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NBA Draft 2018: Mavericks trade up to third; get a franchise-changing player in Luka Doncic

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Real Madrid v Boston Celtics Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The NBA Draft, held Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, had plenty of hype and mystery near the top of the order. With no clear consensus on how teams saw this year’s draft class, it’s been anybody’s guess on where each player would go.

The Mavericks wanted a franchise-changing player, though, and knew they had to make a trade to get the best player in the draft. Atlanta and Dallas swapped picks, and Dallas will send a future first round pick with various protections over the next five years to Atlanta.

Though it looked impossible, Euro sensation Luka Dončić is now going to be a Dallas Maverick. The 6’8, 228 pound Slovenian wing that just finished play with Real Madrid in Spain, becomes the highest selection for the Mavericks since Jason Kidd was picked second overall in 1994 (Robert Traylor was technically drafted by Dallas at sixth in 1998, but was part of a draft-night trade to acquire some foreigner named Dirk Nowitzki).

Having played with Real Madrid since he was 16, Dončić makes the move to the NBA almost like a seasoned veteran, though he turned 19 in February. Leading his team to the Euroleague title last month, Dončić averaged 14.5 points, five rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 25 minutes per game; while also taking home the Euroleage MVP and Rising Star award. Dončić finished the ACB finals this week.

For the Mavericks, they are getting a dynamic wing that can play off the ball, or be a primary distributor and playmaker in the offense — an ideal pairing with Dennis Smith Jr., relieving some pressure for him to create on his own. Dončić is a high level passer, capable shooter, and though he doesn’t possess elite athleticism, is incredibly savvy in traffic. With capabilities to play 1-4 on offense, and guard multiple positions on defense, the Mavericks have the kind of elite wing prospect that the modern NBA survives on. Here is our profile on Luka Dončić to refresh your memory.

Here are the protections on the traded pick, per Marc Stein:

We’ll have more on Dončić, and the Mavericks’ other draft picks, in the days to come.