January 11, 2020

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference’s Sports Stories Briefing

How we see it…views & opinions from MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Luka Doncic Doesn’t Make Sense

The legend of Luka Doncic is not particularly new.

Two years ago, the hardcore NBA fan had heard of Luka Doncic and was aware of his impressive track record. At age 18, Doncic was the best player in Europe leading Real Madrid to a Euro League title while winning both Euro League MVP and Final Four MVP.  For context, no 18 year old should be able to be the best player in the second best basketball league in the world.

Luka’s NBA career has been nothing short of sensational. Last year, as a rookie, he averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists a game. Per Cleaningtheglass, he ranked in the 99th percentile for his position in assists. In addition, there was evidence that he could perform well under pressure and his ability to draw fouls as a young player did not go under the radar – Luka ranked in the 90th percentile in shouting fouled percentage.

This year, Luka has taken up his game to a whole different level. Through 32 games this season, he’s essentially averaging a triple double, while scoring 30 points a game on 47% shooting, and an impossible 60.1% from 2-point range. Most importantly, the Mavericks are winning basketball games. This isn’t to say that Doncic’s game is flawless. He still takes too many ill advised 3 point shots and this is reflected into his below average 32% percentage behind the 3 point arc. There are legitimate doubts he’ll ever be a two-way force in the playoffs like Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.  

Make no mistake however, Luka Doncic is having the most prolific season a 20 year old has ever had and is currently a top 3 candidate for league MVP. It didn’t make sense when Luka fell to number 3 in the draft last year. It didn’t make sense why 3 teams gladly passed on a player that was universally regarded as a transcendent talent in basketball intelligencia circles. It didn’t make sense when he was dominating the Euro League at age 18. It certainly does not make sense that he’s nearly averaging a 30 point triple double in his second year in the NBA. The legend continues.  

What we’re Reading & Podcasting?

1 – Former SSAC panelist Kevin Arnovitz writes some of the best basketball features in the media industry. In November on ESPN, he wrote about one of the NBA’s most improbable heists by a Sacramento Kings executive. In December, he wrote about the emerging trend of former NBA players purchasing professional basketball teams in Australia.

2 – In a poignant feature story, the New York Times’ Ken Belson, Quoctrung Bui, Joe Drape, Rumsey Taylor and Joe Ward write about football’s campaign to save the game. The story outlines the decline in participation rates in high school football across the country.

3 – Former SSAC panelist Jackie McMullan tells the story of Lindsay Gottlieb, an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

4 – The Atletic’s Ben Baldwin goes inside the advanced metrics to make his NFL regular season MVP ballot.

5 – The Book of Basketball might be the most influential basketball book of the last 20 years. Former Sloan Sports Analytics Conference panelist Bill Simmons is currently updating the 2009 book in podcast form. The Book of Basketball 2.0 comes out every Tuesday and has already featured some impressive guests such as Zach Lowe, Steve Nash, Steve Kerr, and SSAC’s very own Daryl Morey!

6 – The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference podcast is the home of the conference’s panels on the most cutting edge sports analytics topics. For example last year, Jeanie Buss, Katie Nolan and Larry Fitzgerald discussed whether the modern athlete need the media.