Luca Doncic

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Luka Doncic: The King who got away!

ESPN Radio
January 16, 2020 - 9:24 pm

By Charlie O. Mallonee @Charlieo1320

For the next 15 years or more every time the name of Luka Doncic and the Sacramento Kings are used in the same sentence, it will be accompanied with the commentary that Kings passed on drafting Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery and selected Marvin Bagley III instead.

This is not a “burn Vlade Divac at the stake” piece. In sports, there is a long line of draft picks where players who were passed over went on to become superstars. One of the best-known passes is the Portland Trail Blazers decision to select center Sam Bowie with the second pick in the 1984 NBA and let Michael Jordan slip to number three where he was taken by the Chicago Bulls. By the way, almost no mentions that the Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon with the number one pick which means they also passed on “Air Jordan”.

One of the other most discussed draft misses is the 2009 miss of Steph Curry by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In fact, the Timberwolves passed on Curry twice. Minnesota traded to get the fifth selection and took point guard Ricky Rubio out of Spain who never lived up to their expectations. Then with their own number six overall pick, the Timberwolves selected a second point guard – Jonny Flynn who due to injuries was no longer with the team by the 2011-12 season.

Drafting players in all sports is an inexact science at best. There are multiple draft lists where “sure things” never worked out while “no names” became superstars. Case in point, Tom Brady was taken in sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft – the 199th overall selection.

Doncic is amazing everyone

On Wednesday night in the Mavericks 127-123 win over the Sacramento Kings, Doncic recorded his 12th triple-double of the season scoring 25 points, dishing out 17 assists and hauling 15 rebounds in just over 34 minutes of playing time. That makes him the number one triple-double scorer in the NBA. Number two is LeBron James with nine triple-double games.

Still over a month from his 21st birthday, Luka Doncic continued his assault on the record books with his 20th career triple double, a rare 25-15-17 performance vs the Kings on Wednesday. Doncic has now recorded his 20-career triple-doubles in just 109 games, the 2nd-quickest of any player in NBA history. Only Oscar Robertson, who did so in just 45 games, reached that career milestone quicker, and “the Big O” is in the Hall of Fame.

Mav’s coach Rick Carlisle on Doncic’s play: “These numbers are just crazy – 15 [rebounds> and 17 [assists> along with 25 points is just hard to fathom. They’re trapping him all over the court every time down and he’s both beating the traps and playing beautifully out of the traps. He had an amazing game and once again, I just thought from top to bottom, everybody played real well.”

Luke Walton on how Doncic has improved in his second NBA season: “Much better understanding of one, his team’s offense – two, the NBA as a whole really. He really has a nice feel and pace for where to get his shots and where to get his teammates shots. They do a nice job of spacing the floor, and they got the one big in there rolling to the rim. [Dwight> Powell, is at the top in the league in field goal percentage, and dunks all night so if you don’t come tag, he’s dunking the ball – and if you come tag [Luka Doncic> he puts those skip passes right on the money. Just an overall understanding and his skills continue to get better as well.”

Why did the Kings pass on Doncic?

  • De’Aaron Fox may have been the number one reason Sacramento passed on Doncic. The front office felt they had their point guard of the future and adding Doncic would be a duplication of talent.
  • The Kings needed a big man. It had become very apparent that Willie Cauley-Stein was not going to be the answer on the front line for Sacramento. Marvin Bagley III represented the opportunity to make a major long-term upgrade at power forward/center.
  • There have also been rumors of “bad feelings” between Kings vice president of basketball operations – Vlade Divac and Doncic’s father. The story continues that the Kings front office was concerned that young superstar might not sign with the team because of the ill feelings. Those reports while prevalent remain unsubstantiated.

The other story line that ran through the 2018-19 season was the tension between then head coach Dave Joerger and the Kings front office over not drafting Doncic. Whenever Joerger talked to the press about Doncic, it was like a major “bromance” had just been unleased. Joerger never disguised his high regard for Doncic and his skills. That conflict may have contributed to Joerger’s firing.

The Mav’s and Doncic appear headed to the playoffs

The Mavericks record is currently 26-15 which puts them in sixth place in the Western Conference just 0.5-game behind the Houston Rockets. The have done this without center Kristaps Porzingis being at full strength and having to miss games. When Porzingis is healthy again, the Mavericks are going to be even more of a force.

Doncic on how his team has played in the first half of the season: “We just want to be in the playoffs, that’s our goal.”

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