LAS VEGAS — The Dallas Mavericks believe they got the best player in the draft by trading up to select Slovenian swingman Luka Doncic with the third overall pick.
“He was the top player on our board,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban told ESPN. “It wasn’t even close.”
Doncic sat out Dallas’ summer league opener on Friday, a 92-85 loss to the Phoenix Suns and No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton, who had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, eight rebounds and a blocked shot in 22 minutes. Dallas is working to finalize Doncic’s buyout with Real Madrid, but he will likely play only one game if at all during summer league, as the Mavs want their prized rookie to rest after his season in Europe ended two days before the draft.
Doncic, 19, became the youngest player to be named EuroLeague MVP while leading Real Madrid to a title this season. The Mavs pounced on the opportunity to trade up two spots for Doncic, gladly paying the price of a first-round pick that will be top-five-protected the next two years to acquire Doncic’s rights from the Atlanta Hawks, who had guard Trae Young targeted with the fifth overall pick.
“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 said. “You just want that player.”
The Mavs think Doncic has rare court vision and passing skills, particularly for a 6-foot-7, 218-pound player, and extremely polished skills.
Cuban acknowledged that there are questions about Doncic’s athleticism, but he downplayed the Mavs’ concerns with that issue. Doncic, who has never participated in a serious strength and conditioning program, will spend the summer in Dallas working under the supervision of Mavs athletic performance director Jeremy Holsopple.
“He’s just got to get stronger and a little bit more physical for our game, but he’s got all the opportunities right in front of him to be amazing,” Cuban said. “People talk about his athleticism. He hasn’t really worked on his athleticism ever. Most 17-, 18-year-old kids don’t. It’s when they get into the pros or particularly the NBA. I think with Jeremy working with him, he’s going to improve. It’s already good.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on the kid, but we’re excited that we got him.”
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