After a week of speculation, the Atlanta Hawks have traded the No. 3 overall selection Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 5 selection, Trae Young. Atlanta was long rumored amongst league executives to prefer Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. with the third pick, but began signaling to teams selecting behind No. 4 it would draft Doncic with the pick. This naturally started a bidding war between the Mavericks and the Orlando Magic, owners of the No. 6 pick, according to league sources, and Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk expertly leveraged Dallas to play ball. The Mavericks will also send a future first-round pick to Atlanta in the deal.
The Hawks were hoping to shed either Kent Bazemore or Dennis Schroder’s salaries in any deal, but ultimately agreed to the terms once it was clear the Memphis Grizzlies would select Jaren Jackson Jr. No. 4, allowing Young to fall to No. 5. The Hawks are enamored by Trae Young’s skill set and pick-and-roll prowess, despite their high opinion of Jackson Jr. as well. It’s a smart gamble for Atlanta, who, devoid of a sturdy foundation outside of swingman Taurean Prince and forward John Collins, can flush out a roster full of shooting weapons that can surround Young and Collins’ high-screen actions.
For the Hawks to select a player they feel is a franchise cornerstone—and one they would have been confident to select at No. 3, per sources—two slots lower, garnering another future first in the process, it’s an absolute win. Grading the decision certainly depends on your evaluation of Young, but many decision-makers around the league value Young as the most-skilled prospect in the draft class, at this present moment. Young going to a team with a more established base would have been tricky. But as mentioned above, Atlanta can patiently add pieces around its new star point guard and a forward in Collins that the Hawks also believe boasts All-Star potential.
The Mavericks pulled the trigger many were skeptical they would actually complete. Dončić is the most established European prospect ever, and the Mavericks are certainly well-accustomed to build around an international superstar following the Dirk Nowitzki era. Our draft analyst, Jeremy Woo, described Doncic in his big board as “a prodigious playmaker and basketball savant, Dončić will be the most accomplished player in the draft bar none. He enters with an unprecedented résumé for a 19-year-old, having just led Madrid to a Euroleague title and winning Final Four MVP and also winning Eurobasket in 2017 with his native Slovenia. Though not a traditional point guard, Dončić is comfortable with the ball in his hands, makes his teammates better as a passer and he reads the floor beyond his years. His outside shot can be inconsistent but his stroke is projectable enough. He may benefit from playing alongside a quicker, attack-minded guard, but his team will want to empower him as a playmaker to get the most out of him.”
Dončić has that elusive backcourt mate in Dennis Smith Jr. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle values multiple ball-handlers, often playing several point guards at the same time during his Dallas tenure. Dončić and Smith Jr. should fit nicely as a yin and yang, and both harbor outside shooting ability to space for the other’s creation. It appears to be a guard tandem match made in heaven, and one that Dallas fans will enjoy for many years to come. If the Mavericks can now complement that duo with a major free-agency acquisition this offseason—sources say Dallas will aggressively target DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins—Nowitzki may suddenly have more firepower on offense around him in what may be his final season.