Part of Jeff Peterson’s responsibilities as Hawks assistant general manager is to oversee the team’s scouting process. That’s a particularly important role this season as the Hawks own the No. 3 draft pick in addition to Nos. 19, 30 and 34.
I recently sat down with Peterson to get his thoughts on eight top prospects in the 2018 draft: Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Trae Young. Over the next several days I’ll post some lightly edited transcripts of those conversations.
Previous entry: Deandre Ayton
Luka Doncic, PG/SG, Real Madrid
Height/weight: 6-foot-8, 220 pounds (listed)
Age: 19 (Feb. 28, 1999)
Hometown: Ljubljana, Slovenia
ESPN draft projection: No. 4 to the Grizzlies.
Q. (Cunningham) Americans don’t get to see Doncic very much. I watched some of his games on video and it seems his vision, his passing and play-making are off the charts. Are those the things that make him a top prospect?
A. (Peterson) Yes. Just his ability to make guys better, make the game easier for guys really stands out. Up until this (Rockets-Warriors) playoff series I think you saw a lot of ball movement especially with Golden State. I think they reverted back to the (isolation plays) this series just because of the (defensive) switching that was occurring. But, in general, the NBA is moving more toward ball movement, player movement and (Doncic) really thrives in that area. It’s his vision, his willingness to make passes, his unselfishness. His size allows him to see over guys and find guys in different angles. He’s a decent shooter. The thing with him is, he’s not afraid to take big shots and he makes big shots. He has a ton of confidence to be able to do what he’s doing at that age at that level in that league is pretty impressive.
Q. For Americans who don’t see much of the competition he’s facing, what’s it like in the Spanish league (Liga ACB) and Eurloeague?
A. Some would say the ACB is the second-best league in the world, that and the Euroleague. There is a ton of ex-NBA players over there. There’s a ton of high-level European players who, for whatever reason, never made their way to the states. It is a very, very good league. It’s very good basketball. Very good coaches and players. For what he’s been able to do for a couple years over there, to win MVP at his age, it’s never been done. It’s really impressive. The competition is higher than any college league. It’s higher than the ACC, the Big 10, the SEC. He’s playing with grown men over there. It’s pretty impressive.
Q. Is he a point guard? A wing? Or does it even matter?
A. I don’t think it matters. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and he’s comfortable without the ball in his hands, too. He’s shown that with the Slovenian national team with he played with (Miami Heat point guard) Goran Dragic. Dragic had the ball a lot and they would play off one another. And Doncic is smart so he can figure it out with or without the ball. I think he’s one of those guys that you put him out there and you figure it out. He’s a guy you want out there because he’s reliable and comfortable with the ball in his hands and typically makes good decisions.
Q. From watching him in video, it doesn’t seem he’s an elite athlete but he’s a big dude. How do you think that plays out as far as turning the corner, getting to the basket, finishing at the basket and those kinds of things?
A. It’s an area he will have to improve in. From an athletic standpoint he’s not elite but nor is he deficient. But absolutely in the NBA it’s a completely different level, different caliber of athletes. He’s smart. He’ll be able to adjust. I think his body has room for improvement. If he improves that, his athleticism should improve a little bit as well. But he’s going to be a guy who beats you more with his mind—angles, change of pace and direction—rather than just outright speed.
Q. His shooting has been OK, not great. What is his potential there?
A. His shot looks fine. I’m not a shooting expert by any means but I’m sure our coaches would get with him and if they want to tweak anything minor then maybe they do it. But it’s not broke. Again, he makes big shots, which is a testimony to him. He’s confident. I think he will be a fine shooter.
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