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Vlade Divac’s GM Career Is Riding On His Analysis Of Luka Doncic

No pressure, Vlade.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

With the 2018 NBA Draft just weeks away, Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings find themselves in a position that is equal parts exciting and gut-wrenching.

At this point in the pre-draft process, all signs point toward Arizona center Deandre Ayton going to the Phoenix Suns with the no.1 overall pick, leaving the Kings with a large crop of dynamic young basketball talent to choose from with the 2nd overall pick. Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr, and Marvin Bagley are the favorites right now, but you can’t rule out the likes of Jaren Jackson Jr, Mo Bamba, or Wendell Carter just yet considering how little information NBA Draft insiders have been able gather from the Kings front office. It’s nearly impossible to determine what is a Kings smokescreen vs. agents using the Kings as leverage vs. irresponsible reporting, so it’s best to just assume everything is on the table until it isn’t.

What we do know, however, is that Vlade Divac and co. are about to make the most important basketball decision of the last… 12 years? I’m nervous, so I can’t imagine how nervous they are.

Divac, in particular, has a lot riding on this draft pick. This is speculative on my part, but common sense would suggest that Vlade’s general manager clock is ticking. I won’t say his tenure has been an absolute failure, because when he took over, the Kings needed another reset, and despite how he got the Kings to this point, they have reset with some exciting young talent.

I’ve been pretty outspoken about this before, and there is no sense in hiding those feelings now, but I haven’t been a big fan of Vlade’s work thus far. I like De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Buddy Hield. I thought the Harry Giles gamble in 2017 was smart despite the obvious unknown. I’m even more optimistic on guys like Justin Jackson and Willie Cauley-Stein than most.

Aside from enjoying some of the young talent Divac brought in, nearly every free agent signing or trade Divac made hasn’t quite worked out for the Kings. Some have been worse than others, with the Bogdan Bogdanovic trade being an obvious win for Sacramento, but we’ve heard too many horror stories about Vlade Divac and the front office for me to feel comfortable with the crew running the Kings right now, and believe me – I’d love to be wrong.

The good news for Vlade Divac and the current regime is that they are still here, and were just gifted the no. 2 overall pick in an extremely strong draft. This is the kind of pick that can make or break a career, and I believe that is exactly what Divac is facing right now, but most specifically with regards to his analysis of Luka Doncic.

Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton have been at the top of nearly every draft board and mock draft all year. Ayton has pulled ahead recently, but coming away from the lottery this still seemed like a two player draft. Ayton and Doncic were in a tier of their own; with the rest of the very-talented pack somewhere below. Whether or not that has actually changed behind-the-scenes in NBA front offices remains to be scene, but if NBA Draft gurus and mock draft artists are to be believed, Doncic isn’t in that top tier anymore. Instead, Doncic is being lumped together with the likes of Bagley, Bamba, Jackson, Carter, Porter, etc.

What we have heard out of Sacramento, and I use the term ‘heard’ loosely here, is that the Kings aren’t particularly high on Doncic. Did my this is obviously a smokescreen alarm go off as soon as this sentiment started to leak through the media? Of course, but it’s out there, and it’s coming from reputable sources, so it’s legitimacy is worth considering.

When NBA insiders talk about the little slide Doncic has been on for the last several weeks, it’s rarely coupled with any sort of why? Why is Doncic slipping? Why are the Kings not sold on him? What changed between the lottery and now? What are we missing?

I can’t answer those questions. To be clear, I want the Kings to draft Luka Doncic on June 21st, so I’ve been digging for that why? And I can’t find anything that makes sense, so maybe it’ll end up being a smokescreen after all, and the Kings will take Doncic on draft night, but we just don’t know that yet.

Here’s where things get tricky for Vlade Divac, and to some extent, Peja Stojakovic. Both Vlade and Peja have followed Doncic’s international career for a long, long time. Divac used to work for Real Madrid. Peja has deep international basketball roots. If any front office in the NBA should be able to appropriately assess whether or not Luka Doncic is worthy of the #2 overall pick, it’s the Sacramento Kings. I’ve already talked about my criticism of Divac’s moves thus far, but this decision? Deciding whether a generational Euroleague star is the right player for this team with this pick? That should be Vlade’s bread and butter. If he can’t get this right, I don’t know how or why you’d keep him around in his current capacity.

I’m not saying that Divac needs to take Doncic because of his European roots; I’m saying he needs to be correct in his analysis of Luka Doncic, or he might be out of a job.

If Divac takes Doncic and he turns into the star so many draft pundits think he can be, that’s a win for Vlade and his front office. If they pass on Doncic, being the front office that should know and relate to his situation best, and he busts somewhere else, that’s a win for Vlade and his front office. But if they pass on Doncic and he is a world-beater for another team, I just don’t know how he recovers from that.

No pressure, Vlade.