Generally, teams need to land the first overall pick to select the top player on their draft board, but with a package centered around the fifth overall pick, the Mavericks were able to move up and get Luka Doncic at three.
“He was the top player on our board,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban told ESPN. “It wasn’t even close.”
Considering what Mavericks general manager told KTCK 1310AM The Ticket in early June when asked about the fifth overall pick, it’s fair to wonder how high Doncic was on other teams’ boards.
“It is what it is. The good news is there are a number of players that are in there that we feel really, really good about. Everyone pretty much has Ayton at the top of the food chain, and then after that there’s a good chunk of players that goes certainly past five, well past five, that we feel really really good about.”
This might just be gamesmanship from Nelson, but the fact remains Phoenix, Sacramento and Atlanta all had opportunities to take Doncic, so it’s certainly possible he was no higher than fourth or fifth on some teams’ boards.
Doncic was somewhat of a polarizing prospect heading into the June 21 draft. Arguably the most accomplished European prospect ever, teams still questioned Doncic’s athleticism and wondered if his game could translate to the bigger, faster NBA.
While Doncic mystified general managers, DeAndre Ayton rose to the top of most draft boards and wound up going first overall, followed by Duke’s Marvin Bagley III to the Sacramento Kings. With the Atlanta Hawks zeroing in on Trae Young, the Mavericks shrewdly surrendered the fifth overall pick and a protected future first to nab the top prospect on their board.
Whether Doncic pans out or not, the draft day strategy can’t be faulted.
“The logic is, if you think he’s a game-changing player for you, a franchise-changing player, you don’t care about your next pick,” Cuban told ESPN. “You just want that player.”
The Mavericks move is similar to an NFL team offering a plethora of picks to move up for their desired quarterback. If you think this is ‘the guy’, you do what you have to do to get him. The thing about Doncic is he doesn’t represent any more risk than any of the NCAA prospects.
In fact, the native Slovenian has a proven track record. He led the Slovenian national team to a Eurobasket championship. He’s a EuroLeague MVP and EuroLeague Final Four MVP. He led Real Madrid to a Spanish ACB League championship and was named MVP of that league as well.
That’s unprecedented for a European basketball player, let alone a teenager.
The Mavericks are still waiting for the legality hurdles to be cleared before the prized rookie can take the court in Las Vegas, but the team is happy to be patient.
After all, the team can afford to show a little patience after a stroke of good fortune and opportunity allowed the top player on the Mavericks board to land in Dallas.