Luka Doncic is already a star, a guy in the MVP discussion, and the cornerstone of the Mavericks franchise in just his second season. All that at age 20. It follows from what he did for Real Madrid in Europe, where he was the EuroLeague MVP at 19.
That has fans of the Suns (Deandre Ayton), Kings (Marvin Bagley III), and the Hawks — who traded Doncic to get Trae Young and another first-round pick — looking back at the 2018 NBA Draft and asking, “how did we miss on Doncic, exactly?”
Young has racked up impressive numbers this season — scoring 29.1 points and dishing out 8.5 assists per game, and he leads East guards in the All-Star fan voting — but the Hawks are a dreadful 9-32 and dead last in the East. Meanwhile, Doncic and the Mavericks are 25-15 in the West, and Doncic is helping his team win games.
Young said the Hawks and Mavericks were teams in different places and its not fair to compare them or judge the trade yet. Via Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report:
“[Doncic’s] on a team, and they’ve got more veterans and is a team that’s more looking to win now,” Young told Bleacher Report. “We’re more of a team that wants to win now, but we’re focusing more on developing, and we’re one of the youngest teams in the league. It’s just two totally different situations, so it’s just hard to really judge who won or lost [the trade] right now. I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I just try and focus on my team and how I can help my team. Maybe down the road at the end of our careers, I think that can be a topic of discussion, but right now, I don’t pay too much attention to it.”
Young is right. The Hawks are young and building with himself, John Collins, Cam Reddish, De'Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, and the rest of a young core. Dallas is a roster better positioned to win right now.
That said, Doncic has looked more like the complete player and more like a guy who can lead a team to contention — he’s doing a lot of that in his second season. Doncic’s not a great defender but he’s better than Young, who is part of the defensive problem in Atlanta.
It’s too early to say Atlanta made a mistake in the 2018 draft — and is it really much of a mistake to get Young? — but they seem to be among the teams that misjudged Doncic’s ceiling. They may come to regret that for the next decade.