Like most highly-touted European prospects, Luka Doncic will be one of the most debated players leading up to the NBA draft in June. The 19-year old Slovenian phenom is coming off one of the most impressive years ever for a professional basketball player at his age, recently becoming the youngest player to ever win the Euroleague MVP award and leading his Real Madrid team to a championship. Still, Doncic has yet to completely diminish the notion that European players tend not to pan out in the NBA.
A recent report from ESPN’s Jonothan Givony states, “The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players.” The report also mentions the possibility of a team trading up into the top three to snag Doncic, which might be a position the Hawks are faced with if the Kings take Marvin Bagley with the 2nd overall pick. However, if Doncic happens to fall right in Atlanta’s lap with the 3rd overall pick, the Hawks would be fools to pass on him.
The Atlanta faithful seem to be a little hesitant on Doncic’s potential as well.
If Luca Doncic was available with the 3rd overall pick, what would you want the Hawks to do?
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) May 20, 2018
Nearly half of the people who voted said they would pass on Doncic at the #3 slot. Perhaps it was Doncic’s statements regarding his future in Europe that has many scouts and fans worried about spending an early pick on him. Doncic recently stated he has not yet decided on whether he will go to the NBA next year, but those comments were more than likely just politically correct statements, as Real Madrid was in the heat of a championship run. Doncic will be in an NBA jersey to begin next season.
Simply put, Doncic is far-and-away the most skilled basketball player in this draft and possesses an NBA-body and swagger worthy of a top pick. At 6’8″ tall, the Real Madrid star can play point guard or off the ball effectively due to his length and size. However, Doncic shines brightest with his ball in his hands as a playmaker. He already has elite scoring ability with a sweet jump shot from long-range, an ability to attack the basket off the dribble with filthy handles and can finish around the rim with deceptive athleticism, but the thing that sets him apart is his high basketball IQ and vision. With the ball in his hands, there is not another player in the draft that is even close to as deadly at this point.
Doncic has already reached unprecedented feats as a 19-year old in Europe. He led Slovenia to it’s first ever European championship a year ago, led Real Madrid to it’s most recent Euroleague championship just days ago, and became the youngest player in Euroleague history to win the MVP award. It is safe to say, this kid, who has been playing professional basketball since he was 16-years old, is a legitimate prodigy.
The Hawks have not had a true superstar since Dominique Wilkins donned the throwback Atlanta uniforms. In a league where superstars really do win championships, it has become quite a problem for a franchise that has seen little success since moving to Atlanta. Doncic could fit in with the Hawks in a number of different scenarios. He could play off-ball with Dennis Schroder running the point or play point guard if the Hawks do ultimately decide to trade Schroder. But regardless of what position Doncic would play for Atlanta, he would bring the highlights back to the Highlight Factory.
There are those who might be done with European prospects in general. After all, there are a long list of top European prospects that never panned out in the pros. However, European basketball has improved greatly over the last decade, and the Euroleague is hands-down the second-best basketball league in the world. The elevated play should result in a less amount of busts in the future and has already resulted in one unicorn, the one-and-only Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis has blossomed into a superstar since being infamously booed by Knicks fans after being selected with fourth overall pick in the 2015. He’s the type of player that should put and end to the dark cloud surrounding European prospects. But right now, it looks like that is a role Doncic is going to have to play out, and I see no reason why he will not be able succeed in it. He has a unique competitive edge to him that will not allow him to back down from any challenge. Getting to the NBA is just a stepping stone for the prodigy out of Slovenia, he wants to take it over.