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An In-Depth Look At Elite NBA Draft Prospect Luka Doncic

Dakota Schmidt takes an extended look at NBA Draft prospect Luka Doncic’s work on both ends of the court.

Basketball: Luka Doncic Sipa USA-USA TODAY NETWORK

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece breaking down Luka Doncic’s impressive track record. That article highlighted his process of becoming the top scorer on a Real Madrid squad that’s currently in the EuroLeague Final Four. Prior to this, he served as a lead contributor for the Slovenian National Team that won the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket.

Now it’s time to examine how he goes about producing on the court with such a high level of success. In what ways has he been able to shine as one of the best offensive weapons in the Euroleague? What is he like on the defensive end? In what areas will he need to improve upon before making the leap to the NBA? Let’s find out.

Doncic is currently averaging a team-high 24.8 points on 46% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 16.3 field goal attempts per 40 in Euroleague play. He stands tall as the 4th best scorer in the Euroleague, as his per 40 average only trails Alexey Shved, Nemanja Nedovic and Nando De Colo

Most of Doncic’s offensive production stems from his work from beyond the arc. His 8.2 perimeter attempts per 40 minutes represent nearly 50% of his total offensive output. At first glance, his work as a perimeter shooter might appear underwhelming because he’s shooting a below-average 33% from beyond the arc. However, the youngster’s workload over the last 18 months might have something to do with his struggles.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Doncic has played in a combined total of 151 games. Such a number combines his time with Real Madrid in 2016-17 (80 games) and 2017-18 (63 games) with the 8 games that he played when he was with Slovenia during the 2017 Eurobasket.

Given his busy offseason, Doncic proved that there’s no rest for the weary. He spent most of his time with the Slovenian National team for the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket during the three-month break between two seasons with Real Madrid. It would make sense if Doncic has become fatigued over time.

Despite his inefficiency this past season, Doncic has potential to be a standout perimeter shooter. That promise rests in his confidence. Whether he’s working in the catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble, the guard has displayed a level of range that spreads out to beyond the NBA 3-point line.

All that aside, Doncic’s work as an off-the-dribble shooter is probably the most entertaining skill in his repertoire. The excitement comes from how he can just shake his opponents out of their shoes with some lethal crossovers. If that doesn’t work, he creates quick separation with a smooth step-back. Although he’s not yet at the level of someone like Kyrie Irving, it was effective enough to create an advantage over both his EuroLeague and Eurobasket competition.

A prime example of his tremendous dribble moves is seen in the clip below, as he just puts Kristaps Porzingis on skates before nailing a perimeter jumper.

The young guard is also solid in catch-and-shoot situations because his shooting stroke is as smooth as butter. Although he might need to improve the timing between catch and release, his actual shot is quick and has a pretty nice and high release point.

The combination of his lethal dribble moves, smooth shooting stroke, and solid range cements his potential at the next level. Although he’s struggled this year with efficiency, a summer off to recharge his batteries will work in his favor, should he make that transition to the next level.

Another one of Doncic’s skills that should transition to the NBA level is his work as a facilitator. In Euroleague competition, the 19-year-old prospect averaged 6.7 assists in 25.9 minutes per game with Real Madrid. He did that while maintaining a pretty solid 1.9 Ast/TO ratio. Both his average and Ast/TO ratio are better than former NBA/G League players like Pierre Jackson, Alexey Shved and Norris Cole.

His solid level of production is mostly due to the great poise he shows when roaming on the perimeter. For a 19-year-old prospect, Doncic seems to have already mastered the art of working the pick-and-roll. He’s patient when it comes to waiting for his screener to start rolling to the basket before he can direct a pass to the big.

A good example of his patience as a facilitator is seen in the play below. After working around a screen from Gasper Vidmar, he gets hits with a semi-dirty hip check from Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic keeps his cool and throws a great two handed pass to Vidmar, who finishes with a right-handed layup.

Doncic’s poise is also evident when he’s working as a drive-and-dish facilitator. With a solid first-step, the 6’9” guard does a nice job of using a nice 1st step to drive past any forward or wing that might have switched onto him. After the initial victory, Doncic does a nice job of dishing it off to a teammate, whether it’s a big waiting in the paint or a wing hanging out on the perimeter.

Some of the traits that have allowed him to be a solid drive-and-dish facilitator have also given Doncic an opportunity to be a decent on-ball driver. At this point in his career, he struggles to get around opposing guards unless he’s able to utilize a screen.

Doncic is not the most explosive player. He doesn’t use any dribble moves to get around his opponent, unlike what you see when he’s working as a shooter. His lack of explosiveness also hinders him when he’s closer to the rim because he does not have that second gear that allows other guards or wings to make strong finishes at the rim.

However, Doncic seems to be most comfortable with driving with his right-hand. Although he has occasionally shown an ability to utilize his left hand on drives to the rim, he’s definitely going to be more secure going right.

He’s been able to mask some of those flaws by utilizing a running right-handed floater. To help create separation, Doncic likes to use little head fakes to get the opposing defender in the air. As defender moves away, Doncic can put up a smooth right-handed floater that usually hits more times than not.

Although there’s absolutely no doubt of him being a solid offensive player, his work on the other end of the floor is probably the biggest question mark. Doncic puts in the effort on the defensive end by doing a nice job of closing out and working in the passing lanes. Such effort allowed him to average 1.7 steals per 40 minutes during EuroLeague play, slotting him in the top-20.

However, things can get a bit dicey when he’s asked to go one-on-one with an opposing player. He struggles as an off-ball defender because he’s prone to ball-watching and leaving his assigned player open. Doncic has difficulty working around off-ball screens.

It’s clear that Doncic’s track record as a player is extraordinary as he was recently awarded the Euroleague MVP for the 2017-18 season. However, looking beyond those impressive accolades and statistics provides a complete picture of his potential.

His work on the defensive end creates cause for concern. Although he works hard and is a pretty solid ball-hawk, but it remains to be seen how his skills on that side of the floor due to his struggles as an off-ball defender. s

That being said, there should be no doubt that Doncic stands as a top-5 prospect in this year’s NBA Draft class. He will have immediate success due to his status as a 6’7 point guard that can be a great facilitator and knock down perimeter jumpers.