Charlotte Hornets: The possibility of Luka Doncic in the Queen City

WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, SPAIN - 2018/06/05: Luka Doncic during Real Madrid victory over Herbalife Gran Canaria (92-83) in Liga Endesa playoff semifinals (game 2) celebrated at Wizink Center in Madrid. (Photo by Jorge Sanz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, SPAIN - 2018/06/05: Luka Doncic during Real Madrid victory over Herbalife Gran Canaria (92-83) in Liga Endesa playoff semifinals (game 2) celebrated at Wizink Center in Madrid. (Photo by Jorge Sanz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

EuroLeague phenom Luka Doncic is one of the best draft prospects in recent memory. How likely is it he ends up in Charlotte?

With DeAndre Ayton all but officially penciled in as Phoenix‘s number one pick, it’s the Kings‘ time on the clock. No one is certain of the direction they’ll take, but most experts believe Sacramento will select either Slovenian point forward Luka Doncic or Duke big man Marvin Bagley. A third option has been discussed though. The option of trading the pick.

ESPN’s Jonathon Givony reported Monday that several teams have inquired about trading into the top 3 for Doncic. Picking at 11, the odds that the EuroLeague MVP falls to Charlotte are nonexistent. However, the Hornets have likely had internal discussions about moving up, and trading for the Kings pick would certainly make a splash for new GM Mitch Kupchak.

What would it take for the Queen City to move up in the draft? Before examining potential trade packages, let’s look at Doncic as a prospect himself.

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The 19-year-old EuroLeague MVP has a plethora of talents, but none may be more impressive than his passing abilities. His court vision is unbelievable and has drawn comparisons to likely Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons. His highlights transcend words. The way Doncic whips the ball around with spectacular precision is a thing of beauty.

At 6’8″, Doncic also has an impeccably tight handle. His bag of tricks is deep with a killer crossover and a deadly step-back jumper. Doncic can string together moves quite stunningly, despite not moving with the poetic skill of a guy like Kyrie Irving. He keeps to ball low and close to his body and doesn’t lose control often.

His shooting numbers aren’t great, hitting 31% from deep. Despite this, Doncic has solid mechanics, and it’s expected his jump shot will translate to the NBA level. Inside the paint, Doncic is crafty, slithering around defenders for tricky scoop layups. He utilizes fakes well and can get defenders off balance for easy floaters.


The few criticisms of Doncic are on the defensive end of the court. He doesn’t have Westbrook-like athletic ability, which can be concerning because he’s not entirely locked in defensively. It’s likely there will be a learning curve for Doncic as he discovers just how engaged he needs to be.

Many of the worries about Doncic will probably be mitigated by scheme at the NBA level. Ideally, to alleviate his lack of speed, he’ll guard 2s and 3s. Defensive concerns may be overblown though, as in his 2016 showing against the OKC Thunder, Doncic held his own.

There are a few questions about Doncic’s shot selection, but he’ll be surrounded by better shot creators at the NBA level. Given his natural gift for passing and his willingness to share the rock, it’s unlikely those concerns materialize in the NBA.

Trade Packages

Doncic is one of the most versatile prospects in the upcoming draft and should be able to start 1-3 for most teams. Because of this adaptability, the Kings will likely have many suitors for their second overall pick. Basketball fans saw last year just how much it takes to move up in the lottery with the Philadelphia 76ers jumping from 3 to 1 for Markelle Fultz.

Combine all these factors together – Doncic’s talent, competitors for the 2nd pick, and moving up in the lottery being costly – it may seem like these potential trades are expensive for Charlotte. That’s true; it will be pricey for the Hornets to move up. The question is whether or not it’s worth it for a player of Doncic’s ability.

Trade 1

Kings get: Kemba Walker ($12M, 1 year remaining), 11th pick
Hornets get: Zach Randolph ($12.3M, 2 years remaining), 2nd pick

This is a pretty straightforward move. Here, the Kings unload Z-Bo’s hefty contract and acquire an All-Star on an expiring deal. Not only is there a dramatic talent increase, the Kings get some salary cap relief a bit sooner. Charlotte answers the Kemba Walker question, eats a bad contract, and gets their backcourt of the future by pairing Doncic with the electric Malik Monk.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like it would be a winning trade deal for Sacramento. Specifically, Boston could leverage their mountain of assets, and anyone picking in the 3-8 range could offer a much better pick than Charlotte.

Trade 2

Kings get: Kemba Walker ($12M, 1 year remaining), 2019 1st round pick, 2021 1st round pick
Hornets get: Zach Randolph ($12.3M, 2 years remaining), 2nd pick

This trade features the same major parts as the last, with Kemba and Zach Randolph still swapping teams. A major difference here is that Charlotte can keep their 11th pick to build for the future. Sacramento takes the two later first round picks over the 11th pick for two reasons. Not only will the Kings return to the first round in 2019, they acquire an extra asset in Charlotte’s 2021 first round pick.

This feels closer to something that would move the needle for Sacramento, but it’s tough to envision them wanting out of the 2018 first round altogether.

Trade 3

Kings get: Kemba Walker ($12M, 1 year remaining), 8th pick
Hornets get: Zach Randolph ($12.3M, 2 years remaining), Kyle Korver ($7M, 2 years remaining), 2nd pick
Cavaliers get: Jeremy Lamb ($7M, 1 year remaining), 11th pick

While this trade retains most of the major parts of the previous two, there’s one key difference in the addition of the Cleveland Cavaliers. With this trade, the Kings still get the aforementioned cap relief and a talent upgrade in Kemba Walker. However, when they move back, they’ll only go to 8th, where they should be able to pick an impact player like Wendell Carter Jr.

Charlotte eats two bad contracts that’ll expire in the 2021 off-season. With that though, they’ll get Luka Doncic, whose floor looks like an All-Star level talent. Additionally, they get some value back for Lamb and Kemba instead of possibly losing them both in free agency for no return.

Cleveland only moves back three draft slots, and in doing so, acquires a young talent in Jeremy Lamb. They get younger by dumping Korver in Charlotte and also acquire a small amount of cap relief since Lamb expires a year earlier than Korver.

Overall, adding a third team really seems like the best option here, should Charlotte be interested in Luka Doncic. He’s certainly worth it as a prospect. Doncic’s blend of polished, poised play at the point guard spot and potential as a knockdown shooter from deep give him a unique level of offensive ability that few possess. Defensively, while not perfect, he projects as an average defender after a couple of seasons of NBA training.

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There isn’t any concrete evidence linking Charlotte to Doncic, or even moving up in the draft at all. But if it does happen, look for one of these possible trades to be made for the first player to potentially have a EuroLeague and an NBA MVP.