Which team can unlock Luka Doncic's star potential?

Luka Doncic has been a star and borderline cult figure in Europe since his early teenage years. Now the Slovenian sensation is becoming more of a household name among NBA fans.

While he's one of the most accomplished European prospects of all time, it's not quite clear how Doncic will and should be used in the NBA.

Where is he best, and how should teams use him?

With the draft lottery in the books, let's look at which of the top teams would best unlock his star potential.?

How do you use Doncic?

There's little question that Doncic will be a successful NBA player. The real topic teams are pondering is whether Doncic projects as a franchise building block or a high-end starter on a really good team.

Here's the skinny on his game:

  • Modern perimeter player with a versatile skill set; best skills are unleashed when he has the ball in his hands
  • Electric attacking rebounds and pushing tempo in the open floor
  • Pick-and-roll tactician who dissects help defenses with cross-court darts and high-velocity hook passes
  • More effective shooter off the bounce (69th percentile) than off the catch (48th percentile), regularly creating space to get to his patented step-back going left
  • Dances on the perimeter against switches, lulling bigs to sleep before pulling up
  • On the flip side:

  • Struggles mightily as the primary ball handler without much backcourt help
  • Had issues against aggressive defensive pressure all season
  • Doesn't have the wiggle to break down rangier athletes consistently, and easily slowed by hard hedges and switches from agile bigs
  • At 6-foot-8, 228 pounds, he's at his best defending wings instead of guards
  • With that in mind, how exactly do you unleash Doncic offensively?

    Transition igniter

    Have Doncic attack defensive rebounds and push tempo. Through 61 games this season, he is scoring 1.34 points per possession on 82 chances as the transition ball handler, and he's an even more dynamic open-floor playmaker than scorer.

    On-the-move shot creator

    The key is to get Doncic going to his right out of the pick-and-roll after the defense is already shifting, as he looks heavy-footed creating from a standstill against a set defense. Use a veteran point guard to bring the ball up the floor, then get Doncic into a ball screen with momentum to his right so he can use his size and elite vision to pick teams apart.

    Doncic is also a skilled pick-and-roll scorer (85th percentile), beating defenders going under screens by launching deep pull-ups, getting into midrange spots and finishing with slowdown floaters or crafty touch.

    Off-ball value

    Doncic becomes quite ordinary if you stick him in the corner, as he isn't a knockdown spot shooter or an overly active cutter. But he's capable enough off the catch for teams to have to close out, and he's instinctual attacking from there. He's an excellent passer against scrambling defenses, and he has value as a screener given his size and ability to punish smalls in the post.

    What does he need around him?

    Think about how the Houston Rockets use James Harden -- traditional PG in Chris Paul, a pair of two-way wings in PJ Tucker and Trevor Ariza plus an athletic 5 in Clint Capela. Harden also plays as the more ball-dominant guard for stretches next to Eric Gordon.

    While Doncic is no Harden athletically, this is a good model to unlock his skills:

    1. Versatile, shot-creating guard

  • Sure-handed, can handle pressure
  • Good athlete who is dynamic attacking the rim or pulling up out of the pick-and-roll
  • Adequate spot-up shooter willing to play off the ball for stretches
  • Plus defender of point guards
  • 2. Doncic: Modern playmaker

  • See above
  • 3. 3-and-D wing

  • Spot-up shooter with size (Doncic loves to hit the weakside corner out of the pick-and-roll)
  • Transition athlete who can get up and down
  • Plus defender of shooting guards and small forwards (so Doncic can take the lesser offensive player)
  • 4. Modern forward

  • Adds value as a spacer/pick-and-pop threat
  • Capable ball handler and straight-line driver who can pass on the move (Doncic likes to give the ball up early when pressured in the pick-and-roll)
  • Comfortable switching defensively -- adequate defender of 4s
  • 5. Rim-running big

  • Long, agile and runs the floor hard
  • Vertical spacer who finishes above the rim (less pressure for Doncic to break down defenses)
  • Switch defender who also protects the rim (Doncic struggles to navigate screens but can battle bigs on switches)
  • How does he fit?

    Here's how well Doncic fits with teams drafting the top five.

    Phoenix Suns | No. 1

    Value proposition: Kokoskov relationship Devin Booker

  • Backcourt mate:?Booker, Tyler Ulis
  • Two-way wing: Josh Jackson, TJ Warren
  • Modern forward/big: Dragan Bender
  • Roller: Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler
  • The hiring of Igor Kokoskov as head coach is a home run for Doncic and his development if he lands in Phoenix. Kokoskov is a creative offensive mind who knows how to unlock Doncic's strengths, as he showed coaching Slovenia to the EuroBasket gold medal.

    Playing next to a shot creator like Booker would bode well in some respects. However, Doncic would benefit from having a bit more experience and point-guard savvy in that spot. While accomplished, the 21-year-old Booker is still developing his on-ball game and is much more of a shot-making scorer at this stage. Defensively, Doncic and Booker will have their challenges.

    Phoenix lacks a degree of spacing with Jackson (26.3 percent from 3 this season), Warren (22.2 percent) and Chriss (29.5 percent) on the perimeter, but Jackson and Warren could run with Doncic in transition. Bender is also an interesting fit, should the Croatian continue to make strides as a shooter. With Alex Len hitting free agency and Chandler toward the end of his career, the Suns don't quite have that dynamic lob-catcher.

    A young trio of Doncic, Booker and Jackson (and potentially Bender, pending improvement) is intriguing, but Phoenix would have to work on acquiring more veteran ballhandling, shooting and athleticism up front over the next few years. And entering a rebuild would be an adjustment after all of his European success.

    Sacramento Kings | No. 2

    Value proposition: Dynamic ball handlers agile bigs

  • Backcourt mate: De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Frank Mason, Buddy Hield
  • Two-way wing: Justin Jackson, Garrett Temple, Iman Shumpert
  • Modern forward/big: Skal Labissiere
  • Roller: Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles, Zach Randolph
  • The ultra-twitchy Fox is still quite green and not comfortable off the ball yet, but he projects as a plus defender and has the necessary breakdown tools. In the interim, Mason is a great fit as a plus spot shooter, physical defender and downhill driver. Bogdanovic can space the floor, play second-side pick-and-roll and defend quality 2s. Jackson has some value as a quick-action scorer and potential spacer, Hield gives Doncic a deadeye shooter and Temple is a sound veteran presence in the locker room.

    The Kings lack versatile perimeter defenders to cover up some of Doncic's deficiencies, but at least he wouldn't be stuck guarding 1s. Although he hasn't come close to maximizing his potential, Cauley-Stein -- entering a contract year -- is an ideal 5 for Doncic when engaged. The Kings staff raves about Giles, who can also fill that dynamic roller spot when healthy.

    Overall, though, the Kings are still finding their direction long-term, and Doncic could take time adjusting.

    Atlanta Hawks | No. 3

    Value proposition: Fit with Prince Collins

  • Backcourt mate: Dennis Schroder
  • 3-and-D wing: Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry
  • Modern forward/big: Prince
  • Roller: John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala
  • Doncic pairs nicely with Atlanta's most valuable building blocks in Prince and Collins. Prince can fill the wing role while also being able to slide up a spot, giving Doncic an excellent spot-up target as he ranks in the 88th percentile in catch-and-shoot efficiency, per Synergy. Prince is also at least capable of checking the opponent's best wing. Collins finished 20th in the NBA in transition scoring efficiency, and his athleticism and energy are ideal for Doncic at the 5. On the other end, Collins has the feet to switch ball screens, even if he's not yet the most reliable pick-and-roll defender and doesn't quite provide the necessary rim protection.

    The one young Hawks piece who doesn't fit all that well is Schroder, who is on the books for $46.5 million over the next three years but might not be a part of Atlanta's long-term plans. His breakdown speed and shot creation work next to a more methodical Doncic, but he needs the ball to be effective because of his limitations as a shooter. Schroder has underwhelmed defensively as well, finishing in the bottom five among point guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus four out of his past five seasons.

    Lacking the ideal backcourt mate could lead to some lumps early in Doncic's career if he's saddled with too much shot-creation responsibility. But with plenty of draft picks coming, the Hawks are in a solid position to add more young pieces. Finding the guard to unlock Doncic's strengths will be key.

    Memphis Grizzlies | No. 4

    Value proposition: Fit with Conley win-now timeline

  • Backcourt mate: Mike Conley
  • 3-and-D wing: Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden
  • Modern forward/big: Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green
  • Roller: Marc Gasol, Deyonta Davis
  • Doncic would be able to contribute right away while gradually earning more and more offensive volume. Will Conley, who spent more than 42 percent of his offense in pick-and-roll during his last healthy season, be willing to play more off the ball? If he's comfortable sliding over, this would make the most functional backcourt of any of these Doncic hopefuls.

    Outside of maybe Davis in time, Memphis doesn't have a dynamic roller for Doncic to spoon-feed. Gasol isn't an explosive big, but he provides floor spacing at the 5 while also operating as a plus playmaker from all over the floor. Defensively, they're a troublesome pick-and-roll pairing. Brooks is capable of filling the 3-and-D wing role and Parsons, if healthy, is a good fit at the 4 in modern lineups.

    If Memphis' core were younger there could be worries about the 19-year-old getting enough on-ball opportunities, but ushering him in with veterans is one of his best options. The Grizzlies are short on athletes and versatile defenders, and their young talent isn't quite as plentiful as other teams at the top of this draft, but the immediate fit and long-term benefit of playing next to Conley makes Memphis arguably the most attractive destination from a basketball standpoint.

    Dallas Mavericks | No. 5

    Value proposition: Carlisle system veteran role players

  • Backcourt mate: Dennis Smith Jr., J.J. Barea
  • Two-way wing: Wesley Matthews, Dorian Finney-Smith
  • Modern forward/big: Harrison Barnes, Doug McDermott, Dirk Nowitzki
  • Roller: Dwight Powell
  • Rick Carlisle's "flow" offense is built for multiple ball handlers/playmakers, and Smith -- even though he's still learning how to defend and coexist with another lead guard -- is the type of breakdown athlete Doncic could use next to him. Doncic has also proved successful alongside the Barea of Spain, Facundo Campazzo, during his time with Real Madrid.

    Barea and Nowitzki offer veteran leadership as Doncic learns the NBA ropes. Veterans Matthews and Barnes will also ease his transition while bringing some defensive versatility. Should he re-sign, McDermott is an excellent spacer and on-the-move shooter. Powell led the NBA in field goal percentage in the paint and he's one of the game's more underrated rollers while possessing some agility defensively.

    This isn't an ideal fit given Smith's struggling defense and uninspiring off-ball play as well as Barnes' sometimes iso-happy preference, but there's certainly enough to work with here.