6’8″, 220 pounds
February 28th, 1999
FPC NBA Draft Big Board Rank: 1 Overall, 1 Guard
Projection: Top Three
Doncic burst onto the scene at the age of 13, where Real Madrid signed him to a contract. After starring on the Real Madrid B team in 2014, Madrid brought him up in 2015 to the main team, making him the youngest player to ever debut for the team. In a league where young players usually don’t play significant minutes, Doncic climbed up the ranks in the Spanish ACB league and the Euroleague. Now, in 2018, he is Real Madrid’s go-to guy and the team has been very successful in the Euroleague and the Spanish ACB league. He is apart of the Slovenian national team and the team that won gold at Eurobasket 2017, playing alongside Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic.
Luka Doncic is an incredibly gifted player. At 6’8″, he has the versatility to play the one through three but he undoubtedly is a point guard. Doncic possesses unique passing ability reminiscent of Ben Simmons and LeBron James. His vision in the half court and in transition allows him to make passes most cannot. He has every pass in his bag of tricks, from the cross-court skip pass to the pocket pass. He also has a pension for the crowd-pleasing flashy pass. Doncic makes his teammates better. Most of his passes are on time and right on the numbers.
Doncic navigates the pick and roll very well; he knows when to pass and when to take it himself. Doncic has mastered putting his defender in jail and crossing back over after using the screen to take his defender out of the play. He has a solid handle and draws a lot of fouls when defenders try to stop him in transition. Doncic is a great rebounder and the ability to rebound from the point guard position is vital, so shooters can run to their spots.
Doncic is not afraid to take the ball himself and score; he has all of the assortment of crossover moves in his bag. The ability to create something out of nothing is very valuable. He also has a pension for the big shot. His three-point percentage isn’t great but his mechanics are smooth and his shot should translate into the NBA. Luka Doncic isn’t an elite athlete, but he has good leaping ability and good enough athleticism to get by most of his defenders. His footwork is impeccable and he is equally adept at going right or left. Doncic likes to post up and has excellent touch around the basket.
Despite his struggles defending on-ball, Doncic is a competitive defender and is never afraid of a one on one matchup. Luka Doncic also plays better competition than any college player. If the NBA is analogous to the MLB, NCAA basketball is Double-A and the Euroleague is Triple-A. Doncic has had the chance to play with some of the most seasoned veterans in the world, giving him valuable experience.
Although Doncic is fairly athletic, he is not an elite athlete by any means and could struggle to keep up with some of the quicker players in the league. Is he quick enough to consistently beat some of the best defenders in the NBA? Doncic has poor lateral quickness and struggles to keep his man in front of him. Doncic’s biggest defensive flaw though is his off-ball defense. His awareness on the weak side is bad and he often gets way out of position on his help assignments. He will need to better understand offensive positioning and NBA spacing to become a competent off-ball defender. Doncic turns the ball over because he tries to do too much–he needs to trust his teammates more and make the simple pass–and occasionally overdribbles.
Best NBA Fits
The Memphis Grizzlies are in dire need of a young star and a new face of the franchise. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are not getting any younger and the Grizzlies don’t have many quality players around them. The Grizzlies also have the second worst AST/TO ratio in the NBA at 1.44, the sixth worst three-point percentage in the league at 35.2% and score the second least points per game at 99.1. Doncic could play as a secondary ball handler with Conley on the floor but could man the point guard duties when he is off of the floor. Doncic creates plenty of his own offense and even more offense for his teammates.
The Atlanta Hawks have amassed a collection of good young players in the past few drafts and free agencies, including Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, and John Collins. Dennis Schroder is their leader, but I am not sure If he will ever be able to be a number one option on a good team. He is a solid playmaker but nothing special. The Hawks will likely have a top three pick and selecting Doncic could be a step in the right direction. Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince are both great defensive wings and will be able to cover for Doncic’s lack of defensive ability early on in his career. The Hawks are also the second worst pick and roll team in the NBA, with 0.76 points per possession, despite running it the third most in the NBA.
The Mavericks already have one great young guard in Dennis Smith Jr. Besides him, the Mavericks don’t really have any exciting young talent on the roster. The Mavericks have the fourth slowest pace in the NBA (97.57) and the third lowest points per game in the NBA (102.4). Their guard play outside of Smith is fairly weak. Although Smith is very athletic and a great scorer, he is not a true playmaker. Doncic could create easy buckets for Smith in transition on backdoor cuts. A backcourt duo of Smith and Doncic would be a nightmare for opposing teams to guard in the near future.
Luka Doncic is a generational offensive talent with elite vision and scoring ability. He will struggle early on defense and his playing time may drop. If he can become a serviceable defender like James Harden, or if a team can cover his defensive weakness with other role players, he could be an immediate impact player. Doncic will have an easier time transitioning to the NBA due to the similarity of playstyles to the Euroleague. Doncic has a great chance to be an NBA star and avoid the ever-growing list of European busts.
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Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.