Bryan Oringher spent the past 7 seasons working in the NBA. He spent 4 years traveling with the Washington Wizards as their Head Video Coordinator. Last season he did regional Advance Scouting for the Hawks and Raptors. He can be followed on Twitter @ScoutWithBryan and you can catch up on all his prior videos and content at ScoutWithBryan.com.
Check out this video Bryan put together of an in-depth breakdown of Luka Doncic’s game, looking at his P/Rs, post ups, shot-making, and veteran gamesmanship.
Rich Cho advocated for an Eyes, Ears, and Numbers approach when he was the Hornets’ GM.
I like numbers. I like to listen. But what I trust most are my eyes.
I’ve seen some of the advance stats saying the Mavs are better without Luka on the floor. I’ve read some of the people saying he’ll be a bust or people saying he’s the second coming of Steve Nash. But what I hadn’t done is really watched Luka on my own. I don’t believe honestly in getting caught up in all the hype. College basketball is completely unwatchable to me. I would watch European basketball but I love the NBA too much. With the Wizards, I basically watched 3 full NBA games every single day for 6 straight years. That’s a lot of basketball. So I trust my eyes pretty well.
Over the last few days I sat down and watched the Mavericks games against POR, HOU, BOS, and BKN. I watched every minute he was on the floor. And I basically just watched...him.
Here are my main takeaways:
- The kid is really, really good. I asked for some NBA comparisons but to be honest I don’t think anyone fits perfectly. Maybe Mavericks fans hated the Hedo Turkoglu comparison but I honestly see a lot of similarities. Look at Turkoglu’s stats below in 2007-08 when he won Most Improved Player. Turkoglu playing in the modern spread P/R souped up NBA could’ve been damn good. If Turk had that consistency his whole career, he would’ve been a multiple time All-Star. Unfortunately his career took a while to get going and then fell off pretty fast. But basically I see Luka RIGHT NOW as that MIP version of Hedo. Mix in some Steve Nash, Steph Curry, Brandon Roy, Greivis Vasquez...and how hard he wants to work...and Luka can easily be an All-Star in the league. There’s no question.
- That said, Mavericks fans shouldn’t be parading around like they won the championship. He’s great, but it’s too early to be claiming victory over Trae Young, Ayton, or anyone else for that matter. And there’s no reason to measure Luka’s whole career against them. Let him be him. He is a brilliant player. He’s been a pro for a long time. He sees the floor, makes the right reads, and is a brilliant lob passer. He shoots with a ton of confidence, has phenomenal touch around the basket, has some post game, and can get his own shot off with a nice “iso” package. I would love to see what he looks like in a year or two after working with NBA strength coaches and really getting his body right. But his upside might be pretty limited and I agree with the general sentiment that there may not be leaps and bounds better than this. I think he can improve his conditioning a lot and his body and play with a lower center of gravity but I also see the limitations and doubts that some scouts saw.
- The definition of athleticism has varied greatly. Luka without question has great balance and coordination. But I would agree that he’s obviously slow-footed and a bit ‘plodding’. He gets the most out of what he has, without question. But the Mavericks are deathly afraid of having him guard anyone with any quickness. They hide him defensively. I saw him guard Jared Dudley, Mo Harkless, Evan Turner, Marcus Morris, and a Gary Clark/James Ennis mix. Dallas is fine sometimes switching guard to guard screens with their other smalls. With Luka, they try to have him “show” and desperately try to avoid ever having him matched up with quick ball handlers. This can be a problem come playoff time. Houston and Golden State will do everything they can to target him on switches and get Harden and Curry matched up with him. On the slow guys he does guard, he does just fine. He’s a good team help defender and has pretty good awareness. He doesn’t box out much and can give up some offensive rebounds from the corner, but he also has a pretty good sense for the ball and is good at just grabbing rebounds and pushing the break. But he looks like a slow 3/4 defensively, which may be another reason why you do need Dennis Smith alongside him long-term.
- I also think Dallas clearly doesn’t view him as a complete point guard. I think he’s a more versatile point forward type and I think Carlisle does too. They let him handle when he rebounds. They put him in some “Spain” P/Rs and he can run the show when Smith is out. Most teams need two good ball handlers anyway, like Paul and Harden. I think those guys can play together and do it for a long time. He’s a great secondary ball handler and hopefully he can pick up more and more tricks from Barea and limit some of the overly risky turnovers. Smith and Doncic I think can be great together sharing play-making duty surrounded by a supporting cast similar to the one Dallas has now. Do not underestimate how important having a great lob guy like DeAndre Jordan has been for Luka. They will need that type of player for him going forward always.
All in all, he’s super crafty, super skilled, and has super swagger. That’s a pretty good recipe. The future is bright in Dallas. I don’t see Steve Nash, but I see a brilliant young kid with so much intelligence and so many tricks to his game. And who knows? Maybe Luka’s swagger and work ethic will allow him to surpass the upside limitations I see and maybe he continues to shock the world. But either way - he’s a damn good player, far ahead of anyone else in the draft class right now, and will be a centerpiece for a long, long time.