Assessing Luka Doncic in a Spanish ACB League Game

April 22, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, I decided to take another look at watching Real Madrid’s point forward, Luka Doncic, as he could potentially be the top pick of the upcoming NBA draft.  If you haven’t read my earlier posts on him, this might be a good time to read up on that.  Anyways, I managed to watch him play against Fuenlabrada in a Spanish ACB game that was on January 14th, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via Mickey Mickeal, as it was separated into four different installments of the firstsecondthird, and forth quarter.  Here are my thoughts on how Doncic fared, and if there are any notable changes in my assessments in how his skills may project into the next level.

In this game, Doncic displayed tremendous playmaking skills, as he possesses outstanding court vision.  He is an unselfish player that passes and handles the ball very well, and he can make an assortment of passes to set up a wealth of scores for his teammates.  He can throw accurate lobs and interior passes, and he also excels at throwing long, outlet passes to get his teammates scores on fast breaks.  Doncic can find teammates on the move off the dribble, and he also can make quick reads after running off screens to get the ball to them.

Also, he did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  Doncic possesses a really good motor, as he will run in and sprint to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he will usually push the ball up the court off of defensive boards.  He also can use his strength to successfully box out his opponents to get rebounds, and he shows a knack for getting the inside position and chasing down balls to help his team.

Plus, Doncic did a very good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He has fairly good speed and quickness, and he can accelerate to the hoop and go coast to coast to score on strong drives in transition.  Also, he showed a knack for drawing fouls upon the opposition, as he is a deft ball handler, and he can get rebounds in traffic.  He also showed a solid ability to score on pull-up, mid-range jumpers.  On one play, Doncic managed to use a crossover and a quick, step back move prior to knocking down the jump shot.   He also used another quick, step back move as he leaned in to draw free throws on another pull-up, jumper.

However, he struggled more to score consistently on half-court drives.  He had more trouble consistently getting all the way to the basket in this game, and he would take some tough shots that led to misses.  He missed once after using a nifty behind the back move to attempt a one-legged fadeaway jumper, and he also collided into a defender but missed while trying to draw a foul another time.  But Doncic was able to drive off of a screen and accelerate, as he used a crafty overhead ball fake to score on a layup once.

On the other hand, Doncic has struggled with his three-point shot over the past couple of months, as defenses may be gearing up for him more than ever recently.  Doncic did show very good footwork to take jumpers, as he used a jab step and a nifty step back to take one three, but he missed that time, and he also missed on another three-point shot.  But certainly, when Doncic knocks down long-range jumpers, it really opens things up for him offensively.

He also showed off fairly average defensive skills.  For the positives, Doncic has good anticipation skills, and he is a deceptively quick player that will play passing lanes, and he was able to use his length to force an opponent to throw the ball out of bounds.  Also, he rotated quickly to poke a ball out of bounds to almost get a steal for his team on one possession.  In addition, he also will fight through screens, and he also blocked a shot once in this game.

However, Doncic may still need to improve his position defense.  He may not possess elite lateral quickness, and there were times where he would get beat off the dribble that would lead to scores for the opposition.  He also would commit reach-in fouls generally due to over-aggressiveness, as he did so once when defending in the post on a bigger player, and another time he tried to use the back tap move in an attempt to force a turnover.

In general, Luka Doncic is a solid player that will likely be a top 5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.  His blend of having the smarts, skills, and size to play multiple positions could allow him to make an immediate impact on the offensive end, as he can play the point as well as off the ball.  He will need to consistently make more jumpers and improve his position defense, but his superb playmaking skills combined with having a terrific basketball IQ could make him potentially the best player in this draft class.

Other Notes:

Real Madrid’s 6-7 swingman, Santiago Yusta started this game, and his performance was a mixed bag on this day.  He didn’t look to score often, but he showed a good ability to score on hustle plays.  His best play of the game on offense was when he went in and leapt up to get an offensive board, and he scored quickly on a tip in as due to possessing a solid motor as well as adequate athletic gifts.  Yusta also would run the floor, and he also would look to score off cuts on other offensive possessions.

Plus, he also played unselfishly.  Yusta threw a crosscourt pass to a shooter that ran off of a screen, and he also did a good job of throwing accurate entry passes to his teammates to set up scoring chances for them.  He also was able to grab a board on each end of the floor, and he is a decent rebounder that will make hustle plays.

Defensively, he had his ups and downs.  Yusta struggled noticeably on the defensive end in the first quarter when he had to guard Christian Eyenga.  Later on, Yusta played better defensively in the fourth quarter, but defending Eyenga appeared to be too much for him at the onset of this contest.  For the positives, Yusta was able to dive on the ground for a loose ball to tie up an opponent, as he was able to get a steal on that play.  He also would quickly fight through screens, and he also rotated to contest a drive to force a miss.

However, he had some trouble defending in the post.  He was called for a touch foul early in this match.  Then, he whiffed on a steal attempt when attempting to defend on the block another time, which led him to be out of position due to the bad gamble, as he ended up allowing his opponent to score on a jump hook.  He also had some trouble defending opponents off the dribble.  He bit on a pump fake once, which caused his teammate to foul an opponent on a dunk attempt off of a drive.   Another time, he rotated on a drive to commit a hard, reach-in foul.

In summary, Santiago Yusta did not have his best game, but he was able to have some good moments at times in his team’s win against Fuenlabrada.  Yusta will need to get more playing time as well as to be more assertive on offense, and he will have to work hard to hone his overall game.  Right now, he may likely not be ready to play in the NBA right now, but if he decides to enter the draft, he could potentially end up going in the second round as a draft and stash pick, as he could project to be a 3 and D type of player in the future.

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