In just his second year in the NBA, many see Dallas Mavericks forward/guard Luka Doncic as a legitimate MVP candidate this season. With a near triple-double average as of this writing, the 20-year-old Slovenian’s numbers have far exceeded those of the two players picked ahead of him in last year’s draft — Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III. There also appears to be a reason why the Kings specifically passed on Doncic in favor of Bagley, as a new report suggests.
As noted by NBC Sports, the Suns reportedly opted for Ayton as the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft because of the fact that he played college ball for the University of Arizona Wildcats and was also on top of many team draft boards. The publication added that it was a different case for the Kings, as general manager Vlade Divac is “well connected” in Europe and had actually watched Doncic play. But even with that in mind, the outlet cited ESPN’s Tim MacMahon’s comments on a recent episode of Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Woj Pod, where he suggested Divac’s unfavorable opinion of Doncic’s father turned Sacramento off the idea of drafting him.
“My understanding is that [Divac] being so close to Luka and knowing his dad so well factored into their decision. Basically, he didn’t think a whole lot of Luka’s dad, and the whole like father like son … well … no, this is a different dude. You messed that one up, Vlade.”
Luka Doncic is now averaging 30.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG and 9.8 APG through the first 16 games of the season. The only other player in @NBAHistory to average 30+ points, 10+ rebounds and 9+ assists through the first 16 games of a season is Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. pic.twitter.com/TQCrpl93Gh
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) November 25, 2019
As the Kings already had De’Aaron Fox as a skilled ballhandler at point guard, the team’s decision to pick Bagley over Doncic was described as a seemingly “respectable” one, NBC Sports added. However, the publication’s Kurt Helin opined that it was still a big miss for Sacramento to pass up a chance to draft a potentially transcendent player in favor of a merely “good” player like Bagley. He also compared the Kings’ decision to how the Portland Trail Blazers missed out on a chance to select Michael Jordan with the No. 2 pick in the 1984 draft, mainly because they already had their own skilled wingman in Clyde Drexler.
“Talent wins in the NBA,” Helin continued. “Flat out. Draft the best player, get the most talent, and if a team ends up with too many players at one position or has overlapping skill sets, then make a trade from a position of strength.”
Thanks to his sensational performance in the first 16 games of the 2019-20 campaign, Doncic currently has career numbers of 22.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.6 assists, per Basketball-Reference. Bagley, on the other hand, has played just one game this season due to a thumb injury and has career averages of 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and one assist as the Kings’ starting power forward.