And the first pick of the 2018 NBA Draft is . . . Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, according to our initial 2017-18 Mock Draft. Nearly an infinite number of things could change between now and June’s actual draft, but right now, we like the all-around, polished game that the young Real Madrid star brings to the table. We are currently projecting Doncic to be taken by the Atlanta Hawks, followed by the Bulls taking Duke PF Marvin Bagley at No. 2 and the Cavaliers (from the Nets) taking Missouri SF/PF Michael Porter at No. 3.
Looking over my scouting notes from this summer, I described Doncic with phrases such as “ball is on a string,” “great vision and decisions,” “crafty,” “deep range,” “good body control,” and “enthusiastic.” Doncic has the size (6-8, 220-plus) to play small forward and the skills to run the point. He is a good athlete, an excellent passer, and a willing defender. And he can score in multiple ways — off the drive, pulling up, and spotting up.
What really separates Doncic from the rest of the pack is his experience. The 18-year-old began playing at the highest level of basketball outside the NBA in 2015. He’s a fourth-year pro who will not turn 19 until the end of February. So far this season, Doncic has five games under his belt with Real Madrid (4 in the Spanish ACB and 1 in Euroleague). He’s averaging 26 minutes, 14.8 points, 5.2 assists, and 6 rebounds per game, with a PER of 25.3.
Of course, it’s very early — the college season is nearly a month away from starting. We have yet to get a good look at freshmen like Bagley and Porter, for example. And so many other things will change that will affect our mock draft as the season moves along — injuries, trades, the standings, and so on. This is a work in progress, so stay tuned.