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Is Luka Doncic worth the risk? Why the Kings might be best equipped to make that call

Slovenia's Luka Doncic celebrates with fans after the EuroBasket semifinal match against Spain in Istanbul, Sept. 14, 2017. Doncic might be the best prospect to come out of Europe that the NBA has seen in recent history. To some, there's no doubt the Kings should select the 19-year-old EuroLeague star if he's available second overall in Thursday's NBA draft.
Slovenia's Luka Doncic celebrates with fans after the EuroBasket semifinal match against Spain in Istanbul, Sept. 14, 2017. Doncic might be the best prospect to come out of Europe that the NBA has seen in recent history. To some, there's no doubt the Kings should select the 19-year-old EuroLeague star if he's available second overall in Thursday's NBA draft. AP file

Luka Doncic might be the best prospect to come out of Europe that the NBA has seen in recent history.

What does that mean for his NBA future? That's anyone's guess.

Like any prospect, Doncic has the potential to be a star or a flop. To some, there's no doubt the Kings should select the 19-year-old EuroLeague star if he's available second overall in Thursday's NBA draft.

Doncic is hardly a lock to be selected by the Kings. The front office is seriously looking at prospects such as Duke's Marvin Bagley III and Missouri's Michael Porter Jr., both of whom are viable options for Sacramento.

The Kings might know Doncic's value better than any other franchise, with insight from general manager Vlade Divac and assistant GM Peja Stojakovic, both Serbians who starred overseas. Divac's affinity for European players (though he's only drafted one since 2015) has been a running joke, but his background should put the Kings in position to assess whether Doncic is worth the risk.

Sacramento's staff has "a great gauge on international players — from playing (and) going back after their playing days," said Ryan Blake, director of scouting for the NBA. "And that's also a network — getting inside and knowing a player is important, too. So when you're shading in that pizza-pie puzzle, and shading and shading, you know you're going to make the decision that's the right decision. If they take him at two or if they take him at four (if they traded down), they're going to have all they need, all the information."

What are Doncic's positives? He's considered an elite playmaker with great court vision and instincts. And in today's NBA where interchangeable players are the rage, who wouldn't want a player like him?

We break down the five biggest booms and five biggest busts at the No. 2 overall pick in NBA Draft history. The Sacramento Kings have that spot for the 2018 draft.

He also excelled last season on one of the toughest international stages, winning EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP in leading Spain's Real Madrid to the championship. He also helped Slovenia win EuroBasket 2017.

Spain, Greece, Italy, Serbia and France are generally considered the best countries in Europe for competition, Blake said.

At 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, Doncic has size to play small forward. That, along with his pro experience, has made believers out of people inside and outside the Kings organization that Doncic could step in as a rookie and contribute immediately.

But some scouts believe Doncic's best position is point guard, and that could present a problem. The Kings invested the fifth overall pick last year in point guard De'Aaron Fox, and some think it would be counterproductive to Fox's development to bring in a player who would take the ball out of his hands.

Fox is not a proficient 3-point shooter, so asking him to play off the ball isn't ideal.

"I don't think they can take the keys to the car from Fox, or shouldn't," said one Western Conference scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Some are skeptical Doncic can play up to the size and athleticism of the NBA, which is on another level from even the best leagues in Europe.

"They are men," Blake said of Doncic's European opponents. "They aren't NBA players. How do you gauge that individually?"

Can Doncic defend high-level NBA wing players as well as create and find passing lanes against bigger and quicker athletes?

"(Doncic's) instincts are so quick," Blake said. "And that comes from, just think visually of the hockey assist and how they see the play develop and so forth and how he reacts to the ball and instincts. Also it's a toughness; he'll compete defensively. He's a good athlete but he's not an elite-NBA level athlete. And that may be nitpicking and not a major concern."

Blake began scouting overseas in the 1990s and says the process has changed. Teams have a better understanding of the international game. Doncic's extensive international play, from his under-18 and under-20 teams, gives NBA franchises a good way to track his progress, Blake said.

"He's been on the radar so much in his young life," he said.

So is Doncic worth the risk? That's for the Kings to decide. Regardless of the decision, they'll do so feeling they have all the information needed.

"You gauge if a player can play an NBA position or at an NBA level," Blake said. "That's what your deciding factor has to be."

Here's a ranking of the Sacramento Kings best and worst NBA draft decisions in the lottery since 2007, according to the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones.

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