It’s not easy to write something new about Luka Doncic, who has been heavily scouted and discussed over the last four years, leaving almost no margin to add something original to the topic.
Since growing up two inches after his last appearance in a youth international competition (2015 Adidas Next Generation Tournament) the Slovenian phenom has developed in a unique player, able to dominate competitions like Euroleague and Eurobasket before even being eligible for the 2018 NBA
Draft, where he’ll be among the first picks.
Position talks about Doncic are difficult, as his game doesn’t strictly stick in one of the traditional ones; but if it’s true that in basketball “you are who you can guard” then it’s easier to project him as an NBA wing, where he’ll be less exposed to the strong first step of smaller guards and will have to guard less ball screens, which he struggles to fight to go over.
His physical profile is almost unique in Europe, as it’s not easy to find a 6’8 player with his natural ability to handle the ball and play off the dribble. Not the most explosive player around, Doncic is still extremely fluid and an overall good athlete for European basketball, and does a great job in changing speed in his game.
What really separates Doncic from every other player his age though is the impressive maturity he displays and has always displayed during the course of his career, something highlighted well by Mike Schmitz of ESPN in his column about the Slovenian player (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20668236/there-never-nba-draft-prospect-slovenia-luka-doncic
). Sometimes his shot selection can become a little shaky, but in general Doncic’s decision making is not the one you would expect from an 18-year old player.
His offensive game relies heavily on the time he spends handling the ball on the P&R: with his current 1.032 points per possessions, he’s one of the most efficient scorers among P&R ball-handlers in the whole Synergy Sports Tech database. He does a great job in keeping his dribble alive and changing speed after the screen when he attacks: sometimes he has the tendency to settle too much into just using the ball screen to get a mismatch against the big man, and overall at times would be expectable from him to be more aggressive and attack all the way to the rim; but with his strong body, ball-handling and ability to change pace off the dribble he’s a tough matchup for defending wings and he does a great job in drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line.
His passing skills also separate him from most players his age and his size: he can always see the full court, can easily pass off the dribble with both hands and shows quick decisions making with the ball in his hands, easily making touch passes and being able to constantly hit the weak side coming off the P&R.
As his game translates to the NBA, will be interesting to follow the development and adjustment of his post up efficiency as well, something which is not much explored right now in his playing time with Real Madrid: his ability to find favourable mismatches on offense, halfcourt vision and passing skills should pair well with the wider spacing he’ll usually find in the American league.
As Doncic will be evaluated in the NBA Draft process, it’ll be interesting to see how much individual and group workouts will impact his stocks, also considering that there aren’t other valuable options at the top picks in his positio. Overall, after having evaluated him in Europe, is plain how there hasn’t been a player like him in long time in this side of the Atlantic.