You can barely turn on a sports channel without seeing Luka Doncic’s smiling, patchy-bearded face adorning your screen. The kid can do everything.
Step-back threes in your favorite players grill: Yep. Winning over crowds in Mexico with fluent Spanish: Si! The crazy thing is,Doncic has earned every bit of coverage he received.
So he must have had GM’s at their throats to pick him first overall, right? Well, not really.
Obviously, Luka Doncic was still a highly ranked prospect. The Mavericks ended up swapping picks with Atlanta and getting the Slovenian teenager with the 3rd overall pick.
This means at the very least, three teams looked at Luka and thought, “Nah. We’re good.”
Basically, what Stephen A. says here is what the Suns, and most of the NBA world, thought was fact.
Deandre Ayton was a monster in college, and had the athleticism and strength that Luka lacked. Missing on Ayton would be a massive mistake.
Or so we thought.
But if we learned anything about Andy Ruiz’s shocking TKO, it’s that physique can be deceptive.
Before being drafted, Doncic was listed at 230 pounds, and he wasn’t particularly muscular. Doncic outweighed nearly every player in his height range, and displayed nothing close to the athleticism or physique of Duke prospect Marvin Bagley.
Doncic still isn’t exactly a speedster, but he is more than capable of getting to the rack with his stop-and-go, herky-jerky game. He’s addressed the baby-fat as well, already shredding 12 pounds, weighing in at 218 to start his sophomore season.
He doesn’t look like a Greek god, but Luka Doncic gets buckets with the best of them.
Finding a 6’6 guy who can handle the ball and lead an offense is like getting Stephen A. to admit he gave a cold take: it doesn’t really happen.
So when Luka started getting serious consideration from teams, a lot of scouts assumed what Max Kellerman did here:
But Doncic turned out to be just as much of a unicorn as his current teammate Kristaps Porzingis.
Instead of melting under pressure as many talent evaluators thought he would, Luka has picked apart double teams with ease.
You could even make the argument that he rivals the guy he was swapped for in passing ability, and Trae is no slouch himself.
In scouts’ defense, European prospects have been “boom or bust” throughout NBA history.
For every Dirk and Luka Doncic, you have a Darko Millicic or a Dragan Bender.
Basically, the draft is already a crapshoot. And drafting from Europe can feel more like Russian Roulette.
Then again, pretending as if it matters where a player is from is more important rather than their caliber of game rests in some problematic thinking. Not ALL Europeans are the same.
So, it makes sense that when scouts saw a 19-year-old who never played against top-tier talent, they did a double-take.
Oddly enough, on the flip side, nobody seemed to care Marvin Bagley was also dominating against a bunch of not top tier talent… some of whom were basically children.
On the other hand, teams literally hire people for the purpose of looking at European talent. The Mavericks employ a man named Tony Ronzone who is considered to be one of the best European scouts in the world.
Ronzone has helped the Mavs over the years develop players like Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingis and sign players like the immortal Maxi Kleber and adorable JJ Barea. Because of a combination of good personnel choice, willingness to dip in to foreign talent pools, and a little bit of risk taking, the Mavs landed the top talent of the 2018 draft.
Perhaps the weirdest reason given for missing a generational talent came from ESPN’s Tim McMahon.
McMahon suggested the reason the Kings skipped out on Luka Doncic had nothing to do with the prospect’s skill, or even the kid himself.
He explained that Vlade Divac, the Kings GM, was familiar with Doncic’s father, and wasn’t too fond of him. Because of this, he decided to pass up on selecting Luka and instead went with Marvin Bagley.
Again, we need to let that register for a second. Vlade Divac, a man most known for alleged chain smoking and being a solid NBA player, didn’t want to draft a dude because he dislikes the guy’s father.
Divac, for his part, denied the report, and claimed he didn’t draft Doncic because he would’ve been too ball dominant and stunted De’Aaron Fox’s growth.
Now, I’m no Kings fan, but if I was, I sure as hell wouldn’t mind De’Aaron Fox having to deal with a little less time on the ball if it meant my team gets the guy who gets MVP votes in his sophomore season.
Regardless of these excuses, the fact remains Luka was overlooked even after the best performance the EuroLeague has ever seen.
All those people who passed on Luka, whether it be for his fitness, shooting ability, or who he calls dad, will be forced to watch the young man break records and shatter what many thought would be his “Ceiling”.
Do you hear that, friends? Those are chants of MVP being directed at Luka Doncic.