It’s hard to deny what we’re witnessing through the first quarter of the season – the San Antonio Spurs should’ve traded up for Luka Doncic.
First off, I’d like to preface this by saying that the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl has been a major success for general managed R.C. Buford. Bringing along another superstar caliber player to replace a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard was not only intuitive, but it showed the world that the San Antonio Spurs will continue to battle the Wild West in the face of adversity.
With that said, there was another route that would’ve changed the course of the Southwest Division for years to come.
As Manu Ginobili hung up his uniform and finished an illustrious career, San Antonio could’ve used Leonard to bring along arguably the greatest European prospect we’ve ever seen in 19-year-old swingman Luka Doncic. Instead, the Spurs will face the blossoming star four times per season as the Dallas Mavericks traded up to secure their franchise cornerstone.
In a sample size of 32 games in his rookie year, Doncic is posting unprecedented numbers for a first-year player in the modern NBA. He is posting an average of 19 points per game on 55.7 percent true shooting while grabbing 6.7 boards and dropping 5.1 dimes nightly. It didn’t take long for Luka to ignite the league with his exceptional playmaking and scoring instincts.
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Many wondered whether or not his game would translate to the NBA, causing him to waver in draft stock. San Antonio doesn’t subscribe to the rhetoric that European players have a hard time adapting to the league and very likely would’ve selected Luka given the opportunity.
Doncic provides many of the same core skills that make DeRozan such an excellent fit under the regime of head coach Gregg Popovich. For as talented as they both are as scorers, passing the ball and involving teammates is essential to their fit on the floor. DeRozan has been a pro for a decade now and is just learning to truly embrace the role while Doncic is doing it in his first year.
For as beloved as he’s become in the Alamo City, DeRozan is on a timeline of his own when considering the future of the franchise. He’s not quite as old as LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol but he’s also got a ton of experience over players such as Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Doncic would’ve fit much better with the future timeline of the San Antonio Spurs.
Trading for DeRozan was by no means the wrong move, but trading for Luka would’ve transformed the longterm trajectory of the Spurs organization.