Name: Luka Doncic (Dončić)
Date of birth: February 28, 1999
Weight: 228 lbs
Team: Real Madrid
+ Pick and roll
+ Pushing the ball
– Shot selection/consistency
– 1-on-1 defense vs. fast guards
Luka Doncic very recently showed again that he will not only be the most promising European prospect for next year’s NBA draft but that he will also be one of the best talents of his entire class by winning the EuroBasket 2017 championship and also playing an excellent tournament on a personal level. Doncic, 18, got injured in the finals and therefore missed most of the preparation for the season with Real Madrid because of EuroBasket. Nevertheless, he showed no signs of slowing down at the start of the season.
Tools & Athleticism
At a height of 6’8“ and weighing 228 lbs, Doncic belongs to a special breed of playmakers. His physical attributes would traditionally be best suited for playing at the wing, but the Slovenia native has now proven that he can be a team’s primary ballhandler. For his age, Dončić’s body already seems very mature and muscular which will definitely be an advantage for him at the NBA level.
However, his athleticism currently is not at the level we are used to seeing from playmakers in the NBA. While he may be able to get to the rim explosively on a fast break and finish in spectacular fashion, this cannot necessarily be expected of him on half-court offense. Doncic frequently runs into trouble when driving to the rim because of his lack of athleticism and is therefore not able to get good looks at shots. This also has an effect on his takeoff power which will make it hard for him to beat solid perimeter NBA defenders with his first step.
The above-mentioned physical attributes give us a clear picture of Doncic’s offensive abilities. Due to his lack of speed and explosiveness that we are accustomed to from NBA ballhandlers, Doncic only rarely attempts to drive directly to the basket. The following video shows how he even struggles to get an advantage when driving towards the rim against mismatches.
In the game against Baskonia, these deficits became particularly evident when facing off against former NBA player Jordan McRae. McRae is also relatively tall for a ballhandler while still being quite fast and athletic. The following video clearly shows that Doncic had huge problems with this matchup and hardly got off any good shots.
— Chris Schmidt (@ChrisSchmidt27) November 15, 2017
However, the Slovenia native is aware of these limitations and tries to adjust his offense correspondingly. For this reason, Doncic’s step-back three has developed into one of his most important weapons since this allows him to keep his opponents at bay in a different manner while still creating mostly open shots for himself.
Even though this sometimes results in difficult shots, Doncic has been shooting a solid 36.8 percent from three-point-range. His shot selection shows that Doncic tries to score from the outside quite a lot. According to overbasket.com, nearly half of his shots have come from beyond the arc in his first weeks in the Euroleague. With this backdrop, the jump to the world’s best basketball league may be interesting for Doncic since he will have to show whether he is able to create shots with his versatility or whether his half-court offense may be too predictable for good NBA defenses.
Despite these difficulties, Doncic already is making a lasting impression with his transition offense. He is not afraid of finishing himself in the fast break thanks to his physique and skills on the ball. When there is little opposition, he is also able to finish in spectacular fashion despite his rather average athleticism. To round this off, he has a good feel for passing in fast-break situations and regularly assists his teammates for easy twos or threes.
Passing is Doncic’s greatest asset. In the Euroleague, the 18-year-old regularly proves that he has great vision and is also able to make more challenging passes. And his full-court pass accuracy is especially impressive.
Doncic also is able to find ways to pass the ball weakside and assist open shooters from within the pick and roll. His opponents’ defenses often try to hedge the pick and roll against him to shut down his three-point shot. However, Doncic always finds solutions to get out of this and create shots for his teammates.
The greatest room for improvement for Doncic is his defense. He is already a skilled team defender who does not stand out on team defense because of bad mistakes like watching the ball. Instead, he is much more likely to have his hands in the mix and is very good and anticipating passes. In addition, Doncic is also able to defend taller and bigger players when needed without any issues thanks to his solid physique.
In contrast, his problems are exacerbated when it comes to one-on-one defense. In situations when Doncic has to defend against guards on the perimeter in particular, they can use their speed and blow by him. It therefore makes a lot of sense that Doncic often is on the floor at the same time with multiple guards to avoid these kinds of matchups.
It is quite difficult to find a suitable player to compare with Luka Doncic since his physical assets are unheard of so far for a European rookie. Just based on his game and preferences on the court, the best and at the same time worst NBA comparison would be LeBron James.
This is not about predicting a similar career to James but more about the fact that their playing style is the most similar. They are are both good at creating space for themselves and others, are good at rebounding, and have a great understanding and a very good awareness of the game.
The biggest difference is that James has always been an uber-athlete and has finished much more and better directly at the rim while his three-point-shot was still very shaky at the start of his career. In contrast, Doncic does not have this athleticism when driving to the basket and therefore prefers jump-shots.
December 8, 2017 @ Olympiacos Piraeus
When Madrid and Piraeus met in early December, Olympiacos had the best defense in Europe with a defensive rating of 89.1. Luka Doncic still managed to put up 33 points (four 3’s), six rebounds and four assists. In our video-breakdown, we analyzed how Doncic did that and whether he was able to hide his weaknesses.
January 12, 2018 @ Khimki Moscow top-rated defender Charles Jenkins
February 9, 2018 vs. Olympiacos Piraeus good defense and good size under the basket
EuroBasket 2017: 14.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.3 TOPG in 29:06 minutes
Euroleague 2016/17: 7.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.86 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 1.8 TOPG in 19:53 minutes