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The eLukaphant in the room

Ok fine, let’s talk about Luka

Sacramento Kings v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

We’re going to discuss Luka Doncic. If you don’t want to, you can go ahead and skip this post and its comment section.

We’ve avoided posting about Luka Doncic much over the past year. Part of it is the simple fact that he’s not on the Sacramento Kings, part of it is that rehashing past decisions endlessly doesn’t really get us anywhere, and part of it has been that Marvin Bagley III is a fun and exciting player. But the start of this season has been particularly difficult, both because Doncic is playing out of this world, and Bagley isn’t playing at all. Without the distraction of a fun Kings team and big Bagley dunks, Luka’s every box score hangs ominously over Kings fans.

Luka is averaging 29.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 9.3 assists per game. He’s putting up numbers greater than almost any 20 year old players in history. Now Kings fans, of course, know the pitfalls of saying “no player x years old has ever hit these hand-picked benchmarks”, but Luka is playing undeniably great basketball. It’s not to say he’s a perfect player. His defense is not good and his 3 point shooting is below average, but he’s still a phenomenal player.

And that’s where the excuses for the Kings fall apart. The common refrain is that Doncic and De’Aaron Fox wouldn’t have worked well together (ignoring that the Kings then attempted to sign Zach LaVine to an offer sheet). And it very well may be true, but it still isn’t a reason to pass on an amazing player. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were never an ideal pairing, and yet they had a tremendous amount of success. Fit matters, but talent matters more.

The Kings need Marvin Bagley back and healthy as soon as possible, not just for the ways he can help the team on the floor, but to remind everyone that he’s no Sam Bowie. Bagley playing well won’t excuse the front office’s decision unless he make a monumental leap this year, but it’s no coincidence that last year’s draft is being so heavily relitigated at a time when Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley are both unable to play.

I’ll always wish the Kings had taken Luka. It was the obvious choice then and it’s simply being confirmed now. But I’m desperately rooting for Bagley to be good enough that I can be happy. I need Fox to be good enough to justify the front office choosing to put the ball in his hands instead of Luka’s. Last season, we saw the beginnings of that. Not enough to justify the pick, but enough that we could enjoy the team without staring at Dallas box scores. And these burdens aren’t fair to Fox or Bagley, but they are the unfortunate reality.

The Kings passed on Luka Doncic. The Kings have Fox and Bagley. This is our reality. All we can do now is root for our guys to play well enough to make Vlade’s blunder less painful.