Is Luka “Wonder Boy” Doncic the Grizzlies’ Savior in the Draft Lottery?

As the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery approaches, Grizz fans hug each other tight at the prospect of receiving a Top 3 pick in this year’s top-heavy draft.  Who will the Grizz pick? Will Grizz General Manager Chris Wallace — or Joe Abadi, or Jason Wexler, or whoever the hell actually makes the decisions — make a reasonable selection for a change?  Will that player be a McDonald’s All-American that played for Kansas?  (Spoiler: No).  Perhaps the most interesting storyline is that the Grizz reportedly intend to choose:

Image via TalkBasket

Him?  Last week, hushed whisperings made their way online that the Grizz front office covets the 19-year-old European G/F wunderkind Luka “Wonder Boy” Doncic, universally projected to go in the first three picks of the draft.  Given that Doncic is unfamiliar to most U.S. basketball fans — growing up overseas and now playing for Real Madrid — the CHIEF took the time to give you a scouting report on Doncic so you can decide whether you’re pumped, outraged, or think you saw Doncic working as a cologne model in your local Abercrombie/Hollister.

GIF via Giphy 

[Insert Woody Harrelson joke].

But first…

How’d We Get Here?

The Grizzlies of Memphis are a team playing in the National Basketball Association that — as of the writing of this piece — have won exactly 21 games (and lost 58) with a winning percentage of 26%.  As has been written in countless places, this staggeringly bad record is not shocking given that the Grizz are a staggeringly bad team, which is the result of numerous factors — Mike Conley’s heel injury, Marc Gasol seemingly aging in dog years, and Chandler Parsons Chandler Parsons-ing™.

Image via MyGrapiCKs

The existential misery, however, hasn’t come without some pros, not the least of which is the in-game development of the team’s young players –— specifically, the emergence of Dillon Brooks aka Dilly Buckets who made the rookie/sophomore All-Star game and plays with the confidence of Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 11 mixed with JR Smith after he wets his first two heavily-defended 3s.  Honorable mention to Ivan Rabb as well.  Amidst these copious Ls, Grizz fans have found solace in one place: the bottom of a bott — er, the draft lottery.  The idea of adding a young talent to the existing core of Mike, Marc, and Chandler is admittedly mouth watering.  So let’s get right into…

Momma There Goes That Man…

Who exactly is Luka Doncic?

Standing at a solid 6-6, Doncic is a Slovenian — Slovenia is the one next to the Alps nestled between Croatia and Austria — professional basketball player who plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also represents the senior Slovenian national team.

As a 19-year-old, Doncic is averaging 15.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in 42 games in EuroLeague and Liga ACB, the two best leagues in Europe. Doncic is the primary ball-handler and floor general of these respective squads.  He’s born from the do-it-all point-guard-forward archetype taking the NBA by storm and popularized by players harkening back to the Big-O, Magic Johnson, and energized in the modern era by LeBron James, the Greek Freak, and Ben Simmons.

Image via CelticsLife.com

Doncic aces two-point shots at a 60% clip, and threes at 31.7%.  The man gets to the free-throw line five times per game and makes 81.5 percent of those.  Certainly these numbers are not too shabby but they don’t tell the whole tale — Doncic hangs these stats on other “grown men” in these two leagues, while *cue Brevin Knight voice* HE’S ONLY NINETEEN!!!  In other words, unlike other projected lottery pick one-and-done players who played in college against other “kids,” Doncic has been playing against NBA-esque physical competition since he was a mere lad of 16.  If the NBA were an MLB team, Liga ACB would be AAA and college ball would be AA.

Despite a low-profile domestically, Doncic is a celebrity “across the pond” in European basketball circles.  Goran Dragic, Doncic’s Slovenian national team squadmate, has called him “a born winner,” who will “be one of the best in the whole world.”  If he’s good enough for “The Dragon,” shouldn’t he be okay-dokey with us?

ESPN’s residential NBA Draft Guru Fran Franchilla weighs in here:

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Doncic’s Game As Told Cinematically By GIFs

People salivate all over themselves mostly over Doncic’s well-developed court vision and passing, which is indeed impressive.  Sure he won’t wow you with a thunderously violent Westbrookien dunk, but from watching him (and as evidenced below), it’s obvious that Doncic sees the game in slow-motion — akin Neo in the Matrix (you knew I was going to do it).  But enough writing, let’s go to the monitor…

Here, he is well-defended coming off a ball screen yet finds the open man with a dope-ass cross-court pass.

He can be smooth as buttermilk with a thrifty fake pass a la Magic and Rondo…

Gif via Medium

Or thread a sleek pass above the big man hedge-out to short roll…

Gif via Medium

Or effortlessly chunk from the other hash…

*Pours this GIF in a wine glass and smells satisfactorily*

GIF via Giphy

And he’ll do it all with a winning smile and natural charisma…

GIF via Giphy

Player Comparisons

Unfortunately, I’ll be — at least for a moment — guilty of comparing Doncic to other Europeon white dudes statistically because they also played in the same or similar leagues to Doncic:

Screenshot 2018-04-07 15.01.07

As you can see, Doncic surpasses many of the EuroLeague stars that would later become fairly prominent NBA players — albeit, none of these players ended up being franchise cornerstones.  Although, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dirk Nowitzki, Kristaps Porzingis, Dennis Schroeder, and Dario Saric also filled the box scores at the age of 18.

The comparisons to LeBron are laughable at this point — if you’ve said or written this debacle, kindly get back in the film room.  Pundits also love to throw out Manu Ginobili as a comp.  The CHIEF don’t play like that, and I now submit a guy that is not white OR European — I believe Doncic to be a poor man’s Steph Curry.  Look, I know, that’s a burning take, but Doncic’s unique blend of smooth shooting, floor vision, in-game IQ, and less than extraordinary athleticism reminds me of the Chef.  Given that he’s a hybrid amoebic point-guard-forward, perhaps a better comparison would be a less athletic Ben Simmons with an actual jumper.  The fact remains: he has the capacity to be…

The SAVIOR: Save us, Luka!

All told, Grizz fans can and should be excited at the prospect of having Luka Doncic suit up in Beale Street Blue.  Even worst cast scenario, Doncic will be an above-average contributing rotation player.  At best?  The sky is the limit for Wonder Boy.

Ultimately, the story is best told by Grizz 23:28 (King James [LOL] Version):

Luka is my shepherd, I shall not want…

He maketh shots, he leadeth the Grizz to the Finals…

He restoreth winning and deliver us from the tank…

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow Grizz fans all the days of their lives: and we will dwell in the house of Luka forever…

It’s Luka time, baby!

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@TheBarnChief

[banner image via ClutchSports]

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