2018 Potential NBA Draft Bust: Luka Doncic

Synopsis: As an international prodigy, Luka Doncic signed his first professional contract at the age of 13. Doncic won numerous “Rising Star” and “Best Young Star” awards before getting recognized as the best player outside of the United States by winning the 2018 Euroleague MVP and leading his team to the 2018 Euroleague title. With these credentials, Doncic became the most anticipated international player to come to the NBA since 2003 #2 overall pick Darko Milicic. Whereas Milicic became a bust, Doncic will avoid the same fate. As the most proven player in the 2018 NBA Draft, I give him the lowest probably of becoming a bust relative to the top 10 overall picks.


As part of my 2018 mock draft, I offered the following prediction for Atlanta’s 3rd overall pick.

The Hawks have been hinting that they “really like” Luka Doncic. Is it possible that they made the statement specifically to entice the Mavericks to trade up to the 3rd spot? Sure. Are the Mavs likely to bite? I’m guessing not, so I predict the Hawks take Jaren Jackson instead.

Based on my commentary, I was half-right. Apparently, the Mavs took the Hawks’ statements seriously and traded up to take the international prodigy. As shown by the following table, Doncic put up numbers in the Euroleague last year that compare favorably to the career NBA stats put up by fellow European Toni Kukoc. 

Player Stats  PPG   RPG   APG   BPG   SPG  Excess Value
Luka Doncic Euroleague (2017-18) 14.5 5.2 4.6 0.4 1.1  
Toni Kukoc NBA Career 11.6 4.2 3.7 0.3 1.0 1.0x

Note: “Excess Value” indicates how much more productive the comparable player was relative to production from an average draft pick. In this case, Toni Kukoc was equally productive (i.e. 1.0x) as the average #3 overall pick. 

While I don’t predict that Doncic will match Kukoc’s three NBA titles, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that he’ll easily surpass Kukoc’s individual accomplishments. Before making that bet, I acknowledge that HOF coach Phil Jackson felt more comfortable with Toni Kukoc instead of Scottie Pippen for a last second shot in the playoffs. Of course, MJ was in exile at the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Doncic finishes his career as the 2nd best international player ever (behind new teammate Dirk Nowitzki) and draws comparisons to Hall of Famer Jason Kidd.

Given the ages and potential of Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavericks certainly can regain contender status in the near future. Still, they’ll have to wait a few years until there’s a changing of the guards for them to be able to even get to the Finals, much less win a title. Fortunately, he’ll only need one title (like Nowitzki) to become a legend in Big D.

Whereas Jay Bilas and Chauncey Billups offer their thoughts about college players, ESPN goes to Mike Schmitz when international players get drafted.

  • Should have been #1 overall pick.
  • Perfect for modern game given that his game pops in transition.
  • Not the same caliber athlete as Ben Simmons, but provides the same excitement as the 2017 #1 overall pick.
  • Tactician in pick & roll with creative deliveries.
  • Able to create space.
  • Best passer in the draft and a fearless shot-maker.  

At this point, I need to remark that my son agrees with ESPN’s international draft analyst and believed Doncic should / would go #1 overall in his 2018 Mock NBA Draft. I didn’t share their beliefs because Luka Doncic doesn’t have the same upside as #1 pick Deandre Ayton or #2 pick Marvin Bagley. However, he’s the most proven player taken in the 2018 NBA Draft. As such, I view his chances of being a bust at a draft-low 5%. I put his chances of being a Top 10 Bust at below 1%, so the pick (including the trade of Dallas’ 2019 first round pick) should not be questioned. Overall, I predict he will be regarded as the best value of all top 10 picks taken in the 2018 draft. In retrospect, perhaps I should have agreed with my son.


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