By Aris Barkas/ barkas@Eurohoops.net
Seven years after entering the NBA as an unknown, Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the verge of becoming both the DPOY and the MVP of the NBA.
Two years after being doubted despite dominating the EuroLeague, Luka Doncic is considered already a candidate to become the top European player of All-Time.
Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Dennis Schroder, Danillo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac, Kristaps Porzingis, and trusty veterans Goran Dragic, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka are just the head of the spear from Europe in this year’s playoffs.
The list goes on and on, the old stereotypes are fading and at this point, nobody doubts that Europe produces NBA stars.
Doncic might have been the last big European miss of the NBA draft, and yes, even getting him at no3 proved to be a blunder.
It has to be noted that most NBA scouts and especially those based in Europe, never had any doubt in their minds about Doncic’s abilities.
The Suns skipped him and Igor Kokoskov, his coach in the Slovenian national team and also the head coach of Phoenix at the time, explained one year later what his position was on the matter, while Vlade Divac of the Sacramento Kings paid the price of not selecting him by ultimately losing his job.
Drafting players is not an exact science, but Doncic’s case totally changed the perception of Europeans in the US, especially for the level of play in the EuroLeague. That’s why this year, Deni Avdija, who is a very talented player but had to fight for his 14,3 minutes per game in the EuroLeague with Maccabi Tel Aviv, is considered a top5 pick without any doubt.
Seven years ago Antetokounmpo was under the radar outside Greece, mainly because of his status as a stateless person until he got his Greek passport just days before the NBA draft, and today scouts and even higher ranking NBA personal are attending B teams practices and second league games for players like Aleksej Pokusevski and Leandro Bolmaro.
Antetokounmpo proved to be the first player who changed the NBA approach and Doncic’s talent solidified it for good.
However, don’t think that there are many more players like Doncic or Giannis in the pipeline. Both cases are a paradox and Doncic is on track to eclipse the legend of Drazen Petrovic.
To be exact, if you check their accolades on their age, Doncic has already matched Drazen and has all the time in the world to surpass him.
There’s no need to mention the records of Doncic. What’s even more interesting in the case of the Slovenian phenomenon is that even today the perception of his abilities remains bounded by stereotypes.
Without any doubt, Doncic is not the most explosive athlete or the quickest guard around but his strength, his size, and his ability to change direction are criminally overshadowed by his high basketball IQ, like the basketball IQ of Giannis and his passing ability is overshadowed by his amazing physical gifts.
The way the game is played outside the NBA, with no defensive three seconds, defenses which are much more physical, and almost no space to operate in the paint, creates a bread of basketball players who understand that spacing, passing, and controlling the tempo are assets as important as athletic abilities.
Add to the mix the fact the top talents of Europe have to face the competition of grown men in practices and in games and then you can understand why Doncic was totally serious when he said that he was playoffs ready due to his experience in Europe.