Why Kings fans should want Luka Doncic
The Kings have been in search of a franchise cornerstone ever since DeMarcus Cousins was shipped to New Orleans. With their recent lottery luck — moving up to No. 2 in the 2018 NBA Draft — they will finally have the chance to add one.
There are plenty of young, talented pieces on the Kings’ roster. Both Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox should be above-average players long term, meaning they will have a chance to be border-line All-Star level players if they put the work in and be more consistent on a nightly basis. Buddy Hield’s shooting is a valuable weapon on the perimeter. Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein are wild cards but to some degree, still solid pieces.
None of them are players you can build a team around, though. Sacramento has stressed adding high-character players and building a strong culture in lieu of the Cousins trade, all while viewing things through a long lens. After the botched George Hill contract, it should be safe to assume that Sacramento will avoid overpaying veterans for short-term gains.
That means they’ll be able to focus their efforts toward constructing a roster around the No. 2 pick. In an ideal world, Luka Doncic will be that pick.
If Doncic falls past the Suns at No. 1, he would be the clear-cut best prospect left on the board. Most draftniks, myself included, have him as the best prospect, period.
As is the case every year, there is concern that comes with drafting a European prospect high in the draft. People who don’t watch him every day are worried that he’s raw, non-athletic or unprepared for the NBA level. That simply isn’t the case with Doncic.
At 19 years old, Doncic is arguably the best player in the second-best basketball league in the world. He’s competing against fully-grown adults and thriving, displaying the kind of basketball I.Q. that should aid his transition to the next level.
Per 36 minutes, Doncic is averaging 21 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists with Real Madrid. He’s already an elite playmaker at 6-foot-9, bending defenses to their breaking point with well-timed passes and excellent feel in the pick-and-roll.
Doncic is far more than a fancy passer, though. He’s also a talented scorer, blending crafty handles and soft touch at all three levels.
By changing speeds and compiling vicious dribble combinations, Doncic is able to generate space and knock down shots with ease. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor compared him to James Harden when analyzing his ability to create shots off the dribble — high praise that illustrates just how effective Doncic’s craft can be.
On top of that, Doncic is an excellent slasher who defenses struggle to contain. He won’t beat you with his explosiveness, but is able to finish through contact and get to the free throw line at a high clip. He also has a nice arsenal of floaters and touch shots that he can use when finishing around length.
Perhaps the biggest concern with Doncic, at least with regards to scoring, is how consistently he’ll be able to get to the rim. Without elite athleticism, some longer, more athletic defenders might be able to keep him out of the lane. Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanović are not known to be amazing athletes, but their elite basketball I.Q. and strength has allowed them to make a huge impact for their teams by scoring and facilitating against the “supreme athletes” the NBA has to offer. And without question, Doncic has shown to be a better athlete than both of these players and will only get stronger with age.
Nonetheless, Doncic’s skillful scoring and unreal passing skills should make him the most productive draftee from day one. His instincts are comparable to some of the best veterans in the league. If fans want a sure thing, they should be clamoring for Doncic — not trying to talk themselves into Ayton, who still needs work defensively.
As for Doncic’s defense, he won’t be elite. But watching Bogdanovic hold his own on defense this season for Sacramento, should give Kings fans hope that Doncic could become a solid team defender with more experience under his belt.
His strong frame should allow him to spend time on three or four different positions. He’s also averaging over a steal per game, working his way into passing lanes and kick-starting Madrid’s transition offense.
Doncic has a combination of skill and intelligence that is virtually unparalleled at his age. Many predicted Markelle Fultz to be the best guard prospect since Kyrie Irving a year ago. Doncic takes it a step further, potentially giving the Kings a transcendent talent to build around in the coming years.
Nobody has a good feel for where the Suns are leaning with the No. 1 pick, but Kings fans — and the front office — should have one ideal outcome in mind: Luka Doncic.