Next year’s NBA Draft already has front office executives around the league drooling in anticipation of some fantastic prospects.

An already excellent group of college freshmen, including Michael Porter Jr., Deandre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba, was supplemented with Marvin Bagley after he successfully graduated high school early and classified into this year’s class.

NBA fans will be eager to tune into college basketball this year in hopes of getting a glimpse of the next generation of potential professional stars. However, spectators looking at prospects would do well not to solely focus on the NCAA; after all, the best player in the 2018 draft might just be perfecting his trade in Europe.

Luka Dončić, an 18-year-old basketball star, has already established himself as a regular starter for Real Madrid, a top team in the Spanish Liga Endesa, and helped lead his native Slovenia to the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket title. Dončić, despite his tender age, was a key contributor for the Slovenian team, averaging over 14 points, eight rebounds and nearly four assists per game. Dončić’s high level of play has caught the attention of both current NBA players and front office executives.

So, besides his youth, what is it that makes Dončić so special? The Slovenian shows a preternatural basketball IQ and feel for the game, intangible qualities that so many young players lack in today’s game. Despite standing at 6 feet 7, Dončić is a smooth ball handler and projects to play as a guard in the NBA. He boasts a reliable outside shot, having hit on 43 percent of his three-point attempts in his debut season for Real Madrid.

That combination of deadly perimeter shooting and ball handling, along with his instinctive ability to find open teammates with accurate passes, makes Dončić a tough defensive assignment for any player. As the primary ball handler in the pick-and-roll set, the Slovenian can pull up from long range, forcing his defender to press up close. That makes it easier for Dončić to blow by a defender, using a combination of speed, length and ball control. And if the defense is so concerned with Dončić that it sends an extra defender, he has the court vision to find open teammates for easy shots. Such a well-rounded skill set is rare and could make Dončić virtually impossible to guard.

However, while Dončić certainly has NBA scouts excited about his potential, he is not a perfect player. Many of his athletic advantages come from his size and length compared to other guards, but he is not particularly quick in his movements or explosive with his leaping ability. With the most athletic defenders in the world awaiting him in the NBA, some have voiced concerns over whether Dončić will be able to create separation as an offensive player.

This lack of athleticism also hurts Dončić on the defensive end of the floor. While it is typical for young players to struggle to adjust to the pace and schemes of the professional game, Dončić’s defensive ceiling may be low because of his relative lack of agility. In a league with premier scoring guards such as Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and so many others, this is a major concern for whichever team might draft him.

Still, the Slovenian is setting off alarm bells across NBA front offices. His ability to establish himself as a key player for Real Madrid in Spain and the Slovenian national team at such a young age is evidence of his extraordinary talent. Taken in combination with his diverse offensive skill set, which fits perfectly in the modern NBA, Dončić could well be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. Whichever team ends up selecting him will be getting a coveted prospect and one of the most intriguing players to enter the NBA in a long time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *