DALLAS — Sacramento Kings coach Dave Joerger sees unlimited potential in Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, the player selected with the pick immediately after the Kings drafted Marvin Bagley III.
“He’s got a lot of different skills and I think he’s going to become a heck of a shooter,” Joerger said of Doncic before the Kings’ 120-113 road win over the Mavs on Sunday. “And when that happens, it’s going to make him quicker. He’s got good ballhandling and he knows how to play.
“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him. I don’t see it, unfortunately for us. But he’s great for them and he’s great for our league.”
Joerger’s comments about Doncic were particularly eyebrow-raising due to well-chronicled friction between the coach and the Kings’ front office despite Sacramento’s encouraging start with a young core featuring point guard De’Aaron Fox, shooting guard Buddy Hield and center Willie Cauley-Stein.
The Kings are 16-13 and tied for sixth place in the Western Conference standings, which is tremendous progress for a franchise that has the NBA’s longest active playoff drought, dating to Sacramento’s last winning season in 2005-06.
Doncic, acquired by Dallas with the No. 3 overall pick after a draft-night trade with the Atlanta Hawks, is averaging 18.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game as a 19-year-old rookie for the 15-13 Mavs. He had 28 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists in Sunday’s loss to the Kings.
Bagley, a 19-year-old power forward/center selected No. 2 overall out of Duke, is averaging 12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 23.1 minutes per game off the Kings’ bench. He missed the win over the Mavs and will be out at least 10-14 days due to a bone bruise in his left knee, but Bagley’s playing time has reportedly been a source of contention between Joerger and the Kings’ front office.
Doncic, the reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month, said that at one point he expected to be drafted by Sacramento. He met with a Kings contingent in Madrid, where he played professionally the previous four seasons, before the draft.
“They needed a big guy, so it was just a better fit for him,” Doncic said diplomatically of the Kings drafting Bagley.
When it was suggested that Doncic didn’t really believe that, a grin broke out on his face.
“I feel that I’m very excited to be in Dallas,” Doncic said. “I’m just very happy to be here.”