International Players

Around the Globe: Luka Doncic's historic start

Luka Doncic's record-shattering start earns him the top spot in this roundup of standout international performers throughout the season.

Luka Doncic is one of many international standouts who have made their mark this season.

Any time you’re mentioned in the same breath as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, you know you’re doing something right. And through 13 games, Luka Doncic can do no wrong. 

The 23-year-old superstar is off to his best start to an NBA season to date, and if you think that’s hyperbole, just take a look at his game log. Doncic scored 30 points or more in each of his first nine games, topping Chamberlain’s previous second-best mark of eight straight 30-point games — Chamberlain still holds the all-time record with 23 such performances to start the 1961-62 campaign. 

Once Doncic’s 30-point streak finally came to an end after a 24-point outing against the Magic, he set his sights on a new historical feat. His virtuoso performance in Tuesday’s win over the Clippers put him in an exclusive group with Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to post 25 career games of 35+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists before the age of 25. 

But Doncic isn’t the only international star who’s been smashing the record books in the early stage of the season, and we’ll dive deeper into that in the first Around the Globe report of 2022-23. 

*All stats through Thursday, Nov. 17

This Edition’s standout

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (Slovenia)

Season stats: 34.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 7.8 apg

NBA Today: Luka's greatness

Doncic may already be looking to start a new 30-point streak after his nine-game tear came to a halt last week. The three-time All-Star posted a 42-point triple-double in Saturday’s 117-112 win over the Blazers, and followed that up by torching a familiar L.A. foe for 35. Doncic rested Wednesday night against the Rockets but should be back in action for a Friday matchup with the Nuggets, where he’ll have a chance to become just the 10th player to record 50 career triple-doubles. Did we mention he’s just 23 years old? 

Other notables

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (Canada)

Season stats: 32.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.9 apg

Full Focus: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's game-winner caps off Thunder comeback

Gilgeous-Alexander had shown flashes of the future superstar he could be during his first three seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and this year he seems to finally be putting it all together. The 24-year-old’s explosive scoring prowess and all-around brilliance have been on full display, most recently showcased in Wednesday’s 42-point heroic effort against the Wizards. It was Gilgeous-Alexander’s third straight game with 35 or more points — a feat that has only been accomplished by four others in OKC franchise history: Kevin Durant, Paul George, Spencer Haywood and Russell Westbrook. 

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Cameroon)

Season stats: 32.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.1 apg

All-Access: Embiid's Big Night

When it was announced that James Harden would miss an extended period of time with a foot strain, questions were raised as to whether the 76ers could right the ship without one-half of its power duo after a shaky start to the season. But don’t fret, Philly fans. Embiid has gladly stepped up to carry the load. He did that and then some in Sunday’s win over the Jazz, turning in an unprecedented 59-point, 11-rebound, 8-assist, 7-block performance. Even more impressive, the historic outing came less than 24 hours after Embiid posted a 42-point double-double in a Saturday win over the Hawks. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Greece)

Season stats: 29.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 5.5 apg

Kia MVP Ladder: Giannis continues to lead, while Tatum makes big jump

After getting off to a league-best 9-0 start, the Bucks have cooled off a bit, dropping two of their last three outings. The recent slippage can be partially attributed to Milwaukee trying to manage the health of its stars. Khris Middleton is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery, Jrue Holiday hasn’t played since Nov. 7 due to an ankle injury and Antetokounmpo has been dealing with left knee soreness that has caused him to miss three of the team’s last six games. Despite the health setbacks, the Greek Freak still has his squad sitting near the top of the East through 14 games. 

A few more: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings; Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors.

Rookie spotlight  

Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers (Canada)

Season stats: 19.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg

Kia Rookie Ladder: Why Bennedict Mathurin overtook Paolo Banchero

Most lottery picks are immediately thrust into starting roles, but that hasn’t been the case for Mathurin. The No. 6 overall pick has come off the bench in each of his first 13 games and has thrived in the sixth man role for Indiana. Boasting a 19.9 ppg average, the Arizona product ranks second among rookies in scoring behind Paolo Banchero (23.5 ppg) and leads the Pacers in 3-point shooting percentage (45.5%).

Beyond the numbers, Mathurin’s play has contributed to team success. After a slow start, Indiana has won six of its past eight games and currently sits above .500. If Mathurin stays on this impressive pace, expect him to be a leading candidate for Kia Rookie of the Year honors all season.

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