Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.
He’s not draft-eligible until 2018, but 17-year-old Luka Doncic is an essential contributor for Real Madrid.
Olympiacos tested him physically throughout the game. They attacked him off the dribble, they posted him up, and they hit him at every opportunity. Despite the punishment and some unnecessary turnovers, Doncic kept fighting. Madrid coach Pablo Laso trusted him down the stretch and he earned his playing time, coming up with multiple key plays to seal the win.
Let’s look at the good and bad from Doncic’s first EuroLeague game of the 2016-17 season.
Here he shows his ability to attack with his weak hand, driving left past Daniel Hackett. However, he doesn’t time his steps correctly and jumps off his left foot, preventing him from getting the necessary elevation to finish over Patric Young. On the other end of the floor, he needs to slide closer to the rim when Matt Lojeski receives the ball on the right wing. He hesitates, which allows Lojeski to drive and draw the foul.
A minute later, he does a nice job of fighting Lojeski — one of the best shooters in Europe — through the screen, forcing him to put the ball on the floor.
When Madrid inbounds the ball , he throws a perfect pass to Othello Hunter off the pick-and-roll, but Hunter stops cutting and Doncic is given a turnover in the stat sheet.
A minute later, he gets his first bucket of the EuroLeague season — a smooth catch-and-shoot 3 from the corner. Anthony Randolph shows his ability as a secondary creator with the assist.
As I mentioned in the intro, Olympiacos was very physical with Doncic throughout the game. Hackett in particular made a point of roughing him up whenever he had the chance.
Watch this 1-minute sequence. Hackett hits Doncic, and Doncic goes right at him the next play. He misses the step-back 3, but I love the competitive spirit. As the game goes up-and-down the court a couple times, he shows one of his best skills — grabbing defensive rebounds and running fastbreaks.
On Madrid’s next possession, Doncic wants to run again, but he doesn’t protect the ball well enough and is stripped as he goes up. Maybe when he’s older he’ll get these calls, but this time it went down as a turnover.
In the 3rd quarter, Olympiacos exposed one of his biggest weaknesses. Sometimes he struggles to slide laterally, which is a problem against smaller, quicker guards.
About a minute later, he shows his grab-and-go ability again.
At the end of the quarter, he had a great opportunity to extend Madrid’s lead, but he couldn’t beat Patric Young off the dribble. The result was a forced Rudy Fernandez three.
At the start of the 4th, Madrid coach Pablo Laso showed how much trust he has in the 17-year-old. He ran the first play of the quarter specifically for Doncic, sending him off two back screens and posting him up. He slipped (this was a problem for players throughout the game) but he did a good job of getting position and drew the foul.
On Madrid’s next possession, Doncic turns it over with a lazy pass, but he plays great transition defense, challenges Lojeski’s shot and forces the turnover.
A couple minutes later, he soars for an offensive rebound and re-sets the offense at the top of the key. Unfortunately, he misses the deep 3.
After a quick rest, Doncic came back in and contributed in crunch-time. He plays good on-ball defense, then fights the bigger Printezis on the switch and forces a turnover. He gets his shot blocked on the other end, but he stays with the play and draws the foul.
A couple minutes later, with Madrid up 10, Doncic delivers the dagger — another smooth catch-and-shoot corner 3.
He made one more youthful mistake on the following possession. Rather than finding his man and boxing him out when the shot goes up, he stays under the rim, traces the arc of the shot with his eyes and Olympiacos gets an extra shot.
But Olympiacos was unable to capitalize and Doncic finished the game with some flair, throwing a nice alley-oop for Othello Hunter.
Doncic finished the game with 11 points (0/1 2FG, 2/5 3FG, 5/5 FTs), 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 17:04. He showed incredible maturity, composure and versatility throughout the game.
Against a tough, battle-tested group like Olympiacos, this was another amazing performance from the 17-year-old.