The pearl of European basketball will now start playing on the courts of the NBA league. Luka Dončič was selected as the third pick in the NBA draft, initially putting on the Atlanta Hawks team hat.
However, the 19-year-old native of Ljubljana will be wearing the jersey of the Dallas Mavericks, where the evergreen Dirk Nowitzkialso plays. The Texas team managed to negotiate on getting Atlanta’s 3rd pick in return for this year’s 5th pick (Trae Young) and for a first round pick in one of the next five seasons.
Dončić, who had a dream season behind him, was present at the event in New York, becoming the 12th Slovenian basketball player to take part in the NBA draft. The European champion with Slovenia, European club champion with Real Madrid, Spanish champion, and MVP of both the Euroleague and Spanish league, was predicted to be selected as anywhere between the 2nd and 5th pick of the draft.
Highest drafted basketball player since Kidd
Dončić has become the highest drafted Slovenian in the history of the NBA draft. The previous record holder was Boštjan Nachbar, who was selected as number 15 in the year 2002 by the Houston Rockets, and who played in the NBA between the years 2002 and 2008. The first player to break the ice for Slovenians in the NBA was Marko Milić in 1997. But Dončić has now also become the highest drafted Dallas player since 1994, when the team selected Jason Kidd as number two. Only once did Dallas have a chance of picking first, and that was in 1981 when the team selected Mark Aguirre.
Dončić: I’m prepared!
“I’ve been talking to the Dallas organization, they were so nice to me. I’m very happy to be in the NBA and happy to be a part of this,” said Dončić immediately after the draft. He was also asked about how his experience in the Euroleague will compare to the NBA. His reply was: “You know, I had a lot of ex-NBA players in my team, and I played against a lot of ex-NBA players, and they taught me so much. They talked to me about this moment for the whole year. So, I think I’m prepared.”
Coach Carlisle: We really wanted Luka!
“We’re very fortunate. Luka Dončić was the guy we targeted to get in this draft if there was any way possible to do it. At one point we felt there might be a slight chance he could fall to us, but then a couple of days ago it became clear that there was no way that was going to happen, he was just too good. So we made this deal, we moved up, Atlanta got a great player in Trae Young, and we got a guy that we think is a franchise foundation piece. So it’s a really great day for the Mavericks organization,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle at a press-conference.