Passing on Doncic is a mistake

Last August after Slovenia surprised everyone by winning the EuroBasket it seemed Luka Doncic was a lock to be the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Since then his stock slipped despite being the most accomplished European prospect to enter the draft. Doncic is the youngest Euroleague MVP, a Euroleague Champion, and an ACB Champion (arguably the 2nd best league in the world), he’s just a winner. Concerns about his athleticism, the level of competition he is playing against seems to have teams at the top of the lottery running towards other prospects and making a huge mistake.

Before we dive into his ability on the court, let’s challenge the notion that he’s un-athletic. The most common look at athleticism is the ability to jump out of the building and that should be part of the equation but not the whole answer. Doncic possesses a unique ability to stop and change directions at the drop of a hat. As the Director of Biomechanics at P3 Eric Leidersdorf explains in the video below. This ability allows him to crossover and/or step back with ease, which makes him difficult to defend. Athleticism isn’t just about speed and jumping ability.

Doncic can serve as a team’s primary playmaker with his ability to create in the Pick-and-Roll, he has every pass in the toolbox, whether it is hitting the man in the opposite corner for a three, making the pocket bounce pass to the roller, hitting the shake man (Trey Thompkins needs to lift up higher as the action goes away from him) or the dump off pass to the big at dunker spot as the defense collapses on him at the rim. These are NBA level passes that elite guards use to make defenses pay.

Doncic is also able to score out of PnRs if teams try to play him for the pass. He can attack bigs who drop back, he can get to his floater, he has the ability to knock down threes off the dribble, and on the last clip, he flashed that athleticism that P3 was explaining with a beautiful stop and go move that froze the defender and he finished with a pretty scoop layup.

Standing at 6’8” Doncic is the perfect rebound and go guard, like he did against Serbia in the Eurobasket when he grabs the rebound, weaves through traffic and gets to the rim for a dunk. Even in the ACB playoffs, when teams tried to pick him up full court or double him in the backcourt, he just whizzes by them creating an open looks for three that his teammates do not convert on.

If there is one area where Doncic has struggled with this year, it is his three-point shooting. This season he shot only 30% from deep, a lot of his threes have been off late clock situations based how Real Madrid plays. That has skewed his numbers, but overall his form is solid and there are not a lot of reservations about him becoming a consistent three-point threat.

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The best situations for Doncic would be one similar to what he had in the Eurobasket when his stock was it’s highest. He shared playmaking ability responsibilities with Miami’s Goran Dragic. An opportunity to pair him with another scorer/playmaker opens up the court for both players. It would take some of the burden off of one player, and allowing Doncic to attack on the second side of actions would be lethal to rotating defenses. The NBA game is changing and having multiple playmakers on the court is proving to be a difference maker, just look at the numbers the Houston Rockets put up pairing James Harden and Chris Paul.

It seems like the Phoenix Suns are going to take DeAndre Ayton over Doncic, they are passing on the opportunity to create a devastating backcourt with him and Devin Booker. The same goes for the Sacramento Kings who if they pass on Doncic will miss the chance to be able to switch tempo at the snap of the finger with De’Aaron Fox running the transition game and Doncic controlling the show in the halfcourt.

Passing Doncic could be the biggest mistake some of these front offices make on Thursday, at the very least he has enough skills to be a very good NBA player. He has competed with professionals since he was 16, faced NBA veterans in last year’s EuroBasket and didn’t look out of place once. He’s led his team to the Euroleague and ACB title. Doncic is a winner, a proven winner and that is what these teams picking in the lottery lack more than anything else.

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Article Update:

  • It appears Luka Doncic is being strongly considered by the Atlanta Hawks with the third pick in the draft. If they do select him, it could allow them to either pair him with Dennis Schroder or move Schroder for another piece as they set to rebuild. A Doncic-John Collins Pick-and-Roll could provide for a lot of highlights.

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