Teen Doncic already a pro, already a champion


nba draft

Associated Press

NEW YORK

Luka Doncic is about to become an NBA player, though he’s unlike the other top prospects who will be drafted.

He’s already a pro. He’s already a champion.

And he might just be the most accomplished and intriguing player in this class.

After capping his brilliant stay in Spain with another title, the Slovenian guard heads the list of international players expected to be selected today, a teenager whose resume is already more complete than even some of the most season veterans.

“He may be the most accomplished European teenager to ever come into the draft,” ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas said. “You know, there’s very little that is unknown about him. He’s not some workout wonder that people are projecting. He’s accomplished things, and he has been seen in 5-on-5 against high-level competition for a number of years. He’s played professional basketball since he was 13.”

Doncic couldn’t join Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and the other headliners in New York on Wednesday because he was en route from Spain after finishing off his dream season by helping Real Madrid win its ACB league championship Tuesday. The 6-foot-7 guard made a 3-pointer off one leg with the shot clock running down and Real Madrid clinging to a three-point lead, and his team held on to win the series in four games and allow him to get to Barclays Center in time for Thursday’s festivities, rather than stay behind for a Game 5.

He had already been the MVP of both the Euroleague season and its Final Four, the youngest player ever to win both honors, as Real Madrid won that title as well.

“I’m speechless,” he told the team’s website after Tuesday’s victory. “It has been the season of my life. It’s incredible.”

The Phoenix Suns have the No. 1 pick and are widely expected to draft Arizona center Deandre Ayton, even though new coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic last summer on the Slovenian national team that won the nation’s first EuroBasket gold medal.

Then it’s Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas, and any of them could consider a player who’s only 19 but has been playing against some of the toughest competition outside the NBA for years. And while there may always be some skepticism of European players because Darko Milicic bombed so badly after being taken right behind LeBron James and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade 15 years ago, it would be a surprise if Doncic failed after all he’s already done.

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