San Antonio Spurs Draft

Leveraging the 2018 NBA Draft

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WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, SPAIN - 2018/04/25: Luka Doncic, #7 of Real Madrid gestures during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Offs Game 3 between Real Madrid and Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens at WiZink center in Madrid. (Photo by Jorge Sanz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, SPAIN - 2018/04/25: Luka Doncic, #7 of Real Madrid gestures during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Offs Game 3 between Real Madrid and Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens at WiZink center in Madrid. (Photo by Jorge Sanz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs would need a miracle to land Luka Doncic, who raised a few eyebrows with these comments Thursday about when he will join the NBA.

The San Antonio Spurs are a mile away from the top five picks of the 2018 NBA Draft, with a spot a No. 18 set — their highest selection since the 1997 NBA Draft. So it’s basically impossible to expect them to land the top players of this class.

Among them is Luka Doncic, a young rising star on a veteran Real Madrid team. He’s projected to go in the top three of the draft, with the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks all in range.

However, on Thursday, Doncic dropped a comment that has the chance to shake up the draft, according to EuroHoops.net:

“Ι’m not sure if these are the last two games [in EuroLeague]. We have yet to make this decision. Perhaps after the season,” Doncic said when asked if the Final Four matches are the last two he’ll play in EuroLeague.

The straightforward reaction to this is it’s a leverage play. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express argued this, with Doncic’s representation able to “steer him to a specific destination.”

Here is Luka Doncic potentially planting the seed for what I talked about on the Woj podcast yesterday (https://t.co/313b9dvcSC). His representation has some very unique leverage to steer him to a specific destination, or even nudge a trade along, should they choose. https://t.co/K3FVw5EdRG

— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 17, 2018

Doncic, who might be the No. 2 pick in the draft if Ayton goes to the Suns, can force the Kings’ hands and say he does not want to play for them. The same goes for the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and other teams in the upper-tier of the draft.

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What if Doncic specifically points at the organization he wants to join? That creates draft-night hoopla, whether that team decides to trade up for him for pennies on the dollar or do nothing and let him slide.

Then, there are teams that can select Doncic and hold his value hostage. It’s a monumental risk, as the unwanted team can coax the desired destination into paying whatever it takes to get the Slovenian star, a la the Denver Nuggets-New York Knicks trade for Carmelo Anthony. Otherwise, the unwanted team can hold him in the EuroLeague for however long. It would be a wasted, high draft pick, but if there’s even a chance this unwanted team can convince Doncic to play for them (only if a trade with the desired team never works out), then it’s a home run in the long run.

Of course, Doncic may actually want to stay in Spain for another year and hold off his NBA debut. That would not be far-fetched, but when this comment comes just 48 hours after the lottery, it’s easy to view it as a head-turner.

Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: After the lottery

A leveraged play has the chance to take over the 2018 NBA Draft, which makes it the most interesting storyline in the five weeks before 60 players go from prospect to pro. In an alternate world, it would be fun to think the Spurs have a chance in this, and even if Doncic said he wanted to join them, it would take a jump from No. 18 into the upper-echelon of the draft. Try NBA 2K19 instead.

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