3D wing, Pure Passer, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Luka Doncic Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Luka Doncic has the most impressive résumé of a teenage basketball phenom walking around the Earth right now, having earned 1,613 minutes of EuroLeague and Spanish ACB[1] experience last season. The 18-year-old[2] was not just a rotation cog but also a viable option to finish games for Real Madrid – a dominant powerhouse that enters every game with the expectation it is supposed to win.

The Slovenian is a giant shot creator[3]whose biggest value is as someone who runs offense on lineups that go super big across the perimeter but who can also share the floor with a smaller point guard and space the floor or create against a scrambling defense as a conventional wing. 48.3% of his live ball attempts were three-pointers last season.

The biggest issue for teenagers at the pro level is dealing with the physical nature of the game, which often makes them a liability on defense. But there is no such problem with Doncic, who has even proven himself strong enough to hold his ground in the post against veterans a decade older than him.

That said, there are concerns regarding his ability to defend on the ball, which as a result opens up questions about who exactly he needs to be surrounded with.

[1] Which Next-Step Basketball ranks as the best domestic league in Europe

[2]Who only turns 19 in February

[3] Real Madrid lists him at six-foot-six, 218 pounds

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Pure Passer, Tall Passer

Luka Doncic Scouting Report

With Sergio Rodriguez transferring to the NBA and Facundo Campazzo loaned to Murcia once again, expectation was that 17 year-old Luka Doncic was going to be a more active part of Real Madrid’s rotation this season, even after the signing of Don Draper – a favorite of head-coach Pablo Laso.

And that has not only materialized but the Slovenian phenom is also up to a very strong start. He’s logged 72 minutes against tough competition – Barcelona, Unicaja, Oklahoma City and Valencia – and as of now should probably be expected to log something like 1,500 minutes this year.

The biggest issue with teenagers at the pro level is the physical nature of the game but there is no such concern with Doncic. Real Madrid still lists him as a six-foot-six, 218-pounder but he’s come back from the summer noticeably taller and with a bulkier frame.

Doncic has consistently proven he has the strength to hold ground in the post against men 10-15 years older than him.

But more impressive was this drive against Victor Oladipo on a straight isolation, where Doncic was able to maintain his balance through contact and get all the way to the basket.

At that size and possessing that sort of strength to hold his own on defense against wings and even true big men on switches, Doncic provides tremendous flexibility for his coach to adjust lineups around him according to the opponent.

Against Unicaja, he struggled to defend Nemanja Nedovic, who blew by him on a couple of straight isolations.

Doncic also doesn’t navigate screens particularly well at this point of his development.

As he still works through those issues, Doncic should probably log most of his minutes this season alongside Draper, freeing him up to act as a weak-side defender more often. Doncic has some lapses in attention at times but has tremendous quickness closing out to spot-up shooters and preventing catch-and-shoot attempts.

And he’s also flashed some potential as a help defender, rotating inside to contest close range attempts.

Pairing him up with a point guard who matches up against opposing point guards is also what is best for Real Madrid on offense.

While Doncic has flashed the ability to go to the post now and again, he doesn’t often look to back down smaller opponents and Real Madrid’s offense is not too focused on exploring mismatches.

Doncic is at his most comfortable controlling the game 25 feet away from the basket and with a full view of the defense in front of him. He has phenomenal court vision and can anticipate passing lanes a second before they come open (though his high turnover rate continues to be a problem).

Doncic has proven he can be relied on to create offense on an every-possession basis, so it makes sense that Laso would prefer surrounding him with taller, lengthier, more threatening shooters like Jeffrey Taylor, Jonas Maciulus, Rudy Fernandez and Andres Nocioni, so he can build a more dynamic defensive lineup at the same time.

But the biggest advantage is forcing opponents to guard him with bigger wings who struggle navigating ball screens and generally defending in space, especially because Doncic can be a more dangerous scorer matched up against such types.

Doncic is not particularly explosive off the dribble, mostly relying on a sweet-looking floater to finish over length from the in-between area on dribble drives against a set defense.

But as he grows older and probably even stronger, the expectation is most of his interior scoring will come via bullyball; bulldozing his way to the basket (maintaining his balance through contact) or earning lots of free throws (five foul shots per 40 minutes so far this season).

At age 17, Doncic is already a rotation regular and a viable option to finish games for his team, which happens to be one of the five best in the continent and is expected to win every single game it plays but a few here and there against other giant powerhouses who spend just as much money. No other player in his age group has accomplished as much by this point.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Pure Passer, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Luka Doncic Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)

CONTEXT

Probably no other underage player in the world has gotten as much high level experience as Luka Doncic last season.

The 17-year-old born in Slovenia didn’t immediately become a rotation player in his first full season as pro with Real Madrid but it’s not as if he was only carried on the senior squad to earn experience in practice either.

Head-coach Pablo Laso saw him as a legit viable option for certain situations and as the team dealt with some injuries midway through the year, Doncic logged 668 minutes, including 133 minutes against Euroleague competition.

PHYSICAL PROFILE

And with Sergio Rodriguez transferring to the NBA, there is a chance Doncic will earn more regular playing time next season, which he should be able to handle, even at such a young age, because of his size (six-foot-five, 218 pounds – according to Real Madrid’s website).

The biggest issue for teenagers at the pro level is dealing with the physical nature of the game but there is no such issue with Doncic, best reflected in his ability to maintain his balance through contact on drives, get dribble penetration deep into the lane and finish through contact. His large frame invites contact, awarding him 4.3 foul shots per 40 minutes last season.

More impressive, though, is the fact he can already put his strength to use in the post. In one of the games against Barcelona in the ACB Finals Doncic took 31-year-old, 230-pounder Stratos Perperoglou to the low block and backed him down into a short-range attempt that net him free throws.

Then when Perpeoglou tried taking it back to him on the very next possession (it was a matter of pride at that point given Doncic is a teenager), the Slovenian proved himself tough enough to hold his ground in post defense and shut the Greek veteran down in very impressive fashion.

ATHLETICISM

Doncic’s athletic ability isn’t up to speed with his size, though. Playing against fully developed men, the 17-year-old hasn’t shown particularly impressive quickness and hops off the bounce at this point of his development.

Doncic can get off the ground out of one foot to finish with power in transition or on a straight line drive unimpeded and play above the rim as a target for lobs on weak-side cuts along the baseline.

But he doesn’t have great speed playing downhill in pick-and-roll or on straight-line drives off a live-dribble, also lacking burst to turn the corner and attack the rim with explosiveness. Doncic hasn’t flashed much ability to hang in the air and finish around length either.

He’s for sure athletic enough to make pitch in some on defense, though. While his contributions through blocks and steals are marginal, Doncic collected 20% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season – according to RealGM. That’s a remarkable rate for any perimeter player, let alone a point guard.

POLISH

Because of his size, Doncic can play any spot around the perimeter at the European level. But regardless of position, at his core, he’s a lead ball-handler who looks to create shots for others as his priority.

Doncic has impressive court vision and has proven to be the sort of passer who anticipates openings a second before they happen, assisting on 20.2% of Real Madrid’s scores when he was on the floor last season – which is more impressive than it sounds because he often shared the floor with either Rodriguez or Sergio Llull, and they were the ones responsible for running offense.

Doncic is too aggressive trying to threat the needle with some of his assist attempts on the move, though. At this point of his development, he is a turnover machine, coughing it on 27.6% of his possessions last season.

His handle is solid for someone his age, though he hasn’t yet shown many dribble moves to create separation side-to-side to get decent looks off the dribble. He is a capable pull-up shooter if the opponent gets stuck on a screen or sells out to take away the lob to the roll man and leaves him open but not at all the sort of shot maker who stresses defensive schemes, like his teammates Llull and Rodriguez are, for example.

Off the catch, Doncic is an average open-shot gunner as of now. He’s sort of a set shooter, getting very little elevation off the ground, but his release is quicker in comparison to what it looked in junior ranks and the mechanics look clean – nailing 36.8% of his 68 three-point attempts last season. Doncic hasn’t shown much in terms of shooting coming off screens yet, though.

Defensively, he stays on a stance defefending off the ball and has shown signs he’s an attentive team defender rotating inside to take up space but struggles chasing opponents around screens. In that area, his size is actually a disadvantage as he’s often gotten stuck on picks. Doncic is also not above getting caught watching at the ball and beaten backdoor from time to time, which is to be expected from someone his age.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Pure Shooter, Shot Creator

Sergio Llull Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Averaging 24.8 points per 40 minutes in 11 appearances, Sergio Llull just earned MVP of the ACB postseason, leading Real Madrid to its third title in four years over arch-rival Barcelona. Now at the peak of his prime at age 28, Llull has grown consistently more aggressive with each season.

VOLUME SHOOTING

With the Stephen Curry revolution taking basketball by storm, gunners like Llull have been liberated. The Spaniard is not shy of hunting for his own shot off the bounce and shoudn’t be, as he’s capable of making them at a good enough clip to force defenses to extend their pick-and-roll coverage.

Llull has proven able to shake his opponent side-to-side, stop on a dime, elevate with good balance and pull the trigger quickly with a compact release, launching floaters from the in-between area and even long bombs from three-point range – having no problem getting his shot off despite the fact he is not that lengthy.

As he’s also proven able to spot up off the ball and come off staggered screens, three-point shots accounted for 56.7% of Llull’s shot profile last season. He converted those at a 34.1% clip, which is below average but more palatable when you put it in the context of 8.1 attempts per 40 minutes.

DRIBBLE PENETRATION

Llull would already be an impact player if he was that sort of volume shooter only but he is one of the best players in the continent because he balances that sort of outside shooting with shot creation out of dribble penetration.

Perhaps his best skill other than shooting, Llull is very good at pressuring the defense in transition. He is not one of those point guards who pass ahead to speed up the pace of the game but is just as effective by sprinting up the court with the ball and either forcing the opponent to pick up a cheap foul or managing to get to the goal in the secondary break before the defense is set.

Despite being a hyperactive type, Llull is not only a one speed guy handling in pick-and-roll, as he’s also proven able to play with pace, waiting for lanes to clear for him to turn the corner and get into the middle of the lane.

Llull is not a particularly threatening finisher around the rim, lacking superior athletic ability to attack length at the basket with explosiveness. He’s fearless attempting to finish through contact, though, which has often net him free throws at a decent clip.

Llull is not the sort of passer who anticipates passing lanes a second ahead before they come open but he is quite able to make good reads on the move and willing to make the extra pass to get a teammate a better shot, assisting on 28.3% of Real Madrid’s scores when he was on the floor last season – according to RealGM.

Though he is prone to sometimes leaving his feet without plan, Llull has consistently held his turnovers under control these last four years, posting assist-to-turnover ratios north of 2.5 in each season.

DEFENSE

Llull remains a so-so defender at best. He puts in the effort to get in a stance and works hard on that end, using his quickness to stay in front in straight isolations.

But Llull lacks strength in his 190-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact, significant length to contest mid-range jumo-shots effectively and continues to struggle navigating through ball-screens. His contributions through steals, blocks and defensive rebounds remain subpar.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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3D wing

Rudy Fernandez Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Injuries held Rudy Fernandez to just 39 appearances last season, which is why it was a bit weird that rumors of interest from the Philadelphia 76ers emerged. As he gets into his 30s, Fernandez’s athleticism is in decline and it’s possible his days as a rotation cog at the NBA level are behind him.

But his shot making ability should keep him a Juan Carlos Navarro-type of stalworth at the European level probably throughout his entire career. And with Sergio Rodriguez departing to the United States, we might have better opportunity to see what the exact state of his shot creation is next season.

SHOT MAKING

As he ages, Fernandez is starting to rely even more heavily on the three-point shot, with such attempts accounting for 65% of his shot profile last season. And he remains an impact player on offense because he matches volume with geat efficiency, converting 40.6% of his 175 three-point shots last season – according to RealGM.

Fernandez is not only a threat spotting up on the weak-side but has also proven himself prolific shooting on the move; coming off staggered screens and sprinting to the ball to catch-and-shoot out dribble hand-offs. He’s also a capable shooter pulling up off the bounce, even from three-point range, elevating with great balance.

DRIBBLE PENETRATION

Fernandez can shake his opponent side-to-side some to get by him but mostly needs the aid of a screen, a live dribble or his man closing out to him off balance to get dribble penetration. At least that was the case as he was not at the peak of his fitness last season. Given he’s a very good athlete, it’s possible he’ll bounce back and look bouncier in a few months.

In those opportunities where he was able to attack from a position of advantage, Fernandez could still turn the corner out of the pick-and-roll and get into the middle of the lane on catch-and-go’s. He’s lost some burst attacking length at the basket, though, and earned just 2.3 foul shots per 36 minutes, after that figure was 4.7 a year ago.

Handling in pick-and-roll, Fernandez’s always been more of a one-speed guy than one navigates ball screens with pace but has always shown flashes of very instinctive passing, assisting on 13.1% of Real Madrid’s scores when he was on the floor last season, though he was more prone of getting the ball stripped in traffic, with his assist-to-tunover ratio dipping to 1.7 after it was at 2.3 the previous two seasons.

DEFENSE

The athletic indicators of Fernandez’s defense also declined, as his contributions through steals and blocks became more marginal, though he remained an asset helping finish possessions in the glass.

Individually, Pablo Laso seemed more hesitant to rely on him for the tougher assignments. Playing more as a weak-side defender, Fernandez made good gambles doubling the post but did poorly closing out to his man, often doing so off balance and giving up a path to the middle of the lane.

As he ages, Fernandez might start offering some potential of picking up bigger players on switches. While he is not particularly strong, unable to contain through contact dribble penetration by players his own size, Fernandez has been feisty when he’s found himself switched on a big – working hard to front in the post and then using his length to try preventing the post feed or reach around to try stripping the ball in post defense rather than just accepting getting bullied below the basket.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Post Scorer, Stretch Big

Trey Thompkins Scouting Report

CONTEXT

After a 24-point, eight-rebound outing against the Celtics in preseason, it looked as if Trey Thompkins was about to have a great season for Real Madrid and either earn a lucrative extension or get his way back to the NBA. It didn’t quite turn out that way, as the 26-year-old had mostly an up-and-down campaign against a higher level of competition than he was used to, ending up logging just 888 minutes throughout the year.

But Thompkins did very well in the ACB Finals with a plus-25 performance in 74 minutes over the four-game series and will return to Madrid next season, after it seemed for a while there that the club might have been inclined to move on.

INSIDE-OUTSIDE GAME

The appeal with Thompkins regards his multi-dimensional skill-set on offense. Though NBA teams are more or less over the pure stretch four, that position is still a commodity among the European powerhouses and Thompkins fits that profile.

His release is bit methodical and he struggles when an opponent rushes his shot but Thompkins proved himself a pretty good standstill open-shot shooter, nailing 47.9% of his 121 three-point shots – according to RealGM. He is not, however, the sort of shooter who can come off screens and wasn’t given much opportunity to work in the pick-and-pop.

Thompkins didn’t show much prolificacy working off the bounce attacking closeouts and didn’t show to be a particularly instinctive passer. He wasn’t put in the pick-and-roll late in the season, as he was often paired with Gustavo Ayon, who can’t space the floor if he is away from the ball. His role as a floor spacer also made him a non-factor in the glass.

But he balanced his outside scoring with post-up scoring, proving able to post up in a pinch within the flow of the offense or late in the shot clock. Thompkins has strength in his 245-pound frame to establish deep position and bully most power forwards at the European level to get good looks within close range.

He’s shown pretty fluid footwork on a turnaround-fadeaway short jumper, nice touch on non-dunk finishes, shot-fakes to get his shot off against lengthier defenders and the ability to finish through contact. Thompkins failed, though, to draw shooting fouls at an acceptable level, taking a jaw-dropping 32 free throws in 50 appearances.

Defensively, Thompkins proved himself a better perimeter defender than interior defender against the highest level of competition in Europe, showing to be a not particularly instinctive help defender and a below average rebounder.

Guarding on the outside, Thompkins proved himself able to bend his knees to get in a stance and agile enough to keep pace with face up big men, possessing strength to contain dribble penetration through contact and length to contest mid-range jump-shots very effectively. It’s unclear how much switch ability he offers, though his athleticism suggests he should be some sort of asset.

Thompkins, however, didn’t do that well guarding some of the better shooting big men in the continent; he has the quickness to prevent a catch-and-shoot three-point shot and stay in front off the dribble but often closes out off balance and gives up a path for them to attack the lane off the bounce, aside from struggling navigating side screens.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Post Scorer

Gustavo Ayon Scouting Report

CONTEXT

After reaching an agreement with Anthony Randolph, Real Madrid is said to be moving on from Gustavo Ayon, their top center over the last two seasons. The decision is a bit surprising, given the 31-year-old Mexican was their best player during the ACB Finals, though a bit better understood when you realize Ayon was part of the reason Madrid was hopeless to stop Fenerbahçe in the Euroleague quarterfinals.

While his athletic ability is declining, his skill level is improving as he ages, suggesting Ayon still has another year or two of upper echelon production as he’s now probably going to transfer to Turkey or Russia or perhaps return to the NBA as a 20-minute-per-game rotation cog.

SKILL LEVEL

During the ACB Finals, Ayon showcased the ability to operate in space out of the pick-and-roll that is becoming vital for big men these days. Barcelona feared Sergio Llull’s and Sergio Rodriguez’s prolificacy pulling up from long range, trapping and doubling them outside the arc, forcing Ayon to make plays on the move, which he proved able to do.

Ayon showed he can catch the ball at the foul line, take a couple of dribbles to take it to the rim or assist outside shooters out of the short roll. He exhibited nice touch on non-dunk finishes around length, flashing a sweet floater from the in-between area, and assisted on 14.8% of Real Madrid’s scores in his 1,791 minutes on the floor last season – according to RealGM.

That said, Ayon’s money ticket remained his ability to post up within the flow of the offense. He played with enough physicality to get short hooks off against taller big men within close range, blocked on just eight of his 207 two-point shots in the Spanish league last season – according to the league website, though not in a savvy enough manner to earn foul shots in volume, averaging about four free throws per 40 minutes.

Ayon has a turnaround, fade-away jumper that he doesn’t rely on that often, which is also the case on catch-and-shoot opportunities, as he rarely attempted them out of pick-and-pop or even spotting up along the baseline when Felipe Reyes or one of Madrid’s wings posted up.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

Ayon can play above the rim as a target for lobs when his defender gets higher than him defending the pick-and-roll but doesn’t dive to the basket hard enough consistently to be considered a legit vertical threat.

His athleticism makes more of an impact on offense in the glass, where Ayon has consistently played with great energy fighting for tipped balls, collecting 12.7% of Madrid’s misses when he was on the floor last season.

Defensively, it translates in his ability to guard the pick-and-roll above the foul line, which is becoming more important by the day due to the Stephen Curry revolution. Ayon has fluid footwork to show-and-recover high in the perimeter and contest mid-range jumpers pretty well.

He also offers some switch ability; he hasn’t proven able to bend his knees to get in a stance and keep smaller players in front when they can shake him side-to-side but has shown he is capable of keeping pace with these smaller players on straight-line drives, using his hands well to pick up 2.7 steals per 40 minutes last season and challenging or intimidating a shot at the rim.

But Ayon is only average on the defensive glass, collecting fewer than a quarter of opponents’ misses when he manned the pivot each of the last two years, and below average with regards to other areas of defense.

Matched up against face-up big men, Ayon is prone to leaving his feet closing out to them and makes himself vulnerable to fouling or opening a path to the lane for those players to attack off the bounce.

As a help-defender, he’s a so-so rim protector at best, attentive to his rotations but often a step too late and lacking explosiveness to play above the rim as a shot blocker elevating out of one foot coming off the weak-side or out of two feet stepping into the front of the basket, blocking just 73 shots in 74 appearances last season.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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