Luka Doncic has had himself a busy week. The Slovenian prodigy won the Euroleague championship with Real Madrid and was named Final Four MVP on Sunday. This comes days after he was named Euroleague MVP. The next stop for Doncic is likely the NBA draft, though there are rumors he could stay in Europe if he doesn’t like certain landing spots at the top of the lottery.
Now there’s a new twist to Doncic’s draft day intrigue: if the Phoenix Suns pass on him at No. 1, there are reports he could fall out of the top three, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
Givony reports there’s a “growing consensus among NBA decision-makers” that the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks could pass on Doncic at pick No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in favor of American big men. That means Doncic could be available for the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 4 or even the Dallas Mavericks at No. 5.
How could this happen?
The Phoenix Suns may opt for Deandre Ayton at No. 1
The Suns are going to consider Doncic heavily at No. 1. Phoenix made an outside-the-box head coaching hire this month with Igor Kokoskov, who happened to coach Doncic during his gold medal run with the Slovenian national team last summer. No team will be more familiar with Doncic at the top of the draft than Phoenix.
Still, there’s a good chance the Suns chose to go with Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the first pick. Ayton is currently projected to go No. 1 overall by ESPN. He’s an athletic freak at 7’1, 250 pounds, boasting the kind of size and explosion Doncic can’t compare with.
SB Nation has had Doncic as the top player in the draft since last June because of his all-around skill set and knack for making winning plays. But Ayton’s rare physicality and athleticism for a center makes him a worthy candidate at No. 1 despite concerns over his defensive acumen.
How far will Doncic fall if he doesn’t go No. 1?
The Kings and Hawks could opt for Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mohamed Bamba over Doncic
If the Kings aren’t sold on Doncic at No. 2, they will have plenty of other appealing options.
Duke’s Marvin Bagley III is a 6’11 forward who put up massive scoring and rebounding numbers as a freshman. Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. has the best combination of three-point shooting and shot blocking in the draft. Texas’ Mohamed Bamba is a rim protecting savant who just measured with a 7’10 wingspan, the longest in the history of the draft combine.
There’s a scenario where Bagley and one of Jackson/Bamba go at picks No. 2 and No. 3. That means Doncic would be available for Memphis at No. 4, and maybe even Dallas at No. 5.
How likely is it that Luka Doncic slides out of the top 3?
We will put the likelihood at 3/10.
Doncic is a special talent who deserves to go No. 1 overall in the humble estimation of this writer. Even if the Suns opt to go with Ayton, it’s hard to believe both Sacramento and Atlanta would pass on him.