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Luka Doncic is the best player in the 2018 NBA Draft

Luka Doncic is not going to be the first pick in the 2018 NBA draft. At this point, it is nearly certain that DeAndre Ayton will be the first player selected in Thursday’s NBA draft. The Phoenix Suns may have their man in Ayton but Doncic is the best player in this year’s draft.

Accomplishments

Luka Doncic is up there with LeBron James as the most accomplished 19-year old basketball players of all-time. Doncic was the Euroleague MVP, led his team to the Euroleague final, and led Slovenia to the EuroBasket title. The NBA is the logical next step after a remarkably successful international and European career in the second-best basketball league in the world.

Despite being six-foot-eight, Doncic was the point guard for the Real Madrid team he led to a title. While leading the team, he displayed remarkable poise and polish as a lead ball-handler who involved his teammates while also hitting some remarkable game-winners on their way to the title.

On the Slovenian national team, Doncic was part of the all-tournament team and played a less ball-dominant role with Goran Dragic functioning as the point guard. As evidenced by his selection on the all-tournament team, that change did nothing to blunt his effectiveness and he dominated before leaving in the third quarter of the final game.

Versatility

Versatility is the name of the game in today’s NBA. Anyone who watched the NBA’s version of the final four saw the Celtics, Cavaliers, Rockets, and Warriors regularly cycling through small-ball lineups. However, unlike Don Nelson’s Warrior teams, Doug Moe’s run-and-gun outfits, and other previous iterations of small-ball, these teams largely stand out due to their defense. The Cavaliers are an exception to that rule but the other three specialize in their ability to play small to get an offensive advantage without getting punished defensively.

Doncic figures nicely into that versatile type of player. While he is not a lockdown defender, he possesses a wide range of skills and can do anything needed on a basketball court. He has split time across multiple positions and has the size and quickness to do the same at the NBA level.

Do not let lackluster shooting statistics be deceptive when reviewing Doncic’s profile. He has a clean and repeatable stroke that should translate into his evolution into an excellent shooter down the road. Those numbers also sink down due to the number of shots he takes off the dribble. His free-throw percentage is a better predictor of his shooting prowess. He converts those attempts at nearly 80 percent, which helps project him out as a high-level shooter at the next level.

Getting back to those off-the-dribble threes that sink his percentage from beyond the arc gives a window into his ball-handling ability. Doncic can run pick and roll like an NBA point guard and has a bag of tricks to help get by his defenders. He is one of the better ball-handlers and point guards in the draft in terms of polish and is the best passer in the draft. It can be instructive to imagine a draft prospect as they would play at the highest level. Doncic would have seamlessly fit on any of the rosters in the NBA finals or conference finals.

Mentality

Mentality can be hard to assess without interviewing a prospect but Doncic is a coach’s son who is a fiery competitor and has shown a desire to get better. His passion is on display every time he takes the court and the work he has done on his game is evident in how well he sees and understands the game. He can see the floor like a veteran NBA player and has worked to fix his flaws. Talent is only half the battle when projecting players so having a smart, dedicated, and coachable player like Doncic goes a long way in determining a player and team’s success.

Concerns

Like any prospect, Doncic is not perfect and the concerns start with his athleticism. Doncic is large, quick, and strong but is not a player who wows a view with his athleticism or jumps out the gym. Lateral quickness is one of the biggest predictors in terms of defensive acumen at the NBA level and Doncic is not an elite fast-twitch athlete. That has led to concerns over what positions he can defend. He will have trouble staying in front of guards and athletic small forwards so he may end up defending power forwards much the way Ben Simmons does. He will need to get stronger to defend those players as he will be at a size disadvantage. Whatever team chooses Doncic will need to construct a defense that helps hide his weaknesses.

Bottom Line

Doncic’s value centers on his ability to fit into different systems and play a modern style of basketball. Slow NBA big men who cannot move their feet are getting dribbled out of the league by quicker players that abuse them on switches. The new NBA is about teams who have wings that can shift up and down positions while offering a diverse offensive skillset. No player in this draft better exemplifies those characteristics than Doncic before examining his pedigree. The other top prospects in this draft are big men (Jaren Jackson, DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley), injury risks (Michael Porter), undersized guards (Trae Young). Beating any of the top NBA teams will require a team that can play various styles and beat teams like the Warriors at their own game. If the goal is an NBA title, then the choice is Doncic.

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  1. Pingback: Top Five Sleepers in the 2018 NBA Draft • Double G Sports

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