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Luka Doncic made his case to be the No. 1 NBA draft pick at Euroleague Final Four

Doncic’s talent was on full display during his championship run with Real Madrid at Euroleague Final Four.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Luka Doncic ended his European pro career on a perfect note this past week. The Slovenian wunderkind was named Euroleague MVP, won the Euroleague championship with Real Madrid, and took home Final Four MVP in the process.

No European has ever been this decorated coming into the NBA Draft. At just 19 years old, Doncic has established he’s the biggest star in Europe at the same age as a one-and-done college freshman. He’s not just a great prospect entering the draft, he’s already proven he’s a great player.

Euroleague is widely considered the highest level of competition in the world outside the NBA. Doncic was reminded of that at times during the season, particularly during a difficult best-of-five series victory over Panathinaikos in the Euroleague quarterfinals. Panathinaikos was a tough, physical team that cut off Doncic’s driving lanes and smothered his shooters, holding him to just 10.5 points per game and 26.7 percent shooting on two-point shots during the series. Real Madrid was still able to advance in four games, with Doncic putting up 17 points and five assists on 4-of-8 shooting from three-point range in the clincher to put the club to the Final Four.

While the Euroleague quarterfinals are determined by a series, the Final Four games are single elimination. These were high-pressure games with massive stakes played under an intense atmosphere. As has been the case during throughout his young career, Doncic was once again at his best on the biggest stages.

Doncic’s Final Four MVP run started against CSKA Moscow, where he put up 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a semifinal win. He followed that up with 15 points, four assists and three rebounds in the title game in a physical victory over defending champion Fenerbahce.

What did we learn about the most buzzed prospect in the 2018 NBA Draft during the Euroleague Final Four?

Doncic is at his best as an offensive initiator

The nominal point guard isn’t always the player running the team in the modern NBA. Instead, more teams have installed oversized ball handlers as their lead offensive initiator, the player most often tasked with running pick-and-rolls and attacking the defense early in the shot clock.

Ben Simmons plays this role in Philadelphia, and Donovan Mitchell plays it in Utah. LeBron James has played it better than anyone ever throughout his career. James Harden was ruthlessly efficient in the role this season on the way to a certain MVP. This is the type of role Doncic plays for Real Madrid, and it’s the type of role he should be playing in the NBA, too.

These two plays in the title game against Fenerbahce shows just how good Doncic is at getting his teammates open shots. He starts the first play with a ball screen, holding the help defender with his eyes by staring down the shooter in the corner before firing a pass to a teammate inside the paint for an easy bucket. He probes the defense without a screen in the second play, sucking in a help defender to free up a teammate for an open corner three.

There’s an argument to be made that Doncic is one of the three best passers to enter the draft this decade, alongside Simmons and Lonzo Ball. That’s high praise for 6’8, 230-pound player big enough to defend NBA power forwards in some lineups. But Doncic isn’t just a passer. He can also hit shots off ball screens.

The ability to stop and start a play, backpedal to the three-point line and hit a shot is reminiscent of a healthy Brandon Roy, or even Harden. He already plays with so much poise and patience.

Doncic’s adjustment to the speed of the NBA game from a physical standpoint has been a big talking point entering draft season, but plays like these three show he’s already far beyond the typical rookie when it comes to processing the speed of the game mentally.

Doncic thrives in transition

Doncic’s ability to attack in transition might be the most underrated part of his game. In addition to leading Real Madrid in scoring and assists during ACB play this season, he also finished second on the team in rebounds per game.

When Doncic gets a rebound, he wants to run.

The catchy term for this is “grab-and-go” — a skill mastered most notably by Draymond Green and Simmons. Doncic wants to create chaos by putting pressure on the defense before it can get set. In a league that values playing with pace, Doncic finds ways to do it even without elite NBA athleticism.

Doncic simply makes winning plays

Doncic will likely never put up per-game numbers that are on par with Deandre Ayton’s. The case for Doncic as the No. 1 player in this draft starts and stops with the idea that his impact on winning basketball games will transcend the box score statistics he’s putting up.

These two plays are great examples. Doncic isn’t known as a great defender, but he shows off quick hands in the first clip to force a turnover in transition. In the second play, Doncic tips out a rebound to keep a possession alive for Real Madrid before finishing the play with a drive from the corner.

He has some athletic pop, too

Yes, Doncic lacks elite athleticism, but he’s not a poor athlete. Doncic maximizes his physicality with functional athleticism, a combination of knowing how to leverage his huge frame with a good first step, the ability to manipulate pace and just enough juice to finish a play at the basket when he needs to.

The play above is particularly impressive given that he’s exploding off one foot to flush a dunk in traffic. Here’s another example of his ability to launch off one foot and finish a play:

You know who is a great athlete? Andrew Wiggins. He also isn’t that good of an NBA player because he’s not ultra-skilled and he doesn’t use his athleticism in functional ways. There’s no question Doncic has the skill level. He’s also a better athlete than many give him credit for.

Doncic again made his case to be the No. 1 pick at Euroleague Final Four

No moment is too big for Doncic. He proved this during Slovenia’s shocking gold-medal run in Eurobasket last summer. He proved it again at the Final Four of Euroleague this past weekend.

At just 19 years old, on the same court as players with NBA experience who are 10 years older than him, Doncic was the leading force for a championship team. He might not average 25 points per game in the NBA. He’ll never be the fastest runner or the greatest leaper. But when you take a step back and think about what Doncic has done at his age, against a level of competition that goes far beyond college basketball, his accomplishments are truly incredible.

Luka Doncic is a stud. Pass on him in the NBA Draft at your own peril.