The Dončić Dossier Vol. 2 — vs. CSKA Moscow

Image: Real Madrid.com via ÁNGEL MARTÍNEZ

Week number two of the 2017-18 EuroLeague season saw Real Madrid play their first home game of the season against EuroLeague juggernauts CSKA Moscow on October 19th.

For those who don’t know, CSKA Moscow are serious business when it comes to basketball.

Not only have they absolutely dominated basketball in Russia for almost three decades, they’re also one of top dogs in EuroLeague, winning the EuroLeague title in 2015-16 as boasting well as a bunch of runner-up and Final Four mentions since 2003. They usually have the best players on their side, currently including 2016 regular season MVP Nando de Colo, former EuroLeague MVP Sergio Rodríguez, and in the past until very recently, another former MVP in Miloš Teodosić.

CSKA are, more often than not, amongst the elite teams in EuroLeague, and as of writing this they currently top the EuroLeague standings with a 13-4 record.

So, a big early season test for Real Madrid and Luka Dončić, who started this game after his big performance in the last game vs. Efes.

Offense/scoring

It wasn’t as good of an offensive game for Dončić in this one as he scored 14 points on just 2-of-8 shooting, 1-of-6 from three, (but) 9-of-11 from the line, six rebounds, two assists, two steals, two turnovers, one block and a PIR of 21 in 26 minutes in a 82-69 victory.

Dončić only took eight shots in this game and six of them were three-pointers. Though he missed five of them, Dončić had worked himself into great positions to take those threes — the shots just didn’t fall.

Let’s look at the one he made first.

After passing out of a trap, Dončić reclaims possession of the ball well behind the three-point line before going behind the screen and is switched onto. He deceives the defender into thinking he’s going to drive by him, pulling back instead before hitting the deep three-pointer:

The FIBA three-point line is a closer in than the NBA three, but there’s no doubt that’s an NBA three-pointer made by Dončić here.

Dončić missed five three-pointers but how he worked himself into those positions was really impressive.

Gustavo Ayon sets a screen behind the three-point line but Nikita Kurbanov does well to fight over the screen and stay in front of Dončić. But he stands no chance of sticking with him when Dončić hits him with a lethal combination of dribble and step-back, and it leads to a good three-point look:

A little long on the shot, but a great move to create this opportunity on his own.

Again, Dončić chains that dribble-to-step-back move together to shape out a good opportunity from behind the arc:

A little short on this one but, again, the use of dribble and the step-back to create a good-looking opportunity.

I mean, that step-back is just nasty:

A thing of beauty, too bad the shot didn’t go in this time.

Here was Dončić’s other made field goal from this game, sneaking in for an offensive rebound and scores, plus the foul:

Will Clyburn could’ve done a bit more here to prevent Dončić from claiming this rebound…

One more thing to add before we get to the main part of Dončić’s scoring in this game… I liked this dribble and drive off of the closeout into a pull-up J, but the shot rattles in and out:

Loved the slight hesitation from Dončić as the defender commits to the closeout…

The majority of Dončić’s scoring came from the free throw line where he was 9-of-11. Part of that was Madrid being in the bonus but Dončić did a good job drawing fouls too.

Here, off of the miss, Dončić is handed the ball, pushes in transition, goes behind his back to beat a defender and gets to the paint where he draws a foul:

The transition game is something that Dončić likes to get involved in.

Off of a CSKA miss, he runs the floor, gets the ball and draws the foul near the rim after it’s deflected (and then proceeds to make a ridiculous layup after the whistle):

Just wanted an excuse to show that layup, really (and a layup that didn’t count, no less)…

Off of a Madrid miss, Nando de Colo rises to claim the rebound but as he comes down, Dončić is there to disrupt him and the ball is knocked away. As Dončić tries to gather the ball with his right hand, it flies out of his hand and into the hands of Semen Antonov, who can’t keep hold of it and Dončić is on-hand to capitalise and he draws the shooting foul:

A bit of a wild play but it was good to see Dončić cause a bit of havoc and stick with the play when it went wrong and he was rewarded with free throws.

In the last game we saw Dončić go to his post game but only in the fourth quarter. Against CSKA Dončić, again, waited until the fourth quarter to pull out the post game but when he did it was effective, leading to fouls and foul shots on both occasions.

Here, Dončić catches the ball on the right block, goes to work on Cory Higgins and draws the foul before the double comes, leading to Dončić to the free throw line:

Not long after this, Dončić goes to his post game again, this time being switched onto by Vitaly Fridzon. Dončić gets to his spot and gets to work. As he spins to go to his favoured right hand he draws the foul on the push and heads back to the free throw line for two more free throws:

I hope whichever team ends up drafting Dončić, they continue to work on his post-game. He’s clearly competent in the post, and it just adds another dimension to his offensive game. It’s always good to have another weapon in the arsenal…

So, that was the good from Dončić in this game. Really, there were only two possessions from him that weren’t ideal when it came to his offense (again, this does not include his assists/playmaking).

Here, Dončić dances behind the body of Gustavo Ayon but can’t get anything going as Cory Higgins defends this possession very well. In the end, no one else touches the ball as Dončić launches a three that misses but ends up making up for this by sneaking in for an offensive rebound and scoring, plus the foul:

This wasn’t a good possession because once Dončić gets the ball with 16 seconds left on the shotclock, no one else touches it. The defense of Higgins has to be praised here, but it’s not an ideal possession by Dončić, you’d like to see him involve his teammates here.

Here off of a CSKA miss, Dončić pushes in transition in hopes of finding a hole in the transition defense. He gets to the paint pretty quickly and as he gets to the center of the paint, he is cut off by the CSKA defense. With nothing possible at the rim, Dončić turns and fires a bit of a wild pass which a teammate eventually recovers before a timeout is taken to deal with a shoulder injury to Anthony Randolph:

There didn’t seem to be a ‘Plan-B’ for Dončić once the CSKA defense cut off the path to the rim, and Dončić was caught in a bit of trouble. He probably would’ve been better off going to his left side but went straight into the path of multiple bodies, wanting to keep to his right hand.

And that was really it for the ‘meh’ stuff from Dončić when it came to his personal offense. Dončić did play more off-ball in this game than he did against Efes, so this played a small part, but it’s still impressive that he has as minimal bad/less than ideal possessions — for someone who has the ball in his hands as much — as he does.

While Dončić struggled shooting from the floor in this game, he still found a way to be effective scoring the ball by getting to the free throw line a ton. The shots he did miss were mostly threes, but I think the thing to take away from that is not that he missed them — though, of course, you’d like to see him shoot better than 1-of-6 from three — but how he got into the positions to take them: that’s what you should take away here.

Playmaking/passing

Dončić didn’t handle the ball as much in this game as he did against Efes and he racked up just two assists.

But when he did get the chance to make some plays, they were delightful.

Here, Dončić catches the ball on the right block and he’s quickly doubled. As he uses his dribble and spins around, he sees the open Jeffrey Taylor and finds him for a dagger three:

What I loved here was how quickly Dončić made this decision as soon he felt the double team. Quick, instinctive thinking.

And this… This is nuts:

That is something LeBron James would do: that’s a LeBron James pass. And, again similar to a play in the Efes game, when the three goes up Dončić hustling to get into the fray for an offensive rebound should one come about, but in this case the shot went down.

And now for something a bit less sexy but a lot more solid (cc. Leigh Ellis). After spinning past Nikita Kurbanov, Dončić draws the attention of Othello Hunter, who was checking Ayon heading down the floor. Dončić then delivers a perfectly weighted bounce-pass to Ayon, but he is quickly swarmed at the rim and can’t convert at the rim:

Was it the right play to make? Would Jeffrey Taylor — who was pretty open — have been a better option? Possibly, but the execution of the bounce-pass from Dončić was spot on.

There was one particular pass that wasn’t ideal from Dončić in this game. As he prepares to set up in the half-court, he throws a bit of a tame pass that’s deflected and it leads to a difficult situation where CSKA could’ve easily scored:

Dončić finished with two turnovers but I wish the ball was in his hands to create a little more in this game. When he had the ball in his hands against Efes, Dončić made a lot of things happen and that sense of excitement wasn’t there in this one — he had in him but it just wasn’t called upon as much here.

Defense

Dončić wasn’t tested too much defensively against Efes but things were different here…

The main thing put to the test was Dončić’s post defense — he was tested a number of times by Nikita Kurbanov.

There’s a scrap for position between the two, and Kurbanov eventually gets the ball on the block. Once he goes to work, it’s a quick deal for Kurbanov — Dončić just doesn’t have the body mass that Kurbanov has to deal with him down there:

Kurbanov has been playing professional ball for a long time, since 2004. He’s got the experience and the strength to take advantage of this matchup.

Again, Kurbanov catches the ball on the right block and easily backs down Dončić for the ‘and-1’:

It’s a tough matchup for Dončić and CSKA went to it often in the first quarter.

By the third time this happens, I’d say Dončić is sick of it. On the left block this time, as Kurbanov goes to back him down, Dončić decides to reach around and this definitely unsettles Kurbanov, who stumbles into the path of Ayon and Kurbanov passes it to the man underneath the basket. Madrid’s good pressure eventually forces a turnover:

This was risky from Dončić, could’ve easily committed a foul. On this occasion it worked out and CSKA didn’t really go to Kurbanov in the post vs. Dončić in this game.

Outside of that, there were a few defensive possessions worth talking about.

We’ve seen before how Dončić likes the behind-the-back dribble move. Here, he had it unleashed on him, it beat him and it led to a score:

It’s a good move to beat him, but maybe you’d like to see Dončić move his feet a bit better to stay in front of him? I’m probably reaching…

Dončić’s defensive impact improved near the end of the first quarter.

Here, Dončić does a good job staying in front of Will Clyburn on the drive, blocks the shot, Clyburn ends up losing the ball and on the deck before a jump-ball is called:

Clyburn isn’t explosive by any means but it’s still good to see Dončić stay in front of someone like that.

Now for some D at the rim…

After a missed shot, there’s a scramble between Ayon and Kyle Hines. With the way the ball bounced, it eventually ends up behind Ayon and with Hines. Dončić comes over to contest the shot at the rim — arms straight up — successfully does so and a jump-ball is eventually called as Hines is tied up by Ayon:

In transition off of the turnover, Dončić proves to be the last line of defense, and he does a good job forcing the shot adjustment mid-air by Cory Higgins. The shot misses and there’s a foul eventually called on the rebound:

Again, solid. Didn’t get the block but forces the shot adjustment mid-air and that definitely contributed to this miss.

We looked at a clip already where Dončić came up with a steal off of the inbounds pass and got some free throws out of it. It wasn’t the only occasion where a Dončić steal has led to points.

Here, CSKA come in transition. After some bad defense from Randolph, Nando de Colo gets to the left block and arrives at the body of Dončić. Nando turns his back to Dončić, who reaches around and steals the ball from the unsuspecting de Colo. Randolph gets the steal, passes it off, gets it back and dunks it home:

A sucker-punch dunk to go up by 14 points just before half time made possible by the steal by Dončić.

So, the post D wasn’t great (and, look, it was a tough matchup to be fair) but pretty much everything else from Dončić defensively in this game was fairly solid, and that might have surprised you…

General/other

There’s two additional things to mention here and one of them is rebounding… I’m slightly concerned.

Multiple times in this game Dončić was just beaten when it came to rebounding… He was just out-jumped.

Here, Kurbanov travels from almost the three-point line and just leaps higher than Dončić to claim the offensive rebound:

Should Dončić have been more aware of his surroundings? Should he have backed up a bit before climbing for the rebound?

Off of the Ayon miss, Dončić slips in front of Clyburn for the boxout as the ball is in the air but, again, just loses out to Clyburn, who secures the defensive rebound:

You could argue that the bounce simply didn’t go Dončić’s way here but when something like this happens on multiple occasions you do ask yourself the question…

This one is more mental… He doesn’t go attack the rebound like Kurbanov does (who claims the offensive rebound) and then Othello Hunter  is allowed to sneak in by Dončić, who was right there underneath the basket but didn’t really fight for it:

This is worth monitoring going forward. It’s just one game but it was concerning watching it…

We also got to see a bit of fire from Dončić as he earned himself a tech for being demonstrative about not earning — I’m assuming this is what it was — an over-the-back foul after Othello Hunter climbs over him:

In closing vs. CSKA

He didn’t shoot as well in this game but still got himself in great positions, still got it done from the free throw line and still registered a game-high 21 PIR in a win against a quality opponent.

Not as much ball-handling in this one from Dončić in terms of creating offense but when he did it was sweet. Decision making could’ve been better in some spots.

Defense wasn’t great in the post but everything else was fairly solid and that’s encouraging.

The rebounding thing was concerning but we’ll see how that goes as we progress and find out if it was just the matchup/bounce or if it’s a trend.

The Dončić Dossier Vol: 1 – Vs. Efes

Image: Real Madrid.com

Welcome to the first volume of The Dončić Dossier. If you missed the preface or don’t know what’s going on here, here you go. It’s not long, I promise.

Let’s get stuck in.

The first game of the 2017-18 EuroLeague season saw Luka Dončić actually come off of the bench as Real Madrid took on Efes in Istanbul on October 12th.

It wasn’t a matter of how things started but how things finished for Dončić as he scored 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from three, dished four assists, grabbed four rebounds, committed two turnovers and posted a PIR of 32 (Player Index Rating, you can find out how it’s calculated here. It’s very simple to understand and a performance measurement I like a lot) in just 26 minutes as Madrid won convincingly 88-74.

For each of these games, we’re going to break down Dončić’s game into a few categories: ‘Offense/scoring’, ‘Playmaking/passing’, ‘Defense’ and ‘General’ for everything else, should that be necessary.

Let’s not waste time, shall we?

Offense/scoring

It shouldn’t take you long to figure out that Luka Dončić is a fantastic scorer who can get it done in multiple different ways — he has many different tools in the toolbox with which to work with, and we’re going to take a look at how Dončić got to 27 points and some of the other offensive things Dončić did well at in this game.

Here, Dončić drives inside, Josh Adams does a solid job sticking with him until Dončić hesitates slightly, freeing him from his man and Dončić can get off the one-legged bank shot which goes in:

Not spectacular defense here but this is a nice move to shed the defender to free up some space, and to hit it off one leg too…

As the shotclock winds down to finish the first half, Dončić gets the ball and sizes up Ricky Ledo before just toying with him: dribble, dribble, cross, see you later. He gets into the paint but his runner is just a tad long as the half ends:

Loved the confidence from Dončić here and I loved the, almost, savagery too. He really was just playing games here before just breezing past Ledo.

Sometimes Dončić will do that: size up his man and hit him with either a blow by (as you saw with Ricky Ledo) or he’ll just hit a shot over you as he does here with Errick McCollum:

You can also see the size difference that Dončić is likely to boast over his defenders if he’s playing either guard position. Dončić is listed as a guard (point guard on Real Madrid’s official website) and is listed at just under 6’5″. However… Errick McCollum is listed at 6’2″ and look how high Dončić rises above him.

Now, sometimes we know not to take all official height listing seriously. Kevin Durant, for example… There is no way, no way, Dončić is 6’5″. Wikipedia lists Dončić as 6’7″ and DraftExpress actually lists Dončić at 6’8″.

Dončić’s size is elite at either guard position, his size also optimal for a three, possibly even small-ball four which is something we see in the NBA quite a bit of today (though he might lack the raw strength right now for that position). It all depends on the team that drafts him, of course, and what how they want to utilise him.

Now for some pick-and-roll action, where Dončić is quite handy, you could say.

Coming off of the pick-and-roll with Gustavo Ayon, Dončić has Vladamir Stimac back-pedalling but he stops briefly just inside the free throw line, and this allows his man (Dogus Balbay, number 4) to get back into the play before Dončić leans in between Balbay and Ricky Ledo and hits the floater:

You can actually see the strength of Dončić somewhat here as he creates the contact and, kind of, bursts through his man as he rises to hit that floater.

Some more pick-and-roll action: again, Dončić has the big on skates as he gets to the paint off of the pick, goes behind his back to get to his left side, steps back and swishes the mid-range J:

Poor Stimac was absolutely bamboozled by that combination of the behind-the-back dribble and then the step-back.

And again — this time on Josh Adams — at the end of the first quarter: crossover, step-back and swish:

It really doesn’t take long to see why executives are foaming at the mouth to select this guy in the draft.

This crossover of his is borderline nasty. You’ve already seen a numbers of instances where the crossover has freed Dončić up for a shot. Here’s another example. He sizes his man up again, crosses over, gets to the free throw line, steps back and rises:

The shot misses (and you could argue that there’s a slight push-off here) but that combination of crossover and step-back to shed his man created this open opportunity — he won’t miss all of them.

Dončić is shot maker, and a tough shot maker at that. Here, Dončić uses the screen, goes to his left, rises and hits the contested three:

In this situation, maybe you’d like to see Dončić get this shot off a little bit quicker (since his defender is actually able to get back and get his hand up to contest) but a good shot nevertheless, and one of three threes Dončić sunk in this game.

Dončić can mix things up when it comes to his scoring: here he is grabbing an offensive rebound and, again, leans in a bit before floating it home on the second chance opportunity:

What I liked about this play was as soon as Anthony Randolph fired that shot, Dončić was on the move. He doesn’t know that this shot is going to miss but he gets himself in the right position to get the rebound because he doesn’t give up on the play. Some players, and Bismack Biyombo instantly comes to mind, grab offensive rebounds but don’t have the offensive talent to do anything with it once they have it apart from toss it back up if they’re outside of dunking range. Not a problem for Dončić, who has the skills to make the most of these second chances.

He uses that elite size not only on the glass but in the post as well. Here, he backs down Krunoslav Simon in the post, gets near the restricted area, spins to his right and flips it off the glass and in for the ‘and-1’:

To be fair, Simon didn’t really put a lot of physical pressure on Dončić here but this is more about Dončić actually going to that post game and making something happen from it.

So, those were the good things that Dončić did on offense in this game. There’s quite a bit to be impressed by. What about the bad/less than ideal things from the game?

These were pretty infrequent in this game but there were a few things you’d like to see Dončić do better when it came to his offense (we’ll get to playmaking errors in the next heading, this is just when it comes to Dončić’s personal offense/scoring. And, look, some of these, I’ll probably be reaching somewhat and that goes for the highlights too — it’s just what I see when I watch these — so use your own discernment when it comes to these. The objective here is to show you, and you can make up your mind after that).

Sometimes (and it didn’t really happen much at all in this game to be fair) some of the shots Dončić took were a bit meh.

Here, Dončić launches a less than ideal and very deep three when he probably should’ve looked for other options (Ayon in this case):

To make the case for the shot: the shotclock was winding down and Dončić had made a few already threes already but it still wasn’t fantastic. It’s not the range I have an issue with — he can hit it from that range — but maybe something better could’ve been worked with nine seconds on the shotclock remaining when he receives it. Looking at Ayon’s body language after the shot, he wasn’t too plussed with Dončić’s decision.

Here, just some bad offense from Real Madrid in general but Dončić is a part of it. Anthony Randolph does no favours here by wasting four of the 14 seconds left on the shotclock but in his defense there’s no movement going  around him to encourage him to pass it. Eventually, the ball ends up in the hands of Dončić with about seven seconds left on the shotclock. When he gets the ball, Dončić should probably do something with it right away but he hesitates instead. By the time he looks to make his move, the shotclock has ticked just below five and now there’s a sudden pressure to get something done quickly. He doesn’t really get help with the pick from Ayon, who slips it instead of making contact with Dončić’s man. The pass to the rolling Ayon really isn’t there and Dončić’s defender is still with him. In the end, Dončić has to settle for a contested three which hits the backboard and a shotclock violation is called:

Again, it’s a bit of a stretch, but maybe Dončić could’ve been a tad more aware of the clock in this situation. Solid defense from Efes though to not allow the Dončić penetration and keep him on the perimeter.

And those were really the main things that maybe Dončić could’ve done a bit better when it came to his offense/his scoring in this game. You can see early on that he has a variety of moves/ways to score, he’s efficient, his crossover is great — dare I say, near lethal — and he can shoot the ball from the outside.

Not a bad set of skills…

Playmaking/passing

Let’s move on to the thing that blew me away the most in this game and the best thing (I think, anyways) that Dončić did in this game: passing, playmaking.

THIS. MAN. CAN. PASS.

Where to begin… How about with his first offensive possession of the game when he checked in near the end of the first quarter?

He operates the pick-and-roll with Ayon, who slips the pick, and Dončić gets into the paint with the Efes big, Bryant Dunston, back-pedalling. Dunston stops and decides to hold his ground, preventing Dončić from forcing him to back-pedal all the way to the rim but the size and length of Dončić means he can just jump and drop a pass over Dunston to the rolling Ayon, and Ayon scores the layup:

The play itself isn’t spectacular but it’s Dončić coming in straightaway and impacting the game in a positive way with his ability to make plays for others and make others around him better.

Let’s stick to the pick-and-roll game. Here, Dončić and Ayon pair up again. There’s nothing world-beating here: a pick, a roll, and a nice bounce-pass that leads to a scoring opportunity:

Ayon isn’t able to complete the play on this occasion, but Dončić put him in a good position to make something happen.

More pick-and-roll action as Dončić and Ayon (noticing the trend? Get used to it, these two do a lot of good things together) link up again.

After the pick, Ayon allows Dončić to journey ahead of him before trailing Dončić on the play as he rolls to the basket. As Ayon heads to the paint, Dončić surveys his options. He gets his head up and recognises that Ledo is cheating somewhat on Facundo Campazzo, who is chilling behind the three-point line. Dončić finds Campazzo and by the time Ledo gets to him it’s too late — Campazzo’s ultra quick release means the ball is already gone and it hits nothing but net:

Good recognition of what the defense was showing and good decision-making on this play by Dončić. Again, nothing world-beating but just the right play.

Dončić’s overall vision and awareness — and then ability to execute what he sees in his head — are fantastic.

As I went to prepare this clip, even though I’ve already watched this game, I thought Dončić was going to pass to Ayon after this screen. After all, his eyes are pointed in that direction. But no, Dončić, aware of his surroundings, fires a no-look pass to Chasson Randle in the corner as soon as Randle’s man, Errick McCollum, begins to commit as the help defender in the paint and off of Randle. Randle fakes the shot and drives inside, and the play eventually ends with Anthony Randolph making a shot:

Just fantastic vision, execution (it’s one thing to see the pass, another to execute it) and patience to let the play unfold/the defense to cheat/commit off of the corner three before skipping it out there.

More ridiculous passing.

After getting caught in no-mans-land (his drive having gone all wrong and leaving his feet) Dončić throws a bit of a desperate pass in the hope one of this teammates will claim it. Ayon’s size advantage proves to be his rescue, and Dončić comes out top to claim the ball and try again. Ayon and work the pick-and-roll again, and Dončić drives inside. The Efes big defending this pick-and-roll, Vladamir Stimac, extends the pressure on Dončić and sticks tight to him as he tries to get to the rim. Efes pack the paint and Dončić sees the open Anthony Randolph in the corner. Dončić finds him with an over-the-head pass with his right hand and Randolph hits the three:

The pass is just a tad below where Randolph would want but it’s basically as good as are you’re going to get. Great vision to see the pass and fantastic execution to actually find Randolph: that’s almost perfection.

You can already see Dončić’s natural feel for the game and he definitely made those around him better. But what could Dončić have done better in this game handling the ball?

There was a play in the first quarter… Dončić pushes in transition off of the Madrid stop, gets to the paint before wheeling around to find the trailing Ayon behind the three-point line. Ayon isn’t a three-point shooter, so Dončić and Ayon set up again. Off of the screen, Dončić delivers a bounce-pass that’s a bit too low and a bit behind Ayon. Ayon, however, is able to gather it, control it, put it on the floor and score the layup:

First of all, in the NBA, the big-man trailing that play as Ayon did there… More than likely that’s going to be a big who can shoot a three-pointer. After that, it’s the good hands of Ayon that prevent this from becoming a turnover, so in this situation you’d like to see Dončić do a bit better with his bounce-pass (and he would get it right later on, in a clip we’ve already looked at).

Dončić finished with two turnovers. Here was one of them, as he attempts to fire a pass into the rolling Jeffrey Taylor, Krunoslav Simon does a good job to get a hand on it and gains his team possession of the ball:

Nothing major here, just a good deflection from Simon.

Dončić finished with four assists but that doesn’t really tell the full story of Dončić as a ball-handler/creator in this game: his ability to not only see plays but actually execute those passes (both simple and extraordinary) and put his teammates in positions in which they had the opportunity to succeed was great. Everytime the ball was in Dončić’s hands, you knew something — more often than not — was going to happen, whether he would score himself or set a teammate up for an opportunity…

This ability to create offense/create opportunities — without blatantly ball-hogging and turning it over at a high rate — and his ability to score take his game to another level and his ability to influence a game on the offensive end cannot be understated enough in this game and how it propelled Madrid to a win on the road.

Defense

Defensively, Dončić is not awful, I wouldn’t even say he’s bad, but he’s not spectacular. And that’s fine. Many All-Stars are adequate defensively and explosive offensively. Sometimes that’s all they need to be defensively: adequate.

Nothing huge to talk about here in this game when it came to Dončić’s defense, just a few small things to note.

If Dončić is playing point guard, PG’s with elite quickness could give him a problem. He’s not slow as molasses, but could have difficulty keeping up laterally off of the dribble. Here, Errick McCollum is able to get by him and get to the hoop but he can’t convert the layup:

Hard to get a proper sense at Dončić’s 1-on-1 defense here with the screen possibly wrong-footing him slightly but it could be a concern. Something we’ll have to keep an eye on.

Against the slower Ledo? That’s a bit more like it:

After doing a good job staying in front of Ledo for pretty much all of his drive, Dončić is shifted away from Ledo near the end of the play, and this meant that Ayon had to complete the defensive play with the blocked shot. Dončić will obviously get stronger with time and he’ll be able to complete defensive plays like this in the future.

He did make up, sort of, with this good contest on Ledo:

Not a great shot by Ledo, but doesn’t change the fact that Dončić is right there.

After that, a lot of Dončić’s defensive slips are either some fundamental error (which he’ll get better at with time) and some mental things, like not paying attention for example.

Here, you’d like to see Dončić contest this shot in transition but after the miss, look at how Dončić climbs the ladder to claim the rebound and draws the foul after the fact:

Would’ve been nice to see a contest but the rebound equalises that error on this possession.

One mental lapse that was noteworthy was in the second quarter. Dončić is caught ball-watching somewhat as a three is launched from the corner. From the unsuspecting view of Dončić skies Dogus Balbay, and he snatches the offensive rebound right in front of Dončić’s eyes, leading to multiple second chance attempts before a foul is called:

Besides a screen where Dončić went a little too high on, this was pretty much all the negative defensive stuff that came out of this game from Dončić but he wasn’t really tested, so it’s impossible to make any defensive conclusion from this one game…

In closing vs. Efes

However, what you can conclude from this game is that Luka Dončić is a special, special talent, especially on the offensive end.

He can change games directly with his scoring abilities and indirectly as a facilitator. You have to remember that Dončić is just 18 years old, and he’s making professionals look silly in the world’s second best basketball league.

With 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from three, four assists, four rebounds, a 32 PIR and just two turnovers in just 26 minutes.

“It was a great win,” said Dončić postgame. “This is a great team and we played on their home court. So it was hard work, but we did a great job. It was a lot of ups and downs, especially in the end of third quarter, but we stayed together as a team, worked hard, and we will take the win. I feel great. It is anything I can do to help my team, and help my teammates, but also the teammates help me on the court, and coaches help me, that’s why I am here. ”

Dončić’s impact on this game is obvious and his hand-print, everywhere. He’s the man who makes Madrid tick.

And there’s plenty of more where that came from…

The Dončić Dossier: A Preface

Welcome to a personal project of mine: The Dončić Dossier.

Real Madrid guard Luka Dončić promises to be one of the most exciting European draft prospects ever. His play for the Slovenian National Team and for Real Madrid in EuroLeague — the second best basketball league in the world behind the NBA — at age 18 is simply incredible, and it’s a surprise to absolutely no one (or perhaps it is, if you think the NCAA is the greatest league in the world and EuroLeague doesn’t exist/isn’t valid, which is complete bullshit on all fronts) that Dončić is touted to be one of the top overall selections in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Many fans, writers, analysts alike are all already familiar with the top prospects for this upcoming 2018 class in June, DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley for example. They will not only be aware of these players but have watched/are watching/will watch them, and will already have a fair idea of what they’ll bring to the their new teams when they’re drafted in June.

Of course, player breakdowns will still come from analysts and writers in the build up to the draft to help educate those who don’t know these players, or simply didn’t have the time during the college season to watch these guys play (heck, I’m going to be reading/watching those. I don’t have time to watch college basketball nor do I have the accessibility to do, since there’s not a college equivalent of NBA League Pass for college basketball).

But when it comes to European/foreign prospects, people aren’t as familiar. Sure, they know the names and they see highlights, but they don’t know them. The majority of basketball fans aren’t watching the likes of Luka Dončić or Dzanan Musa (who also plays in Europe and projected to go in the first round of the draft) play in the same way people didn’t watch New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis play when he was in Europe — they’re just not.

And that’s the objective here with the Dončić Dossier: to educate/show people Luka Dončić throughout his entire EuroLeague season with Real Madrid, highlighting his strengths, weaknesses and other things that stand out from each game so that when the NBA Draft comes around, you’ll know exactly what kind of player Luka Dončić is.

I’ve never undertaken a project like this and my basketball terminology isn’t always going to be perfect (I’m forever a student of the game) so I’m going to get some things wrong in the process — I’m only human and I continue to learn — and that’s OK because perfection is something that simply isn’t attainable.

It’s going to be a wild ride but I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and I hope you’ll join me for the journey…