2018 NBA Draft: What you need to know about Luka Doncic, the most polished European teen prospect ever

Luka Doncic is the next European NBA star.

The Slovenian prodigy, projected to go No. 3 overall in CBS' latest 2018 NBA mock draft, is the most accomplished European teen prospect in history. Those who paved the way for him -- Dirk Nowitzki, Goran Dragic, Kristaps Porzingis -- rave about his talent and maturity.

So what makes Doncic special? Let's take a look at his game and what we can expect from him in the NBA next season.

Doncic and Goran Dragic led their tiny country to the 2017 EuroBasket title in September, taking down powerhouses like Spain and Serbia. Doncic had 27 points in a quarterfinal win vs. Porzingis' Latvia squad, and he was named to the All-Tournament Team with Dragic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Alexey Shved and Pau Gasol. He then followed that up with a historic season at the club level.

Doncic and Real Madrid -- he moved from Slovenia to Spain at age 13 to play professionally -- won the EuroLeague championship, with Doncic being named the youngest-ever regular-season MVP and Final Four MVP. In the Spanish ACB, a separate league that runs at the same time as EuroLeague, Doncic was also named regular-season MVP (again the youngest to win it. 

On a roster full of NBA veterans, he was the best player and primary crunch-time option, despite turning 19 in late February.

Doncic even has a chance to add to his trophy case in June as the ACB playoffs don't finish until right around the day of the NBA Draft on June 21

Comparison to recent EuroLeague-to-NBA players

Doncic's production at the EuroLeague level is unprecedented for his age.

This is how his 2017-18 season compares to the final EuroLeague seasons of similar players who made the NBA jump.

PlayerAgePPGRPG2FG%3FG%
Luka Doncic1916.04.857.232.9
Bogdan Bogdanovic2414.63.856.943.0
Dario Saric2211.75.855.240.3
Nikola Mirotec2313.44.653.746.1
Ricky Rubio206.53.239.222.4

Note: Some of the top European players in the NBA, such as Porzingis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert, didn't play in EuroLeague, which is the top tier of European club basketball.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Doncic is a better prospect than those players, just that he played for a better team and was much more ready to contribute to high-level basketball as a teenager.

Comparing Doncic to NCAA players

There are a few big differences between Doncic's situation and other top prospects in the draft.

When he enters the draft, Doncic will have played about 200 career pro games. Since September, he has played about 1,900 minutes in 74 games. And that's as of Monday, May 28. He will probably play 5-10 more games before his season is finally over.

In comparison, Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Mohamed Bamba, Trae Young and Jaren Jackson all played between 764 and 1,172 minutes this season.

Why is this important?

First, opponents have way more tape on Doncic to scout his tendencies and prepare to stop him — especially when you consider his 1,421 minutes last season. This also means NBA front offices have more film to nitpick.

Second, Doncic has looked pretty exhausted at times, which is obviously understandable considering how much basketball he has played the last two years. I think this explains some of the plays where he doesn't have much explosion and struggles to get past guys off the dribble.

Third, Doncic should be one of the most consistent, NBA-ready rookies because he has been through the 82-game grind multiple times. However, this could also make teams wary of picking him, because he has more mileage on him than a typical 19-year-old.

Other important differences to consider: The international 3-point line is further away than the NCAA line, the international shot clock is 24 seconds (30 in NCAA) and resets to 14 on offensive rebounds, and there are no live-ball timeouts in Europe.

Passing

Doncic will immediately be one of the best passers in the NBA.

His vision and basketball IQ are elite, and at 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, he has the size and strength to make passes that most players simply can't. Doncic has great patience and timing, especially when running pick-and-rolls, and a feel for the game that you don't see from most NBA veterans.

Passes from one side of the court to the opposite corner are perhaps the most difficult in basketball. Doncic throws them with ease. And if teams play aggressive pick-and-roll defense against him, he can see over the top of defenders, and throw bullets from the 3-point line to the rim.

Shooters and big men will love playing with Doncic.

Fastbreak play

Doncic will struggle to shake some of the better defenders in the half-court, but he is a very dangerous player in fastbreak situations.

As this video from DraftExpress shows, Doncic loves to grab defensive rebounds and push in transition. He has good end-to-end speed, he looks to move the ball ahead and he can finish on his own if he decides to keep it.

Posting up

The attributes that make Doncic a great pick-and-roll player — size, patience, vision, footwork — also make him a dangerous post-up option.

He can bully smaller guards in the post with size and strength, and he's crafty enough to pump-fake potential shot-blockers. If the defense sends help, he can kick it out to open shooters.

Versatility

Doncic can score from everywhere on the court, as you can see in this video of every ACB bucket he made this season.

He can finish around the rim with either hand, he has a nice floater and mid-range game, he can post up and he can punish teams from the 3-point line.

His 3-point percentages don't look great (32.9 percent in EuroLeague, 27.9 percent in ACB), but his shooting form is smooth. I expect his percentages to improve in the NBA when he doesn't shoulder as much offensive responsibility.

Athleticism

The biggest knock against Doncic is his athleticism, but it's not like he's some ground-bound slouch. I think he's clearly athletic enough to become an All-Star caliber player when you also factor in his intelligence and skill level.

He'll throw down some dunks off one or two feet, and he can protect the rim a little bit as well. He hustles back in transition, he makes smart rotations defensively and he isn't afraid to challenge dunk attempts.

Where Doncic will mostly struggle is with his lateral quickness on the defensive end.

He won't be able to stay in front most NBA point guards, and he — like everyone else — will get torched by elite scoring wings like Kevin Durant, Paul George and Jimmy Butler.

On the offensive end, he sometimes struggles to drive past good defenders. In the EuroLeague title game vs. defending champions Fenerbahce Istanbul, Doncic lost his footing when pressured by Nikola Kalinic.

Kalinic is an NBA-level defender, and guys with his combination of size, quickness and tenacity will really challenge Doncic. But as Schmitz said in that tweet, an improved diet and conditioning program should help.

If he cuts back on the nachos with double queso that ESPN's Mina Kimes mentioned and spends more time in the weight room this summer, he should look better next season.

Turnovers

For the most part, Doncic does a good job taking care of the ball. However, he had two games with a ton of turnovers this season, and those two could serve as a blueprint for NBA teams looking to take him out of a game.

Most NBA teams probably won't put in this kind of defensive effort in random regular season games, but come playoff time, expect defenses to pick up Doncic full-court and be very physical with him in the half-court.

Poise in big moments

Despite the occasional turnover-happy game, Doncic has incredible poise and composure.

He has been in many pressure-filled situations with games and championships on the line, arenas full of 15 to 20,000 screaming fans and NBA scouts watching his every move. More often than not, he has delivered.

It's this coolness under pressure that makes me most optimistic about Doncic. He has the size and skills and intelligence to be a good NBA player.

He's also never afraid of the moment. That's what will make him a star.

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe and Australia. You can follow him on Twitter @LosCrossovers

Our Latest Stories
    24/7 Scores, News, Highlights
    FREE ON ALL YOUR DEVICES