Luka Doncic is a polarizing prospect. His production in Europe has some saying he should be the #1 pick. While others fear he’s not athletic enough to be an elite NBA player.
Luka Doncic was a prospect that I went into scouting fresh off the hype of his summer last year. I tend to be skeptical when a player is being praised by the masses so I expected to be underwhelmed by Luka. I was wrong however. While he’s not perfect, my initial thought while watching him was that he reminded me of a bigger Steph Curry. I’ve since spent a lot more time with him and have a much better idea as to what fans should expect.
Weight: 220 lbs
Luka has prototypical NBA wing measurements though I think he’ll be most successful as a primary ball handler. He’s just 19 years old but he’s already solidly built which is a large reason for his high level of success in Europe. He’s not exactly muscular but he’s not someone who you would say needs to add weight either.
Strengths – Playmaking/IQ
The biggest part of Luka’s game that is definitely going to translate is his playmaking. Again, despite his youth, he has an innate sense for where his teammates are. It’s because of this that his teams make sure to put the ball in his hands. You can compare this skill to Lonzo. He thrives in penetrate-and-kick situations, though he sometimes tries to do too much. I would expect that to improve as he matures. He can make all of the passes and sees the floor incredibly well.
One part of his game that people question is his ability to take people off the bounce. While I don’t expect him to blow by NBA defenders, I do think his handles are crafty enough to get his man off balance the way he uses it in the Euros. For comparison purposes, this is why I said he reminded me of Steph Curry. People questioned his ability to drive and finish against NBA athletes the same way, but sometimes a crafty handle is just as good as speed. Nobody wants to get crossed up so defenders will be tentative when closing out on him.
Strengths – Scoring ability
The second strength of his game is his scoring ability. While I am not convinced he’ll be as effective in the NBA at creating his own shot, I can’t deny that he has a nice stroke. Another impressive part of his game is that he doesn’t force his shot. He’s very selective about when he takes his shots no matter what the game situation is. He knows when he can get his shot off and when he can’t. When he drives, he likes to get his body into his man which is why he shoots 7 free throws per 36. This works not only for drawing fouls but also neutralizing a quicker or more athletic defender.
If he plays off the ball he’ll be a guy you won’t want to leave wide open. He shot about 60% from 2 and about 30% from 3. Most attribute his low 3-point percentage to the fact that he’s usually shooting off the bounce on step-backs and I will agree that this number is lower than it should be. On top of all of this he will also post up on a smaller guard. This will allow him to create from the post or get to the free throw line when he’s not finishing, so he’ll be effective whether or not he’s a 3 point marksmen.
Opportunities for growth
This leads straight into his opportunities for growth. If he’s going to maximize his potential he’s going to need to hit the 3 at a more dependable rate. On day one I think his offense will mostly come from spot up jumpers or drives. He may be able to shake guys to get his shot off initially but an aggressive defender will give him fits. I watched Thanasis Antetokounmpo completely take him out of the game by playing him aggressively. He does not like pressure and prefers to be the aggressor than to deal with aggression.
Secondarily, defense is going to be an issue. He is not incredibly agile and will likely not be able to guard most 1’s or 2’s. On top of this, he is prone to ball-watching and will get beat back door often unless he’s coached up in that area. He’s likely going to need to be hidden on D, which a team with 3 perimeter scorers will take advantage of.
Other parts of his game that don’t get enough love are his hustle and his rebounding. Luka is a gamer and is the type of player that will dive on the floor for loose balls. This hustle also translates into rebounding as he chases boards out of his area and gets on the defensive glass in order to start the fast break. These skills translate and are part of what keeps his floor high.
Fans of Luka will point to the fact that Rick likes to have two guys who can run the offense on the floor together. Personally, because of Luka’s defensive defficiencies, I would not want to see a Dennis-Luka back court. However, because I don’t make the decisions, if it were to happen, they would not be completely ineffective. They’d be at their best when Luka is off the ball and would need him to be more of a catch and shoot player than a guy creating off the bounce. If Harrison is at the 3, he can likely guard most two guards and allow Luka to guard the 3 to avoid having him exposed often.
Is there a bad fit?
To be his best, I would want Luka to go to a situation where he can be the primary ball-handler. Picturing he and Devin Booker together is exciting because Booker can handle some point guard duties to take pressure off of Luka, but is also going to benefit from being set up by Luka. With athletic forwards in Jackson and Chriss, that Suns team would be fun to watch. Any team with an established PG is going to either limit Luka or that PG by drafting him.