There’s something special going on in Dallas. As Dirk Nowitzki’s flame burned out, a new star took the torch — and has been running with it ever since.
Drafted 3rd overall and acquired by the Mavericks in a draft-day deal, there was obviously a belief in Luke’s abilities since the beginning. But nobody expected what would transpire in the next year and a half.
At just 21-years-old, the Slovenian star has cemented himself as the nest great NBA superstar. He’s breaking records, dominating the basketball court, and leading his team to a respectable standing in the Western Conference playoff picture.
But how did Dallas end up getting their hands on the “Matador” sensation? Tim Cato and Sam Amick revealed the process in a recent article on The Athletic.
Roberto Carmenati doesn’t travel to Istanbul to take in the EuroBasket knockout stage. Instead, he watches it on live television from his home in Fabriano, a cozy comune of 30,000 located in the Marche region of Central Italy. As an international scout for the Dallas Mavericks, Carmenati first heard about Luka Doncic years ago. But as he watches this 17-year-old dazzle for the Slovenian national team en route to the country’s first championship, Carmenati becomes increasingly convinced: This is the guy.
After Doncic scores 27 points against Latvia – while facing, ironically, his future teammate Kristaps Porzingis – Carmenati texts his own teammates, Alvydas Pazdrazdis, the Mavericks’ director of international scouting, and Tony Ronzone, the team’s director of player personnel.
“Luka’s doing magic,” Carmenati tells them. “That’s our guy. That is the first guy to watch (in this draft class).”
The more they watched Doncic, the more convinced they became that he was their guy.
Ronzone first scouts Doncic in person during the junior tournament of the 2013 Copa del Rey, where the 13-year-old is outclassing players four and five years older than him. “When I came away from that game,” Ronzone remembers, “my whole thought process was, ‘This kid is something special.’” He starts calling European coaches and other connections to learn more about him. The more he hears, the more intrigued he becomes.
They were set on Luka pretty early and knew who they wanted going into the 2018 Draft. But, of course, the Mavericks knew they had to make a trade and move up if they wanted to select Doncic, who was projected to be a top-three pick.
Doncic’s name has sat atop the Dallas draft board for months, but the team’s chances of selecting him in June grows worse after the draft lottery. Even with Mark Cuban openly admitting to tanking as his team finishes with the league’s third-worst record, Dallas falls two spots to the fifth overall selection. While not every team views Doncic as the best prospect, most have him no lower than third or fourth on their boards. Nelson and Ronzone realize that acquiring him will almost certainly require a trade, which only makes it more important that they keep their true intentions hidden from their rivals. For now, at least.
They were able to pull off a deal with Atlanta by including another asset in the deal.
Sources say there was near-equal support for Doncic and Young inside Atlanta’s group, but the tie-breaker, in essence, was the chance for the rebuilding Hawks to acquire an additional asset: The 2019 first-rounder that Dallas was offering in a possible pick swap (and which would later become Cam Reddish).
At 7:43 local time that evening, it happens. Atlanta selects Luka Doncic, Dallas later picks Trae Young and then the organizations swap them at the expense of that 2019 Mavericks first rounder.
Many were surprised by how well Doncic has performed in the NBA but it was no shock to the Mavs.
After years of watching him, they knew who he was and believed in what he could do. And now, less than two years after drafting him, they are being rewarded for their choice.