, knocked down 168 3-pointers in 2018-19, marking the third-most triples by a rookie in league history. Doncic also set Maverick rookie records for free throws made (346) and attempted (485).
Other history-making notes in his rookie season included finishing the season with eight triple-doubles, the third-most by a rookie in NBA history and breaking Magic Johnson’s record (7) for the most triple-doubles by a player before his 21st birthday (Doncic doesn’t turn 21 until Feb. 28, 2020).
Doncic also won the Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award, winning it all five times it was given out (for October/November, December, January, February and March/April). He became the only Maverick to win the Rookie of the Month Award four-plus times in a season and the first player from either conference to sweep the award since Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015-16.