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NBA Draft 2018 Player Profile: Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic, Slovenia
International prospects have long been present in the NBA Draft, with a number of future and current Hall-of-Famers coming from overseas. Taking the international route will become even more popular with the recent successes of guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokoumpo. The newest sensation from across the pond has people completely split on his future. Coming from tiny Slovenia, wing Luka Doncic has gotten hype that calls him a "generational talent" and the "future" for the sport. There is also a wide contingent that thinks he is vastly overrated, and might not even come to the NBA. What makes Doncic so controversial, and where should he really end up going in the Draft, now just a few weeks away?

Quick Facts
Luka Doncic
From: Ljublana, Slovenia
Height: 6'8"
Position: PG/SG
Age: 19
Team: Real Madrid

Despite being just 19 years old, Doncic is already one of the more accomplished basketball players in the international community. He helped lead Slovenia to a Eurobasket title, was the youngest MVP in EuroLeague in its long history and played an instrumental role in Real Madrid's 10th EuroLeague title. There is something to be said about Doncic's maturity and overall love for the big game; his confidence is so central to what he can do on the basketball court. He plays with a certain swagger and killer instinct that is tough to find, and something great players have. On the offensive end, the 6'8" guard has a smooth, versatile game. With that size, he can get to the rim, particularly off pick-and-rolls, which he runs like a ten-year NBA veteran already. He isn't a great shooter just yet, but all the tools are there. He has a quick, well-built jumper and his length allows him to extend over smaller defenders. The 19-year-old also brings incredible court vision and a playmaking instinct to the table. It is important to understand this is not a guy who is going to come out every night and drop 40 points: he will score, but just as importantly, he will make his teammates better. He is superb at fitting passes into tight windows and seeing things open up before they even happen. Both teams at the top of this Draft, Phoenix and Sacramento, would love to run the floor more effectively and adding a guy that can be deadly in transition like Doncic would work wonders. On the defensive side, he can guard multiple positions and rebound the ball. He moves very well for his size and has a great understanding of important defensive concepts. He doesn't take plays off like some in the NBA do on defense; this is a guy that is going to come out and compete for all 48 minutes. Overall, Doncic plays with a maturity well beyond his years and is a proven winner. For teams like Phoenix, Sacramento and even Atlanta, that is going to be important. All are already young and stocked to the brim with young, unproven talent. Adding a leader in the locker room like Doncic would have a profound impact from the get-go.

As I previously eluded to, Doncic is not yet a lights-out shooter. He shoots really well off the pick-and-roll, 45 percent off P&R plays this past season for Real Madrid. However, he is not yet a true shot creator, but having his ball handling abilities and feel for the game should allow him to develop into one. Another improvement you would like to see is at the free throw line. Doncic did shoot a healthy 80 percent from the stripe this past year for Liga ACB and EuroLeague competition but if he could get even better, he could be truly lethal. With his size and ability to attack, this is the type of guy that could make a living at the free throw line in the NBA (see: James Harden). And then, there is the big question of transitioning from Europe to the NBA. The EuroLeague is a strong league and there is some real talent over there, but the NBA is still bigger, stronger and faster. Will it be too overwhelming for Doncic to transition to a whole different type of basketball, while being considered the face of a franchise? Perhaps, but this is Doncic, who has been playing against major European competition since he was 16, and seems to have an ideal mind to succeed at this level.

My Take
Its going to be really tough for Doncic, because some of the hype about him is just too over the top. This guy is not going to be a European LeBron James, but what he can be is a strong, confident leader that can help any team in so many different parts of the game. I still think Deandre Ayton's ceiling may be slightly higher at this point, but I have no problems saying he could certainly be an All-Star, and a key piece on a winning team. Now, a superstar, Hall-of-Fame lock? That seems awfully hyperbolic for a guy who is only 19 and will need time to further develop. Doncic is rated as the No. 2 prospect for this Draft on my big board, set to be released in late June.

Where He'll Go
While Phoenix did just hire Igor Kokoskov as their head coach, who coached Doncic on the Slovenian National Team, I feel like they still stick with Ayton, at least at this point in the Draft process. If that is the case, I'd be floored if Sacramento didn't draft him. GM Vlade Divac was a former international prospect himself, and Doncic would really help the young talent there come together.

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