Analyzing Luka Doncic and Others in a Spanish ACB League Game

October 12, 2017

By Alan Lu

Real Madrid’s 6-7 Slovenian swingman Luka Doncic has been mentioned as a possible number one overall pick for the 2018 NBA Draft.  I had watched him play twice before over the course of the 2016-17 season, but this time he will likely be scrutinized more by NBA teams and by people around the world as we progress through the year. 

He had played very well this summer in Eurobasket, and I wanted to take the time to see how well he would fare in the regular season to see him play as well as to see if that momentum would carry.  Doncic has had a relatively uneven start to the start of the 2017-18 season in the Spanish ACB League, but even so, it’s clear that he is a tremendously skilled player from what I have seen.  With thanks to YouTube via Mickey Mickeal, as I was able to see him play against CAI Zaragoza in an October 8th game, as the video was split into parts 12, and 3.

Luka Doncic is a fantastic playmaker that possesses a terrific blend of having great court vision, basketball IQ, and ball handling skills.  He really excels at reading the defenses on the fly, as he can collect defensive rebounds, push the pace, and make nifty dribble moves or passes to set up a wealth of scores for his teammates.  Doncic plays with great patience, as he can change speeds, weave between multiple defenders, and he can find open teammates in a variety of ways.

He can use behind the back moves, as he did so once on the break to find a teammate ahead to get one assist.  On another play, Doncic made a quick back cut to the hoop, received the pass inside, and promptly threw a savvy behind the back pass to a cutter to set up a score on a give and go.  He also can throw long outlet passes to catch defenses off guard, and he is a great passer from the post. 

Doncic also possesses a good ability to get scores off the dribble.  He has an adequate first step to the hoop, and Doncic is a crafty player that knows how to change speeds and finish plays around the basket. He regularly was able to garner scores on drives to the basket, and on one play, he used a step-through move to get a nifty score in the paint.  Plus, he showed a good ability to score on hustle plays.  Doncic will constantly look to find ways to help his team get buckets on offense, and he was able to draw free throws on a quick put back after initially missing a shot around the basket previously.  Doncic also will make quick back door cuts to the hoop, and his strong ability to move off the ball and make decisions makes him very tough for defenses to stop regardless if the ball is in his hands or not.

He also showed a decent ability to knock down jumpers.  Though Doncic has struggled with his three-point shot early in this season in the Spanish ACB League, he has good form on his shot, and he can make threes off the catch with relative ease.  He also possesses solid footwork; on one offensive possession he drove quickly off of a screen, but he missed a step back, pull-up, mid-range jumper another time.

Also, Doncic did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He will put himself in the right spots due to his positioning ability, and he will usually push the pace off of defensive rebounds to set up fast break scoring opportunities for his team.  Doncic also managed to leap up to get a tough offensive board in traffic.  Though he may not possess great vertical leaping skills, he is quick, has a knack for making smart plays on the court, and he will often capitalize on his defensive rebounds as he can often find teammates on the break or set up early offense.

He also possesses adequate defensive skills.  Doncic generally does a good job of defending screens as he will look to quickly get around them, and he will use his length and footwork to contest jumpers to force misses.  Plus, he will also get his hands on balls to help get his team some steals and deflections, but sometimes, he can have lapses defensively.  Occasionally, he may be late on rotations, which can lead his team to allow scores or him to commit fouls at times.  Doncic does not seem to possess elite lateral quickness, so he may end up having more trouble against more skilled offensive players at the NBA level.

Right now, Luka Doncic is a terrific prospect, as he possesses really strong offensive skills, smarts, and intangibles, and he can comfortably run the point or play off the ball.  His superb court vision, basketball savvy, and offensive skills should make him a likely top 3 pick in 2018 if he decides to enter the draft, as long as he stays healthy and if there is no significant drop off in his overall play later on.

Other Notes:

Real Madrid’s 6-7 swingman, Santiago Yusta from Spain had a decent showing in his team’s win over CAI Zaragoza.  He was able to score in a variety of ways, and he also showed some playmaking and defensive skills when he was on the floor.  Yusta does a very good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He really knows how to move off the ball on offense, as he can score on quick cuts to the hoop, and he also managed to score on a quick tip-in late in the game.  Plus, he also managed to make an open three from the wing, but he struggled to be consistent in knocking down long-range jumpers in spot-up situations.

 He also showed some ball handling skills.  Yusta was able to bring the ball up a couple of times, and he showed the willingness to pass the ball mid-court when facing fairly heavy ball pressure.  He may not be an elite ball handler, but he is a smart basketball player that knows how to read and make plays decisively.  Also, he managed to get a board on both ends of the floor.  Plus, he may also be a fairly good defensive player, as he is an active defender that possesses good footwork, will pressure ball handlers, and he can heap on loose balls to help get his team steals and deflections.  But every once in a wile, he may have lapses, which can lead his team to allow scores on occasion.

Overall, Santiago Yusta is an intriguing prospect, as he may have a variety of skills on both ends of the floor, and he could be an upside pick for an NBA team in the second round.  If he gets more playing time throughout the year, he may possibly be able to sneak his way into the first round.  If he continues to hone his skills over time, he could perhaps one day end up being a good role player in the NBA.

Real Madrid’s 6-7 forward, Dino Radoncic did not play much, but he appeared to have an interesting skill set when he was on the floor.  He is a fairly good athlete that can attack the basket to garner scores, as he did so once to score on a drive to the hoop.  He did so by taking advantage of a smaller guard that was shading to his right, so Radoncic drove left to go by him to later score the basketball.   He did miss a shot in transition, but he does seem to possess good speed in running the floor.

Radoncic also may be an adequate defensive player.  He is a high motor player that will stay with plays, and he will use his length and footwork to active challenge shots.  He almost made a fantastic block after appearing to over-rotate on a drive, only to be called for a foul despite appearing to get all ball on the play.  Plus, he also managed to force a miss another time when defending in the post.  He also managed to grab a rebound, as he leapt up to get a defensive board once, and quickly pushed the pace as he brought the ball up the floor that time.

Right now, Radoncic might not be a polished player, but he could be an intriguing draft and stash pick for an NBA team in the second round down the road.  Radoncic will need to show teams that he can shoot the basketball and get more minutes on the court, but his motor, athleticism, and potential to develop as a two-way player could make him an interesting long-term prospect for the NBA in the future.

CAI Zaragoza’s 6-3, 1997-born point guard, Sergi Garcia played fairly well in his team’s loss to Real Madrid.  Though he did not shoot the ball well, he showed solid playmaking skills, smarts, and motor when he was on the floor.  Garcia is an unselfish player that possesses solid court vision and playmaking skills.  He is adept at finding his teammates after dribbling off of screens, as he can often find roll men and shooters to set up a multitude of scoring chances for his team.  Plus, he is a crafty player that can make dump off passes, and he can also find cutters on the move.  But sometimes, he can be too passive on offense, as opponents may pick up on this tendency to intercept his passes.

Garcia also possesses an adequate ability to garner scores off the dribble.  Though he lacks an elite burst to the hoop, Garcia is deceptively quick, and he possesses a good scoring touch, as he can make a floater off the dribble.  Sometimes, he may go in too recklessly on his drives, which can lead to misses, however.   Garcia did not shoot the ball well though, as he struggled to make jumpers throughout the game.

He may also possess fairly average defensive skills.  Garcia is an active defender that can get steals for his team, as he can use his instincts to poke balls away, and he will look to heap on loose balls other times.  He will look to play passing lanes, and he has quick hands which can be bothersome to his opponents.  However, he tends to struggle as a position defender.  He does not possess great lateral quickness, as he can get beat off the dribble, and sometimes, he will be out of position, which can lead him to allowing scores.  He doesn’t always put himself in the right spots, as that can lead his team to scramble, which may throw their rotations off on defense.

In general, Sergi Garcia may project to be a longshot to be drafted, but his smarts and playmaking skills should allow him to thrive as a role player overseas.  His average athleticism, combined with a lack of jump shot may give NBA teams pause before thinking to draft him, but Garcia is a steady, reliable playmaker when the ball is in his hands, as that could help him have a long career internationally.

CAI Zaragoza’s 6-8, 1997-born swingman, Lovro Mazalin did not have a great game overall, but he did show some skills in his team’s loss to Real Madrid.  He was a starter as he played in the 1st and 4th quarters, and he played decently early on.  He later struggled considerably late in the game, but he was able to make some plays when he was on the floor.  Mazalin is a tall, point forward type of player that plays unselfishly.  He is a good playmaker that tends to make crisp reads, accurate passes, and on one play, he threw a quick outlet pass to a man ahead on the break to get an assist.

When he looks to score, he seemed to look to exclusively attack the basket to try to garner scores.  He would actively look to score off the dribble on isolation plays, but rarely had much success, as he would tend to be out of control in those situations, though he did manage to draw a foul on a play where an opponent appeared to cleanly block his shot.  Another time, Mazalin looked to score in the post, but he missed a contested fadeaway jumper after failing to get deep position inside the paint.

Defensively, he appeared to be a mixed bag.  Mazalin did show a good ability to play passing lanes, as he is a quick, mobile forward that managed to deftly intercept a pass to get a steal early in the first quarter.  But he also may struggle as a position defender, as he can get beat off the dribble by quicker players.  He also can be over-aggressive at times, and on one play, he committed a foul on a mid-range jumper due to over-playing the shot.

Right now, Lovro Mazalin is an unpolished player, and he may have ways to go as a prospect for the NBA.  He will still need to continue to develop his overall game, and most importantly, he will have to improve his jump shot and position defense considerably.  If he can do those things, perhaps he could end up being a second round pick in the future.

CAI Zaragoza’s 6-8, 1997-born forward Jonathan Barreiro played sparingly against Real Madrid.  He’s a spot up shooter that can make the occasional three off the catch, and while he may only be an average athlete, he also managed to draw a foul off of a drive to the hoop.  Plus, he is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man on offense.  Also, he may be a decent defensive player, as he possesses adequate footwork, and he will look to contest shots to force misses.  Right now, Barreiro will need to get more playing time, but he could be an interesting player to keep an eye on down the road.

Other Notes Part II:

One player that really impressed me was Real Madrid’s vastly athetic big man and former 2008 lottery pick, Anthony Randolph.  Not only was he protecting the paint for his team by swatting a wealth of shots to prevent opponents from scoring on layups around the hoop, but Randolph’s offensive skills have seemed to improve considerably.

In the previous games that I saw Luka Doncic, Randolph was knocking down spot-up threes off the catch, as he can thrive in a stretch big role, but he also can really handle the basketball.  On one play in the fourth quarter of this game against CAI Zaragoza, Randolph played a passing lane, and managed to heap on a loose ball to get a steal.  Then, he went coast to coast on the break, used a behind the back dribble move to prevent a smaller guard from being able to swipe the ball away, and Randolph ended up throwing down a thunderous, one-handed dunk while drawing an extra free throw on the play.

He’s been very vital to Real Madrid’s success with his strong all-around play on both ends of the floor, and Randolph’s on-court game may be similar to that of Lamar Odom or Draymond Green in Europe.  With his skill set, Randolph could fit in well in today’s modern NBA, and teams should look to have him make a comeback to the association soon.

Overall, those were my assessments on Luka Doncic and others in a game that was played on October 8th between Real Madrid and CAI Zaragoza.  Doncic impressed me the most, as his strong offensive skills and court sense combined with his tremendous ability to run the point could make him a potential number one overall pick in 2018.  The other prospects look considerably less polished than Doncic, but could be second round candidates if they continue to hone their games.  Among the non-draft eligible players, Anthony Randolph looked to be the best player among veterans that were already in previous drafts.  These are reports on how they played and how they may fare in the NBA as of now, and thank you for reading.