Luka Doncic
(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

If the opportunity presents itself in the coming 2018 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks shouldn’t hesitate to draft Luka Doncic.

When you’re without your star player while playing for lottery seeding and are an unattractive destination to free agents, what do you do in the NBA Draft? Well, for the New York Knicks, the answer is simple.

Draft Slovenian wing Luka Doncic.

Currently 24-42, the Knicks likely aren’t going to the playoffs and could potentially snatch a top-five pick in the NBA Draft depending on how they fare in the lottery. While it’s not impossible, the odds are stacked against them landing a top-three pick, meaning Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton and Duke’s Marvin Bagley aren’t realistic targets. But it isn’t a foregone conclusion as to where the overseas’ product will end up on teams’ draft boards.

On one hand, some teams will view Doncic as too big of a risk to take so high based on him not playing in America. On the other hand, Doncic has played professionally overseas for Real Madrid and his skill set makes him arguably the most intriguing player in this draft class.

Doncic is a well-rounded player on the offensive end. He sees the floor well, can create separation, get to the rim and hit the boards. Averaging 15.4 points, 4.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in just 24.6 minutes a night this season, the wing has showcased an intriguing skill set offensively. Doncic’s Achilles heel on that end of the floor is his outside shooting. A career 33.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he’s struggled to pose an outside shooting threat, although he’s shown no fear in hoisting it up from deep. At the same time, his defensive tenacity makes up for the shooting woes.

While he doesn’t possess stellar quickness and isn’t a battering ram, Doncic is built-up and defends the perimeter well. He’s also recording one steal per game this season; the 19-year-old is a complete player.

An NBA Comparison? How about Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder?

While slightly quicker, George, much like Doncic, is a ball-handler, a go-to scoring outlet and plays elite defense. Now, could Doncic fail to grow into the player George has become? Sure, but that’s the case with any overseas player when it comes to living up to or exceeding expectations. And if you’re the Knicks and Doncic is available at your spot, isn’t he a risk worth taking?

Kristaps Porzingis is out for, at the very least, the next 11 months as he recovers from an ACL tear. Considering the fact that he’s become the team’s franchise player and means so much to their success on the court, Porzingis’ absence takes the Knicks out of the playoff picture for the foreseeable future. Barring a heroic winning streak in the final stages of the regular season, the Knicks will be missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year; that’s not exactly a feat to proud of or one that’ll attract free agents to Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks have shown no fear in recent memory when it comes to rolling the dice on overseas players, granted Phil Jackson was calling the shots when such decisions were made.

In 2015, they drafted Porzingis with the fourth overall pick which sent some people into a tailspin. But the Latvian turned out to be a steal for the Knicks. His 7-foot-3 stature gives him an advantage over any defender. Porzingis also plays above the rim and blocks shots with ease. Before his ACL tear in February, Porzingis embraced being the focal point of the Knicks’ offense and was selected to play in the NBA All-Star game.

Another big-time risk the Knicks took in the draft came last summer when they selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina. While the 19-year-old has struggled to garner consistency and make a profound impact offensively, his 6-foot-5 stature and defensive prowess give him upside and reason for the Knicks to be optimistic going forward.

A roster featuring Doncic (19), Tim Hardaway Jr. (25) — who has impressed this season with his scoring ability, averaging 17.0 points per game going into Friday night — Ntilikina (19), Emmanuel Mudiay (22), Trey Burke (25) — if he’s retained after this season — and a healthy Porzingis (22) could make for a great core to build around.

Yes, there’s the possibility that Doncic isn’t on the board when the Knicks select. But it’s a scenario that isn’t a given because many teams will be skeptical come draft week of taking the gamble on the overseas’ prodigy. Not every highly thought of overseas star becomes a franchise player in the NBA.

Dragan Bender was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Phoneix Suns and has been unable to grow into a franchise block. The Croatian big man was supposed to be Porzingis 2.0 but, so far, has been more Darko Milicic. The same goes for Mario Hezonja who was selected with the fifth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. The Croatian wing has been unable to hold onto a prominent role in the Magic’s rotation and management may look to move on from him after this season. The Croatians are prime examples of why some teams may avoid taking a chance on Doncic.

The Knicks forecast to be a team that’ll miss the playoffs for the next two seasons, at least. To potentially jumpstart or brighten the moment when playoff basketball becomes feasible, New York should set its sights on taking another big-time gamble in the draft in Doncic.

With all the negativity surrounding the franchise, can swinging for the fences in June do any harm?

 

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