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ESPN reports “50/50” chance Doncic falls out of top three — and what that means for the Mavericks

Is the Slovenian prospect falling on draft boards, or is this all much ado about nothing?

Basketball: Luka Doncic Sipa USA-USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s lying season.

The NBA draft isn’t until June 21st, and that means we have a little less than a month of misleading, disinformation-spreading, posturing, and outright fabricating, as both the front offices of NBA teams and agents of draft prospects use all the media tools at their disposal to best position themselves. It happens every year, and yet every year most of us fall for it.

So, with that as our lens, let’s take a look at some curious bits from an ESPN article that dropped this morning.

Courtesy of ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Kevin Pelton:

Barring a trade, I’d say Doncic being drafted in the top three is no better than 50-50. I’ve felt an increasing disparity the past few months between the public’s bullish perception of Doncic -- which we share -- and what NBA executives say privately. While I believe they are overthinking things, the skepticism is a lot more prevalent than expected.

And a little more about how the Mavs might get in the mix:

How interested Doncic might be in playing for the Grizzlies (especially seeing Dallas right behind them at No. 5) is another story altogether.

We talked about the Mavs already. I could see them (or another team) trying to jump ahead of Memphis. Would they put a future first-rounder on the table for the right to move up two spots to No. 3? It’s plausible, though the word around the NBA is that the Atlanta Hawks covet Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marvin Bagley III. Would either of those guys be there at No. 5 if Atlanta moved down?

The Kings are also worth monitoring. They were reportedly one of the teams that were highest on Michael Porter Jr. before they moved up from No. 7 to No. 2 in the lottery. Would they look to slide down a few spots to take Porter and pick up another asset in the process? They don’t have a draft pick in either round in 2019 at the moment, which has to be a little scary considering how far away they are from contending for a playoff spot.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors that teams picking at #2 and #3 might prefer one of the highly touted college big men over Doncic. What, of course, isn’t addressed there is that Doncic could very well still go first overall to the Phoenix Suns, who recently hired Igor Kokoškov, Doncic’s coach for the gold medal winning Slovenian National Team.

It is pretty shocking just how much smoke seems to be emanating from the “Doncic falls” forest, and this kind of multi-team negativity toward one specific prospect isn’t exactly a yearly occurrence. If a team is really interested in Doncic and is trying to throw others off the scent, does bashing him in the media really help that cause? As opposed to simply heaping praise on someone else? (The “Ntilikina maneuver,” let’s call it.)

What is also interesting is that the article notes that Memphis may be skeptical of Doncic, which contradicts previous analysis that suggested he was their top man (given their need at wing and their desire to compete right away).

While we shouldn’t place this as anything other than a long, longshot, it at least slightly cracks open the door for Doncic falling all the way to Dallas at #5, something previously considered unthinkable.

Remember, NBA GM’s are human beings, and there’s a abundance of evidence that human beings are capable of immense stupidity. Consider that during the NFL Draft process, teams were still trying to get Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson to switch to wide receiver. In 2018. With Russell Wilson winning Super Bowls, Cam Newton winning MVPs, and Dak Prescott winning over Dallas Cowboys fans.

If you don’t follow that analogy, what it means is that old paradigms are very hard to kill. For whatever reason, European players (especially those lacking pigment) are still viewed as soft, un-athletic, and underprepared for the NBA grind. One imagines that if Doncic had played for UNC instead of Real Madrid, the conversation would be very different. But that’s life.

I’ve put this thought out there already, but if Phoenix does take Ayton (and right now I am personally still leaning toward that not happening, but let’s pretend), I would be very interested in seeing what kind of offer Sacramento wants for the #2 pick. Keep in mind, the Kings don’t have a first round pick next year, and Dallas has the cap space to absorb some bad contracts for the right deal. I would want any future pick to have protections, but perhaps sending away Wes or even Harrison Barnes would help sweeten the pot?

All this lovely Doncic talk could be for naught, but with a month to go, it’s fun to speculate — and there will be much more speculation to come.