2018 Pick Number 2 – Luka Dončić
Height – 6’6”
Weight – 220 lbs
Age – 19 years, 3 months
Wingspan – N/A
Position – Shooting Guard / Small Forward
Strengths – Veteran-like Instincts, Passing, Handling, and Court Vision
Weaknesses – Agility, Mediocre One-on-One Defender
NBA comp – Manu Ginobili
Why it makes sense for the Sacramento Kings
The Kings have a very interesting team, filled with youth and some veteran leadership. When looking at the draft board, Sacramento, believe it or not, is not desperate for any position in particular, which is why the “best player available” strategy makes most sense for them.
Under contract for next season (in order of cheapest-to-largest salary) is Frank Mason III, Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, Georgios Papagiannis, Justin Jackson, Bruno Caboclo, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, De’Aaron Fox, Garrett Temple, Kosta Kouros, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Iman Shumpert, and Zach Randolph.
That is 14 players, so they obviously have some moves to make, in terms of shuffling the roster and possibly creating some more flexibility. Even with no glaring holes in the roster, another ball-handling play maker would do wonders for the team.
This is not to say that they lack potential talent on the wing, but a quarterback at small forward could do wonders for three-point threats like Hield and Bogdanovic. The rotation at power forward and center is quite set for next season with Randolph, Cauley-Stein, and Labissiere.
Last year in the EuroLeague, Liga ACB, Dončić played 61 games and averaged 25 minutes per contest. In that time, he shot at a 45.7% clip, which is one hundredth lower than his career average. He didn’t light it up from three, nor has he throughout his EuroLeague career, sitting at 33.3% from behind the arc over four seasons (174 games).
In 2017-18, Dončić saw an increase in minutes, as well as an increase in points per game, averaging 14.5 per. He also tallied 4.6 assists per game to go along with 5.2 rebounds. The numbers do not shoot off the charts (no pun intended), but the fact that he did all of this at 18-19 years old is what makes his accomplishments so impressive.
What we should expect for Dončić in the NBA, if he ever comes over (not as funny for someone who does not play in Philadelphia), is a low volume of sexy box score stats to start, but he will have the chance to see an increase in reps as his rookie season progresses.
If the Kings see him as a small forward, his role could increase sooner rather than later, depending on the progression of Justin Jackson and the role of Iman Shumpert, who just opted into his final year at $11,011,234.
This is one of he biggest questions in the draft: what will Dončić be on the defensive end? Will he be a matador like Marco Belinelli? The biggest knock on him (as stated in the weaknesses section) is his lateral movement, which is a vital skill on the defensive end. We just don’t know yet how good he will be at staying in front of penetrating ball handlers.
Due to his superior offensive instincts, if Luka can just get by on defense, it is a win for the Kings. The interior defense of Labissiere and Cauley-Stein could make up for some of the perimeter weaknesses for Sac Town, but that also leads to the potential of foul trouble.
Also, Dončić needs to develop a knock-down three-point jumper. If he can increase his EuroLeague percentage from 33.3% to, let’s say, 37.5% in the NBA, that would be extremely ideal. Though he does not have the speed to blow by the opposition, he does have a sneaky first step, which would go very well with a hesitation pull-up. He is a work in progress and definitely not the most NBA-ready dude in the draft, but he has crazy upside.
Luka Dončić is going to be one of the most interesting players to watch in the 2018-19 NBA season, if he doesn’t spend more time in the EuroLeague. As much of a buzzkill as it’d be, playing one more season in Europe probably wouldn’t be so bad for the Kings, but remember that there is no incentive for them to tank, being that they do not own their 2019 first-round pick, currently belonging to the Boston Celtics (via the Markelle Fultz trade).
Note: although Dončić is listed as a shooting guard or a small forward, there are varying reports on his height. Some say he is 6’6″ and others have him listed as 6’8″. If he is in fact 6’8″ (keep in mind, he is still a kid and may not be done growing), he could play some small-ball four. Just imagine how fun a lineup of Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic, Dončić, and Cauley-Stein would be.