In January 2018, 18-year-old Luka Doncic was stuck in a slump. For months, I had called him the top prospect in the upcoming NBA draft with the makings of a future star. But during this slide with Real Madrid, the questions surrounding Doncic's outlook as a potential No. 1 pick started to grow around the league.
Doncic had been ejected after six minutes against Valencia on Dec. 19, then Maccabi Tel Aviv limited him to 11 points, 4 assists and 3 turnovers on 3-for-10 shooting a few weeks later. Carrying extra weight, Doncic looked heavy-footed with the ball, suffering defensive miscues and occasional emotional outbursts on the floor.
At the time, with Doncic still No. 1 in our top-100 rankings and mock draft, I wrote that, "poking too many holes in [Doncic's] game given the NBA's emphasis on pass-dribble-shoot basketball could cause teams to miss on a special talent."
Between then and the June draft, Doncic's stock began to slip. Consensus among NBA teams moved to Arizona's Deandre Ayton as the safer No. 1 selection, so the center surpassed Doncic in our rankings later that spring. At the draft, three teams (the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks) passed on the opportunity to take Doncic. A year and a half later, he has emerged as a 20-year-old MVP candidate for the Dallas Mavericks.
So, why didn't everyone view Doncic as a transcendent star at the time, even after his proven production as a Euroleague MVP? And how has he improved since entering the NBA?
Let's dive into Doncic's path to this point and what's next for his superstar trajectory.