I can already hear the crowd of angry NBA fans coming for my head as I dared to suggest an international player goes number 1 overall in this upcoming draft. The doubters will immediately bring up how Andrea Bargnani, the only European player to go number 1 overall, turned out. Yet, Luka Doncic is without a doubt the best player in this upcoming draft and I will confidently say it's not even a close competition.
Luka Doncic is the 19 year old, 6' 8”, point point guard/guard forward for Real Madrid in EuroLeague, which is widely considered the best basketball league outside the NBA. Doncic has been playing professionally for three years. On Real Madrid, Doncic is their primary ball handler and has been showing off his skills and what has made him ready for a jump to the NBA. On the season Luka Doncic is averaging 15.4 points per game, 4.5 assists per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 46% from the field.
An easy comparison to make is that Luka Doncic is a less athletic Ben Simmons with range. Luka has elite passing ability, whether it's in the pick and roll or if he's aiming to hit the open shooter. His handles aren't vicious like Kyrie Irvings, they're more finesse like Manu Ginobili. No matter what comparison you make, his handle and ball control is elite; for the season he's only averaging 2 turnovers per game. At 6' 8” he can see over most defenses and if you take away the roll man, he'll just pull up and shoot. His offense will make coaches drool and isn't limited to making the right pass; Luka Doncic can score from anywhere on the court. He can score off the ball, drain it from deep, or take it right to the basket. Luka Doncic's offensive game is developed well beyond his years.
As well rounded as Doncic appears to be, there are some holes in his game. The most glaring hole is that he's just not an elite athlete like Ben Simmons or even Lebron James. He'll be an interesting fit on some NBA teams as he doesn't have the body to play big but also is too slow to play against faster guards. Doncic's defense also leaves a lot to be desired, especially from a player who is already on the professional level. His athleticism or lack thereof, will be an issue on the defensive end.
It's a shame I can't pretend this is NBA 2k and just put Luka Doncic on the team I think he'd fit best with. Looking at the current 5 worst teams, Doncic would be a great fit in Atlanta or Phoenix, two teams where he wouldn't have to compete with being the primary ball handler. Teams like Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland (thanks Brooklyn), New York, and Charlotte already have ball dominant players and Doncic's play style would clash with those teams. No matter what team drafts Luka Doncic, I am fully on board with this hype train. I hope the NBA is ready for Doncic, because everything he has shown shows he is ready for it.