What James Harden means for Luka Doncic’s superstar turning point

At just 21 years old, Luka Doncic is already reaching levels of offensive dominance touched only by James Harden, the most efficient high-usage shot creator in NBA history. Before his trade to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, Harden cracked the code to NBA defenses by splashing step-back 3s, baiting defenders into fouls at an incredible rate, absorbing contact going to the rim, tossing pinpoint lobs to bigs and spraying the ball out to shooters.

Doncic is entering that same rare tier. He is averaging 27.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists through nine games — the only player in the league to hit those marks. The Mavs are on a five-game win streak, and Doncic appears to have played his way into game shape after a slow start. Yet, in order to put up those numbers, Doncic also leads the NBA in usage rate, time of possession (9.3 seconds), average dribbles per touch and pick-and-rolls per 100 possessions, while ranking second in isolations per 100, behind only Harden, per Second Spectrum tracking.

Harden wasn’t able to bring a title to Houston during his near decade-long run despite putting up video game numbers on incredible volume. There are plenty of reasons for this, many of which were out of Harden’s control. But as Doncic enters a turning point on his path to his superstar peak, how different can and should the best version of Luka look compared to the now-former Rockets guard?

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