The Suns are rumored to draft DeAndre Ayton No. 1.
Does that leave Luka Doncic to the Kings at No. 2?
Doncic, via Alex Madrid of Eurohoops.net:
“Ι’m not sure if these are my last two games [in EuroLeague]. We have yet to make this decision. Perhaps after the season,” Doncic said.”
Doncic is set to lead Real Madrid in the EuroLeague Final Four this weekend. His focus is understandably on that.
This could be a benign comment to show Doncic’s commitment to his current team during the biggest part of the season. Even the surest-to-declare one-and-done college basketball players don’t state their draft intentions until their college team finishes its season.
But Doncic has rare leverage for a high pick. He could threaten to remain in Europe if not drafted by a preferred NBA team. That’s not to say he’ll go that route, but this response leaves the door open and raises intrigue.
Doncic can’t stop anyone from drafting him unless he withdraws from the draft by June 11. But he doesn’t have to sign in the NBA.
The draft is a control put in place unilaterally by management and current labor over future labor. I don’t blame draft prospects for exercising their limited leverage when they can.
Sacramento is still trying to escape its image as “basketball hell.” If Doncic doesn’t want to rush into that situation, it’d be understandable.
If Doncic postures about staying overseas, the Kings could try calling his bluff and drafting him anyway. The No. 2 pick’s projected NBA salary next year would be about $7.2 million. Signing immediately would also start the four-year clock until he could get a far more lucrative second deal. (First-round picks are bound by the rookie scale, which calls for four-year contracts, until three years after being drafted. Waiting to sign occasionally gets rookies bigger contracts in the first place.)
It’d be foolish to freak out over these comments from Doncic. But it’d also be a mistake to ignore them.