Luka Doncic looks like a once-in-a-generation superstar. At 20 years old in just his second NBA season, he's arguably already a top-10 player. He's undoubtedly a leading MVP candidate, having led to the Mavericks to a 10-5 start entering Sunday with the best offense in the league by a good distance.
Entering Sunday, Luka is 0.3 assists shy of AVERAGING a triple-double. Again, he's 20 years old. His 29.9 points per game tie him, for third in the league with Giannis Antetokounmpo. His 10.4 rebounds a night is only one shy of Joel Embiid. His passing -- 9.7 assists a game -- might be the best part of his game. He is so good it's honestly hard to put it into words.
And yet, three teams passed on him in the 2018 NBA Draft.
It's laughable now, but at the time there were some concerns about Luka supposedly lacking athleticism. There was even talk that he had already hit his "ceiling" or at least that he wasn't far from it. So the Suns decided to draft big man Deandre Ayton -- who is currently serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs -- No. 1 overall. With the No. 2 pick, the Kings took Marvin Bagley III, who fractured his thumb in the first game of the season and is still on the shelf.
Luka was technically drafted No. 3 by the Hawks, who then traded him to the Mavericks in exchange for Trae Young and Dallas' 2019 first-round pick. Atlanta's case for passing on Doncic is the most defensible. Young has been pretty brilliant in his own right in his second season, and again, getting a second lottery pick ON TOP of Young is a pretty sweet package, even in hindsight -- though it can't be ignored that Cam Reddish became that pick, and Reddish has not looked good at all.
Given Young's production and huge upside, and Reddish's youth and obvious skill level and room for growth that comes with it, it's way too early to deem Atlanta's decision to pass on Luka a bust.
But for the Suns and Kings? Yeah, they screwed up. The Suns wanted a big man, and the Kings reportedly didn't like the idea of pairing Doncic with De'Aaron Fox. But now there's a rumor floating around that Doncic's potential pairing with Fox wasn't the only reason Kings vice president and general manager Vlade Divac decided to go with Bagley.
Speaking on Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast -- The Woj pod -- ESPN's Tim MacMahon recently said the following:
"My understanding is that [Divac] being so close to Luka and knowing his dad so well factored into their decision. Basically, he didn't think a whole lot of Luka's dad, and the whole like father like son."
So listen, if this is true, oh man does this look bad. Just simply whiffing on Luka as a straight player evaluation is bad enough, but to pass on a guy THIS good because you don't care for his father? Never mind that Luka appears to be no problem whatsoever as a teammate or person.
The Kings would obviously never admit this publicly, but strange things do factor into these drafts. It has been rumored, in fact, that the Timberwolves passed on Stephen Curry because they knew he liked to play golf and didn't think he would want to stay in Minnesota long term because the weather isn't, you know, golf weather for much of the year.
Whatever the case, these are franchise and league-altering decisions. No disrespect to Marvin Bagley, who has looked pretty good relative to a normal rookie scale, but Luka Doncic is about the furthest thing from normal. And the Kings could've had him.