How Does Luka Doncic Fit On The Chicago Bulls?
Over the weekend, ESPN NBA Draft Insider, Jonathan Givony, told Kevin Pelton that Real Madrid point guard Luka Doncic could fall outside of the top three picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Givony's statements are reflected in his most recent Mock Draft as he has Doncic falling to the Memphis Grizzlies at number four.
I am here to say that Doncic not being selected in the top three would be a mistake by Phoenix, Sacramento, and Atlanta as I believe Luka is the best and safest prospect in this draft.
However, what if on June 21st, the Grizzlies pass up Doncic, and at five so do the Mavericks, and at six Orlando skips Doncic. What if the Chicago Bulls were in prime position to select the youngest and reigning Euroleague MVP to be the centerpiece of their current rebuild?
Givony's reasoning for this fall for Doncic stems from Doncic not openly committing to leaving Real Madrid if selected by an NBA team in this year's draft, Doncic not going through medical evaluations during the NBA Draft Combine (due to his play in the Euroleague Final Four and Championship with Real Madrid), and the concerns that Doncic's agent Bill Duffy could have about certain teams.
Those concerns are as followed:
- Market size and potential endorsements.
- Experience with integrating European players (particularly in regard to the coaching staff).
- The type of complementary talent on the roster.
Let's examine how the Bulls fill those concerns that Doncic's camp could have.
First, the easiest one, which would be the market size and potential endorsements. According to a 2016 Nielsen study, Chicago is the third largest media market in the United States. To pair with the media size, Chicago also boasts the second best attendance (both home and road games) of all NBA teams in the 2017-2018 regular season. Doncic would not have to worry about getting endorsements in Chicago, he would have to worry about which one would suit him best. Former Bulls star Derrick Rose signed a fourteen year deal with Adidas in 2012, current Bull Zach LaVine signed a four-year endorsement deal with Adidas after being acquired by Chicago, and the Bulls' first selection in 2017's Draft, Lauri Markkanen, signed a deal with Nike before he stepped on an NBA court. When it comes to exposure and making money off the court, Chicago might be Luka's most lucrative landing spot.
Second, experience with integrating European players in regard to the coaching staff. First, Fred Hoiberg's job with Lauri Markkanen last year. Personally, I was not high on Markkanen going into the 2017 NBA Draft due to my perception of him as solely an outside shooter with no positive potential to be a great athlete in the NBA and a negative on the defensive side. Boy, I was wrong. Markkanen was named to the 2018 NBA All-Rookie Team and became the quickest player in NBA history to make 100 three pointers in a career. Hoiberg did a fantastic job of focusing in on Markkanen's strong suit, his shooting, by making sure Lauri knew where to be in transition to set him up for open threes and using Markkanen in screen and roll scenarios to match him up with small and weaker defenders. Now, Markkanen did play college basketball at the University of Arizona, so he is not a true Euro-player like Luka is, but prior to his year with the Wildcats, Markkanen came straight from Finland.
Another example that might stick out for the Chicago Bulls working with International talent would be Nikola Mirotic. The twenty-third pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Miroctic did not come straight to the Bulls after being drafted, spending an extra three years with Real Madrid. Mirotic had a solid rookie year in 2014-2015 finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting to Andrew Wiggins, but after that Mirotic had a tough time showing consistency. After the 2016-2017 season, Mirotic was a free agent and stayed unsigned until September 25, 2017, where the Bulls and Nikola reached a two-year, $20 million contract. Then, the infamous moment happened where Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis got into an altercation where Mirotic suffered broken facial bones. Mirotic would miss the first twenty-four games of the season, but come back looking motivated as in the Bulls' offense he had his most efficient season yet shooting 47% from the field, 42% from three, 82% from the line, scoring 16.8 points per game, and pulling in 6.4 rebounds per game. Was Nikola's performance charged by his altercation with Portis? Maybe. Was he trying to prime himself to get out of town and away from Chicago? Possibly. Was it still the best Niko looked on a basketball court which stemmed from the spacing created by Fred Hoiberg's offensive system and gameplan? Yes. Could Doncic and his agent look at Mirotic's time as wishy-washy, non-consistent, and full of questionable and eye-raising scenarios? Yep. This should concern Bulls fans, but not enough to be a dream crusher.
Mirotic still had success, he still got paid, and if we focus solely on the impact Hoiberg had on Mirotic development, it should be seen as a positive.
Not only has Fred Hoiberg shown positive growth with European players on the court, but the Bulls front office has one of the best track records with European players. Two big examples of this are Andres Nocioni and Toni Kukoc, the latter who is a current Special Advisor to Bulls' Owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
Finally, the complementary talent on the roster.
The projected lineup with Doncic would look like this:
- Point Guard - Kris Dunn
- Shooting Guard - Zach LaVine (barring the Bulls re-sign LaVine)
- Small Forward - Luka Doncic
- Power Forward - Lauri Markkanen
- Center - Robin Lopez
Luka's best skills are his playmaking ability in the pick and roll and basketball IQ. Wait, pick and roll you say?
We just talked about Fred Hoiberg using Lauri Markkanen, one of the best big man shooters, in pick-and-roll scenarios last year and how effective it was. Luka paired with Lauri in high pick-and-roll sets would be deadly, and to pair you would have Kris Dunn, an improving three-point shooter (went from 28% in 2015-2016 to 31% in 2016-2017) and Zach LaVine (a career 37% shooter from behind the arc) for Luka to hit for open threes when the defense collapses on him as he drives.
Luka is not a great athlete, which will hurt him defensively, but Kris Dunn has the makings of an elite defender and Zach LaVine's quickness could help Doncic slide to the easiest matchup for him.
Looking at the teams in the top ten, the Chicago Bulls offer the youngest talent on their roster, a large amount of cap space, and the ability for Luka to make his name in America.
As seen in the video above, Doncic has a nice arsenal of handles and has a slick jump shot. Some people might be turned off by his 30% mark from deep in the past year, but he has been playing basketball non-stop for the past eighteen months, is an 80% free throw shooter, and his the mechanics in his jump shot has no major flaws. He might not be a next level athlete like we see at the three in today's NBA, but he is smart, fluid, and a professional ball player.
Chicago may need to say their prayers for Luka to land to them at seven, but if they are answered, the Bulls might be retiring the number seven after Luka Doncic's career is over.