Every year, right before the NCAA Tournament — or, in football, right before a big bowl game — a media member will ask a team’s star player “are you coming back next year or turning pro?” To which said player says something generic along the lines of “I love it here at State, it’s been the best year(s) of my life, but I’ll make that decision after the season.” Even though we all know the decision is made and he’s gone.
Enter Luka Doncic.
He is at the EuroLeague basketball Final Four this weekend with Real Madrid, the team he has played for since he was 16 and stars for now. After that, he and his teammates head off to the ACB — Spanish League — playoffs. At a press event before the EuroLeague games tip-off, Doncic was asked if these were his final games for Real Madrid because his contract is up and he’s expected to go to the NBA. His response was right out the book used by NCAA players above.
“Ι’m not sure if these are my last two games [in EuroLeague]. We have yet to make this decision. Perhaps after the season.”
Right after the draft lottery, with Deandre Ayton expected to go No. 1 to the Suns, that was read by some fans as Doncic trying to put leverage on Sacramento not to draft him at No. 2. Not the case, his agent told Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
“Luka has stated no particular thought on any NBA teams,” his agent, Bill Duffy, told Sporting News on Thursday.
In other words, if Sacramento — or any team — were to draft Doncic, the location of that team would have no bearing whether he continues in Europe or comes to the NBA.
Let’s put this another way.
If Doncic were to re-sign with Real Madrid, it would be for $2 million to 2.5 million euro a year, which means a max of about $3 million a year (and remember European teams pick up the taxes for players). However, if the Kings draft him his starting salary next season would be $7.2 million (with more than $35 million guaranteed over the first four years), which even after California taxes is more money. Plus Doncic would be starting the clock to get to his second NBA contract in four years, the one that likely will be much larger. On top of all that, with a return to Europe, Doncic would risk a potential injury that could hurt his NBA stock and cost him millions and millions.
Which means, if you’re reading Doncic’s comments as him trying to leverage Sacramento, you’re doing it wrong. He loves Real Madrid and is trying to let them down easy, but he’s taking the cash and coming to the NBA. Wherever that lands him.