Luka Doncic is a 6-foot-8 combo guard who can play multiple positions, is a terrific passer that has unlimited shooting range, and has a high basketball IQ. And, oh yeah, he is only 19 years old and still growing. As if that wasn’t good enough, this is what he has done in the past eight months while playing on Real Madrid in the second best basketball league in the world:
Eurobasket champion, All-Eurobasket team, Euroleague Rising Star award, Euroleague MVP, Euroleague champion, Euroleague Final Four MVP, and an ACB championship.
Yes, you read that correctly, Doncic was Euroleague MVP at the age of 19. Yet, there is a growing sentiment that teams like the Sacramento Kings will take a pass on Doncic. Per ESPN’s Jonathan Givony: The Kings are “not very high” on him.
But what irks me is that I’ve seen Doncic called “soft”, “unathletic, and “slow-footed”, amongst many other derogatory terms on Twitter. Reality is, the “Darko effect” is still haunting Euro players to this day. We all know the story: Darko Milicic was selected second by the Detroit Pistons by then-GM Joe Dumars. Milicic had played in Serbia for two seasons ahead of the 2003 draft, but hadn’t really faced any NBA-level opposition during that time. He busted, so now anytime there is a top-Euro prospect, he gets labeled with those usual descriptions. But, guess what? They are wrong. This new wave of Euro kids is literally the opposite of soft and unathletic.
Let’s look at some of the top-talent from Europe over the last five years:
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) and Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia) are stars, Rudy Gobert (France) is a monster, and guys like Lauri Markkanen (Finland), Clint Capela (Switzerland), Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), and Dario Saric (Croatia) are young, athletic bigs that can play. All of those guys were first-rounders besides Jokic. And, more importantly, all of these guys have looked the opposite of “soft” when they play. And how’s this for unathletic?
It is still early to tell with the likes of a few others like OG Anunoby (England), Bogdan Bogdanović (Serbia), Dennis Schröder (Germany), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Frank Ntilikina (France), Jakob Poeltl (Austria), Alex Len (Ukraine), and Dragan Bender (Croatia), but all have shown flashes.
I’ve watched Doncic play multiple times over the past year, and the one thing I can tell you is that he is the opposite of weak. The kid is tough and doesn’t back down from anyone. I’ve also seen him dunk on fools:
This is still my favorite highlight package of him. You will see the good and the bad, and also some footage of him going up against Porzingis:
And, here is a great thread of him playing against the Thunder when he was just 17 years old:
As you can see, I’m a fan of his game. I also wanted to get someone else’s perspective that has played at a high level and has watched him play live. So, I caught up with my buddy Torey Thomas to ask him a few questions about Doncic. Thomas, who played at Holy Cross, has played in Europe for the past 11 years, where he has won multiple championships and an MVP.
This is what Thomas had to say about Doncic’s game and his strengths:
The word that comes to mind about Luka is versatility. His strengths are his ability to play multiple positions. He can play point, the 2, or even the 3 position because of his size. He can dribble, penetrate, finish, or dish, and if you go under on screens, he can hit the 3.
He’s a strong 19 year-old with good size, height and an uncanny ability to distribute the ball. He plays the pick-and-roll very well and reads situations perfectly.
When asked for a player comparison:
I would say a right-handed Toni Kukoc.
Straight up, is he soft?
He’s not soft in my opinion. I witnessed him play in the Euroleague final vs. Fenerbahce. He played point guard most of the game and was pressured full court and didn’t turn the ball over one time. He ended up getting the MVP and made critical plays to help Real Madrid win the title at just 19 years old. They have major veterans on their team like Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez.
How good is the league he played in? Would Real Madrid beat any college team in America?
The Euroleague is definitely the 2nd best competition in the world behind the NBA. Real Madrid would definitely beat any college team because they have the players but they also have the experience. They are very intelligent players on that team.
So, as you can see, Thomas and I are on the same wavelength in regards to Luka. Euro or not, this kid can play ball and is one of the top talents in this draft. His skill set is perfect for the modern NBA. More importantly, Doncic is the farthest thing from Darko Milicic. Doncic, unlike Milicic, has played against good competition at a very young age, which should make his transition to the NBA much more seamless. And, there is no doubt in my mind that if he played college basketball here or was not European, he would be the number one pick in this draft. I’m hoping he somehow slips to the Chicago Bulls, but that isn’t happening unless the Bulls trade up. We will find out just where goes Thursday, but one thing is for sure, I look forward to seeing him make some people eat their words for years to come.