A post on Yahoo! argues that, yes, he is. I would argue that he definitely isn’t.
Or, well, okay. If you feel that a player who has actually spent far more time playing against top-level competition than your run-of-the-mill highly-touted NCAA prospects is mysterious, then Dončić is mysterious. When I google “Andrew Wiggins mysterious,” I don’t get any pre-draft headlines saying he was so shrouded in mystery. Karl-Anthony Towns? Again, the answer is no. 19-year-old Markelle Fultz played 900 minutes for a University of Washington team that went 2-17 in the Pac-12. For me, Fultz’s likely NBA performance with the 76ers next season is more of a mystery than anything about Luka Dončić. That’s just my two cents, but the fact is that night in, night out, one-and-done NCAA basketball players heading to the NBA have faced-off mainly against competition who will never play at the EuroLeague level, much less at the NBA level.
Meanwhile, in Luka Dončić, we have a player that has put-in approximately 2300 minutes of playing time at a very high professional level in the ACB and EuroLeague for two straight years. In the above-linked Yahoo! article the argument that Dončić is a mystery falls apart via the author’s own text (emphasis mine):
“Doncic became the youngest player ever to suit up for Real Madrid — an overseas power […]”
“[H]e has risen from seldom-used phenom to a key contributor and sometime-starter on a team that reached the EuroLeague semifinals […]”
Look at this dubiousness: “The worry, as with all international prospects, is that projections won’t translate into NBA production.”
…What? No no no, that is the worry with all prospects, not all international prospects. That’s why even the best front offices, scouts, etc., miss the mark on guys regularly. It’s why Kawhi Leonard, who played two years in D1, fell all the way to 15th in the 2011 draft, but now is one of the absolute best two-way players in the NBA. Jimmy Butler was at Marquette three years (though only two of them saw him taking on a heavy workload), drafted 30th overall. Draymond Green spent four years at Michigan State and was drafted 35th overall. Players drafted in front of them? Dion Waiters, Thomas Robinson, Jimmer Fredette, the Morris Twins — all guys who spent multiple years in college, mostly at high-major universities. There are many more examples. How to consistently and competently project how players will play at a higher level of basketball is the real mystery.
My main point here is, it isn’t the 90s anymore. It isn’t even the early 2000s anymore. Everyone has access to the internet, DraftExpress, Twitter, etc. etc. There’s no longer a good reason to act like “not North America” = “Mysterious”. If a player isn’t as unheralded as Giannis Antetokounmpo coming into a draft (or, to take it further and more obscure, Tanguy Ngombo), please don’t act like that player is more mysterious than your run-of-the-mill prospect out of NCAA D1. I haven’t mentioned the name of the author of the Yahoo! Post because it seems like, as he argued against the headline in the body of the post, maybe this “mystery” line was foisted upon him by an out-of-touch editor or something. But really I don’t care who exactly is responsible — what I care about is injecting this ridiculous narrative with a little more logic and reason.
I also want to add that this is a topic of some annoyance in the European hoops community, so the writer at Yahoo! really walked right into this one. A selection of tweets from months gone by:
Jokic was on the Rio team and he sucks too right?? Can't believe those mystery Europeans think they can play in the NBA. Crazy idea. https://t.co/ifUkNmCloz
— Sam Meyerkopf (@HoopLikeDrazen) July 1, 2017
Are you looking forward to Luka Doncic being a 'man of mystery' next year?
— Joshua Riddell (@Joshua_Riddell) June 23, 2017
Another European Mystery! And he's more developed than Porzingis apparently. https://t.co/QOWSZUauFh
— Sam Meyerkopf (@HoopLikeDrazen) May 19, 2016
the tape is out there to find it. Stop saying that the dudes are mysteries out of laziness.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) May 19, 2016
Sam Meyerkopf has been on this beat for a while. To be honest, he essentially converted me from “well-some-guys-are-kinda-mysterious-from-perspective-of-NBA/NCAA-fans-and-writers” agnostic (we’re working on a better name), to the Militant Anti-Mystery™ side. You can’t just walk around calling every guy, including big names like Luka, mysteries. Or, I mean, you can do that. But it’s bad.
So hopefully there will be only so many 'Mystery European Prospects' in the NBA Draft this year because the access/visibility will be high.
— Sam Meyerkopf (@HoopLikeDrazen) October 15, 2015
Another European 'mystery' player. I wonder if they even have video cameras in Europe yet? https://t.co/uVd7pQHjo2
— Sam Meyerkopf (@HoopLikeDrazen) June 19, 2015
The mystery of Doncic is what little we know about him off the basketball court. That was the point made in the post, perhaps not clearly enough. For a prospect of his stature Stateside, we would likely know everything from his GPA to what he likes for breakfast. And, yes, we know both of those things about Marvin Bagley III. Doncic was mentioned as the potential No. 1 pick in the headline, so we know his basketball ability. When LeBron James was a generational prospect, he was profiled on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior. Doncic appears to be one of the greatest European prospects of his generation, and at least for a U.S. audience, I’ve yet to read a feature on him that goes into that kind of depth. That was the only point I was trying to make, and again, maybe that wasn’t clear enough in both the first two and final paragraphs.