- Slovenian point-forward Luka Doncic has been sliding down draft boards before the NBA Draft, mainly over fears of his athleticism and potential.
- There’s a belief that teams may be making a mistake, as Doncic’s resume is stronger than any collegiate player and his production backs up his play.
- One draft expert believes Doncic’s athleticism will improve when he works in an NBA strength and conditioning system.
Luka Doncic was the presumed No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft for months, perhaps even years, but with the draft just two days away, things appear to be changing.
The 19-year-old Slovenian point forward is not like most draft prospects. He’s a 6-foot-8 point guard with incredible vision and IQ, average athleticism, and one of the biggest resumes of any international player.
Doncic has won EuroLeague MVP with Real Madrid, EuroLeague Final Four MVP, and on Monday, he won a championship with Real Madrid. This season, Doncic averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per-36 minutes, a sign of his all-around productivity on the court.
But in recent weeks, Doncic has been sliding down draft boards for reasons that remain hazy. At one point Doncic was considered the No. 1 pick. Then it became a toss-up between him and Arizona center Deandre Ayton, who is now considered the No. 1 pick. Recently, Doncic has gone as low fourth.
ESPN’s NBA Draft expert Jonathan Givony discussed Doncic on “The Lowe Post” podcast with Zach Lowe on Monday, explaining that Doncic could go fourth in the draft, but some teams rank him even lower.
“The good teams love him, the bad teams hate him,” Givony said. “A lot of teams tell me, we have him sixth, seventh, eighth on our boards.”
Givony suggested that there may be a “backlash” to Doncic among the top teams in the league because of the hype that followed Doncic for years.
There are concerns about Doncic’s athleticism – he’s neither explosive nor particularly quick with his first step, two must-haves for ball-handlers in the NBA. There appears to be some uncertainty over what position he would play in the NBA.
There are reasons to believe that teams could be making a mistake by overlooking Doncic. First, he was perhaps the most dominant player in the second-best basketball league in the world. He played well in Slovenia’s title run in the EuroBasket tournament last summer, earning praise from current NBA stars like Kristaps Porzingis.
“I don’t know any other European kid that plays at such a high level,” Porzingis told ESPN, adding that he was never so consistent at Doncic’s age.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton’s projections – which include stat projections at the next level, age, and ranking – found that Doncic ranked as the best NBA prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012.
Givony argued that Doncic, who turned 19 in February, has room to improve athletically, too.
“Once you get him in an NBA strength and conditioning program – he’s got some baby fat to shed,” Givony said. “I think he can get a lot more athletic, actually.” Givony said Doncic blossomed overseas so early that some people wonder if he’s already a “finished product.”
The draft still seems up in the air to most. Ayton is expected to go first to the Phoenix Suns. The Sacramento Kings are said to like Duke big man Marvin Bagley III or Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., but some have wondered if they’re putting up a smokescreen in their lack of interest in Doncic. The Atlanta Hawks, at three, are reportedly split on Doncic, meaning he could fall to the Memphis Grizzlies at four. Givony said there’s potential he could fall to five to the Dallas Mavericks, where it would be hard for them to pass on him.
Givony argued that he thinks in several months time, we’ll wonder how the teams at the very top of the draft passed on Doncic.