Predicting how good an NBA draft class will be is a sloppy exercise, but as far as anyone can tell, the top of the 2018 NBA draft appears to be loaded. Incoming college freshmen Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr., Mohamed Bamba, and DeAndre Ayton are all considered to have star potential, yet the leading candidate to be taken first overall might not even be playing in college this season. That’d be Luka Dončić, a lithe 18-year-old Slovenian who’s already been playing for Real Madrid for three seasons.
While his 2018 draft cohort was preparing to play against ACC and Pac-12 teams, Dončić was playing in Eurobasket against top-level competition. Dončić partnered up with Goran Dragic and led Slovenia to their first-ever Eurobasket title this summer, averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game in the process. A knock on top-level European prospects is that they’re harder to grade than their American counterparts since they aren’t tested by the best available competition. That’s laughably untrue in Dončić’s case, since he’s beaten the best national teams in Europe and has starred for one of the best club teams on the continent as a teen. What’s more titillating is that his style of play would probably flourish even more in the comparatively wide-open NBA.
Dončić is 6-foot-8 and he’s played all over the perimeter. As his Eurobasket stats might start to indicate, dude can pass, rebound, and spread the floor. As the numerous highlight reels that populate YouTube do indicate, he’s liquid on the perimeter with a knack for seeing passing angles before they develop. This reel starts with his buddies hoisting their teenage God-king like some sort of idol, and shows all the skills that make Dončić worth tanking for:
If you want the passes, but not the regrettable coke music, enjoy this long highlight reel:
Anyway, Real Madrid started up their Liga ACB season recently, and Dončić is off to a hot start, leading an undefeated Madrid team alongside Anthony Randolph (yes, that Anthony Randolph). His 16-point, 10-assist night against Valencia showcased his shooting range and the variety of passes he can make. Watch how comfortable he is in the pick-and-roll, hitting cutters and shooters that slide over to the corner.
Give it a year, and he’ll bring these passes stateside.