Luka Doncic has long been one of the top prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. The Slovenian wunderkind is a polarizing player, as international prospects often are. Many question his competition and athleticism. Others offer that he plays in the best non-NBA league in the world and has virtually dominated his competition.
The facts are this: Luka Doncic guided his professional team to a Euroleague title while he won Euroleague MVP. He went up against grown men, many of whom former NBA players, and dominated.
That has to mean something.
Luka Doncic’s standout skill is his playmaking ability. His passing aptitude is extremely rare for his age and all signs show that he will only get better. Doncic has a unique ability to use his body and eyes to fool the defense while whipping a speedy pass right on by them. With no look passes, body seal-offs, and ball fakes; his arsenal is stunningly mature. The body control while dribbling and attacking that he displays is another very mature aspect of his game. Often time we see elite prospects lack that nuance required to maintain composure in high-speed moments, however, Doncic has nailed this skill.
Not only can Doncic make plays for his teammates, but he regularly makes plays for himself. Often times, he’ll even make something out of nothing. He uses his body in a way similar to James Harden to create separation from defenders when attacking the rim. Doncic’s wide frame allows him to remain strong through contact and his body control gives way to cool finishes despite such contact. The Slovenian has shown a truly remarkable amount of pro-level moves in his overall offensive initiator role at such a young age.
Doncic is far from just a prolific passer with high-level moves. He can lineup at three positions on offense, using is elite basketball intelligence to adapt and contribute from multiple spots on the floor.
As a primary initiator, or lead guard, Doncic is naturally going to flourish. His playmaking abilities will shine through and make the entire team better. He knows how to run the modern pro-style offenses that are gaining mainstream popularity and will be a seamless adaptor to the NBA. He can also line up as a secondary ball-handler, also referred to as an off-guard. Playing as the second guard allows him to focus his efforts on self-creation as well as scoring. In this position, he can also assume a playmaking load in which he performs best in. At 6-foot-8, he is a tough task for any guard.
The primary weakness for Doncic is his lack of elite athleticism. He looks heavy-footed at times, resulting in a struggle to create separation out on the perimeter. This lack of athleticism will hurt in an NBA that is growing increasingly towards dominant athletes. For example; while Doncic can play point guard, he cannot guard point guards as he is not quick enough. While this is not quite a gamechanger, it is something that will have to be factored when deciding lineup dynamics.
Doncic’s sup-optimal athleticism on the wing ties into his upside. Known as a safe and reliable pick, it is rare that you hear about “upside” with Doncic as you do with other top prospects. Without the ability to physically outmatch many of your opponents in one way or another, it is unsure how much better he can get due to the high skill level he already possesses. As great as his playmaking, craftiness, and all-around scoring abilities are, he could have them at another level if he were an elite athlete.
Being an average athlete brings questions on multiple fronts. Doncic is a very safe bet to become an extremely impactful player and leader of a very good team. He may never reach full-on superstar status, but that shouldn’t take away from the polished and elite skill-set he possesses at 19 years old.
Oversized Goran Dragic
Luka Doncic is a very hard player to come up with a comparison for. His all-around game is extremely unique and even more rare for a player his age. I say he is similar to Goran Dragic because they both exude terrific playmaking abilities while being able to score at a high level despite a lack of elite athleticism.
Doncic is much better and more complete than Dragic was at this stage, but the play styles and strengths are similar. Doncic is of course much bigger giving him an even larger advantage in the comparison. His size gives him a dimension of versatility that Dragic does not possess.
Not only is Doncic much bigger than Dragic, but he also projects to be much better. Partially due to his size, however, he is extremely polished and can essentially do it all.