James Harden Says Luka Doncic Is a 'Special One' After Nets' Loss to Mavericks

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2021

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) shoots against Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

James Harden sees some similarities between himself and Luka Doncic, acknowledging that the Dallas Mavericks have a "special" player in the All-Star guard after Dallas' 115-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

"He never lets anyone speed him up, and he gets what he wants," Harden told reporters. "That's rare for a guy at a young age. I think he's 21 years old. And to be able to dictate the game and control the game like he does, we all know he has a very, very bright future. The Mavs got a special one."

Doncic finished with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists in the blowout win, which came amid Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sitting out for Brooklyn because of injuries.

"It's something you can't even describe if somebody like that says something about you," Doncic told reporters. "It's just amazing. I really appreciate it. I watch him. He's an unbelievable player and just really special."

The Harden-Doncic comparisons were more apt when Harden was in Houston, in large part because they played a similar, iso-heavy, stepback-filled style of basketball. Harden has adjusted his game since his trade to the Nets earlier this season, becoming the NBA's leader in assists and toning down his scoring prowess a bit—though he's seen an uptick in points with Durant out of the lineup.

The Mavs' offensive system is also a bit more structured than the one Harden played in with the Rockets, requiring more off-ball movement.

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Doncic is averaging 28.5 points, 9.0 assists and 8.4 rebounds per game this season, numbers that put him in elite company. In his third NBA season, Doncic is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career and should lead the Mavericks franchise for the next decade-plus, provided owner Mark Cuban is able to keep a competitive team around his star.

The Mavs are 16-16 after struggling out of the gate and are facing questions as to whether they overpaid in acquiring Kristaps Porzingis amid the 7-footer's defensive struggles.