Atlanta Hawks Potential #1 Draft Pick: Luka Dončić

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: Luka Doncic (R) of Real Madrid and his teammate Guillermo Hernangomez (L) goes up for a rebound during the friendlies of the NBA Global Games 2015 basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at Barclaycard Center on October 8, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: Luka Doncic (R) of Real Madrid and his teammate Guillermo Hernangomez (L) goes up for a rebound during the friendlies of the NBA Global Games 2015 basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at Barclaycard Center on October 8, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

There has never been a more exciting time to be an Atlanta Hawks fan. This season is turning out nearly perfectly, for what GM Travis Schlenk and the organization are attempting to accomplish.

The young, high-flying Hawks play extremely hard. They are competitive late in the 4th quarter of almost every game. Simultaneously the team is in prime position to obtain the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

The Hawks haven’t been in position to win the draft lottery since they drew the 3rd pick 10 years ago. This draft will be most critical, as the Hawks look to add a cornerstone. The team is searching for a player that can develop into the franchise’s 1st transitional star since Dominique Wilkins. Going forward, until the in NBA draft, I will be breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates for the Atlanta Hawks’ top draft selection.

The 1st potential Atlanta Hawks draft selection we will look at is soon to be 19-year-old Slovenian star Luka Dončić.

Luka is a 6’8 Point Guard who has the versatility to play Shooting Guard, and even some Small Forward. As he matures and gets stronger, he will be able to play many more minutes at Small Forward, and also Power Forward in small lineups. He is posting unprecedented numbers for his team, Real Madrid in the Euroleague. This is the same association that produced NBA stars such as Dirk Nowitski, Kristaps Porzingus, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. In addition to those stars, the Euroleague has groomed many other NBA 1st round draft picks. Dončić also is a starter for the Slovenian National team, where he plays the supporting role of Robin, to Miami Heat PG Gorin Dragic’s Batman.
Take a glance at his stats below:

(Unlike most people who scout draft picks, I prefer to address weaknesses 1st.)

He Isn’t a Great athlete:
Though very skilled, Luka isn’t extremely fast, strong, nor does he jump very high. This isn’t a major disadvantage to him in the Euroleague, however he will face an entirely different level of athletes in the NBA. Especially considering that the wing is arguably where the best athletes, as well as the league’s two best overall players, LeBron James said Kevin Durant play. The aforementioned weakness will make Dončić a target on the defensive end for opposing teams to attack. He isn’t fast enough to keep pace with most Point Guards or Shooting Guards, nor is he strong enough to mix it up inside with elite Forwards.

The 19 year old struggles to beat his man to the basket in isolations situations:
Luka can handle the ball well enough to play Point Guard, but isolation plays are one of the least effective methods for him to score. Dončić has a difficult time blowing by guys one on one, even bigger guys who are good athletes. He could remedy this by developing a better change of pace, hesitation dribble.

Evidence of this can be seen in this Draft Express scouting video below:

He turns the ball over dribbling into traffic:
Luka is a very good ball handler, but he’s so sure of that fact, that he often attempts to dribble through impossible situations. Dribbling through congested traffic is where the majority of his turnovers are committed. The young phenomenon must improve his decision-making at knowing which situations he can squeeze through. It is essential Dončić learns when he should pull up for a jump shot or pass the ball to avoid having it stolen.

Luka isn’t very active off ball on offense:
When Luka doesn’t have the ball on offense he has a tendency to just drift around the 3 point line and raise his hand calling for the ball. He rarely cuts unless a teammate floods his area. Luka would get more easy baskets with more off ball movement. This can be fixed however with a structured offense like the Atlanta Hawks’ pace and space offense ran by Coach Bud.

Dončić tends to be a streaky shooter:
The Slovenian star is a capable shooter, but he often runs hot and cold. His three point percentage has declined every year since he became a professional. He’s shooting only 32.3% for deep this season. Dončić must improve his efficiency from downtown. Better shot selection would be a great first step increasing his efficiency. Like many young players, he can become impatient and launch long contested 3s. He also has been forced to take some difficult jump shots in isolation scenarios.


His Passing instincts:
Dončić has outstanding passing instincts. He almost always makes the right pass. Luka delivers the ball on target to shooters. He also has a flair for the dramatic throwing accurate behind the back passes and lobs. He’s is great at finding open shooters behind the arch on cross court skip passes. Dončić has the passing ability of a true PG in the body of a shooting guard.

This Video By Draft Express highlights his pick and roll passing:

He is a good Rebounder:
Dončić has a keen eye for tracking the ball off the rim which allows him to get rebounds on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. He chases down nearly every long rebound. His defensive rebounds allow him to throw an outlet pass to a streaking teammate, or start the fast break, by dribbling the ball up court himself.

His Ball handling:
Luka is an outstanding ball handler. Even though he struggles beating his man all the way to the rack, he can get to nearly any midrange spot that he pleases, when he pleases. He combines that with a step back move that frees him up from downtown. If he ever adds a hesitation crossover, look out!

His defensive awareness:
Being that he just turned 19, Luka Dončić has very good defensive awareness. He does a good job keeping his eye on his man and the ball. If an opponent is carless, Luka will quickly dart into the passing lane for a steal. Any limitations he has on the defensive end are physically rather than mental.

He has good shooting form:
Though Luka Dončić has seen his shooting performances decrease with more shot attempts, he clearly displays good form on his shot. When he misses, it’s usually because he’s leaned to the right disturbing his balance, the shot misses short due to fatigue, or it’s a bad shot with a defender in his face. His form gives the hope that he can improve tremendously as a shooter. The Hawks are known for improving players outside stroke, and it’s a bonus that Dončić’s form doesn’t need much tinkering with.

His fit with the Atlanta Hawks:

Luka Dončić would work best in the Atlanta offense as the point guard and shot creator. He needs to be the pick and roll ball handler in the pace and space offense to be effective. Ideally he should be paired with a George Hill, Derek Fisher style point guard, who can defend both guard positions, allowing Luka to guard the lesser scoring threat. The ideal backcourt mate for Dončić would be a high percentage three point shooter, who doesn’t need the ball in his hands in order to be effective.

NBA comparison:

Ceiling: James Harden/Manu Ginobili
While not quite the athlete, Harden or Ginobili is, at his best Dončić has a very similar game. He’s very crafty with the basketball. Luka is very adept at drawing fouls with offensive flopping. This will lead to alot of trips to the foul line where he is an 82% shooter. He has a fiery demeanor just like Manu does. Luka must become a deadly midrange and three point shooter, as well as add a better change of pace dribble, in order to reach this tremendously high ceiling.

Floor: Borris Diaw
The worse case scenario for Dončić this; he never becomes a deadly shooter from midrange or three, he has an even more difficult time getting past NBA athletes off the dribble, his lack of foot speed and strength makes him a liability defending any perimeter position. This nightmare scenario would force a team to ask him to gain weight, and subsequently moving him to a Point PF in small lineups. He would also likely be asked to come off of the bench in such a scenario. My guess is he eventually will be somewhere in the higher middle of his floor and ceiling.

Expert Rankings:

Sports Illustrated NBA Draft expert Jeremy Woo has Luka Dončić second on his big board
And says this about him:

"“Doncic’s continued mastery of the Euroleague and Spanish ACB leave little question as to his readiness for the next level, and it’s possible we never see another teenage prospect quite like him. He will be the most proven player in the draft bar none, having performed in FIBA play against NBA talent and established himself as a game-changing ball-handler. Doncic is comfortable as a lead guard, is a threat from outside (although his shooting from outside has been just OK this season), makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. He will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, and his lack of elite explosiveness and burst will be nitpicked as the draft gets closer. He should be considered one of the safest picks in the class and an ideal fit for the perimeter-oriented league.”"

He talks more about Dončić in this SI video clip.

FanSided’s The Step back and contributor Josh Magnatte has Doncic ranked #1 and explains why in this short clip.

My Rank:

I currently have Luka Dončić 3rd on my Top Pick for the Hawks, small board rankings.
My current rankings for the Atlanta Hawks top pick are:
1. Deandre Ayton
2. ‎Marvin Bagley III
3. ‎ Luka Dončić
4. ‎ Michael Porter Jr.
5. ‎Trae Young
6. ‎Jarren Jackson Jr.
7. ‎ Mo Bamba

These rankings will surely change as March Madness begins to unfold. In the meantime stay tuned to ATL All Day via for all of the latest breaking news and extensive information on The Atlanta Sports teams you love. Follow the ATL All Day team on social media for interactive discussion.

Jordan Jackson – Contributor
Twitter @joegreen23atl