Storyline: No. 1 pick

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Rudy Fernandez spoke to Eurohoops when the locker rooms opened to the press after the team’s celebrations and speaking about Luka Doncic, he admitted that this is expected to be his last season in Europe. “He is a special guy, we have to enjoy this year because we know”, said the two time EuroLeague champ with Real Madrid and former NBA player. “He has to play with the best players in the world, maybe in the next year we are going to miss him, but it’s normal. He is 19 years old and he deserves it”.

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2 days ago via ESPN

McDonough, in an interview on ESPN2’s NBA Draft Combine special on Friday, said the Suns haven’t ruled out the option of dealing away the No. 1 pick in June’s draft for a lower pick or even a worthy veteran. “We’re certainly open to that. We’ll consider it,” McDonough said. “Obviously, we’ll have more information closer to the draft than we do today, after we go through the workout process and the interview process and we get the medical physicals. So we’re open to that.”

Of special interest is the effect that newly hired Suns coach Igor Kokoskov will have on the decision. Kokoskov was the head coach of the Slovenian national team last year in its run to the gold medal in the EuroBasket tournament — which featured Doncic averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in nine games. That’s led to speculation that Kokoskov would push the Suns to draft Doncic. But sources familiar with the Suns’ thinking told Sporting News on Thursday that’s just not the case.

In fact, look for Phoenix to insulate Kokoskov from the decision, and to put it squarely in the lap of GM Ryan McDonough. That’s not to say Kokoskov won’t have any input, but the Suns do not want to put pressure on their new head coach by leaving the impression that he lobbied for or against Doncic, an impression that could hamstring him even before he started on his new job. “He is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t,” one source said. “If he pushes for Doncic and they take him, then anything that happens with Doncic or Ayton from there is on him. No team wants to put their coach in that situation. No coach wants to be in that situation. They’re going to avoid that like the plague.”

McDonough said he’s not concerned that the Suns won’t be able to work out Doncic because he’ll be playing in the Liga ACB, the top professional basketball division of the Spanish basketball league, through June. The Suns already have seen Doncic play in person several times, and McDonough plans to head to Europe in the next few weeks to get another look at the Slovenian guard. “If anything, it makes it easier for us to evaluate him in real time against high-level competition,” McDonough said. “We view that as a benefit.”

Even in his absence, though, Doncic created a stir when he told reporters in Europe this week that he was not sure he would be playing his final games for Real Madrid. That led to speculation that Doncic, perhaps, would not play for the team that landed the No. 2 pick in the lottery on Tuesday, the Kings — but would, instead, opt to sign a new contract and stay in Spain unless he could steer his way to a team of his choosing. But Kings fans — and fans of any of the teams at the top of next month’s draft — can breathe easy. Doncic’s comments had nothing to do with Sacramento or an intention to use the threat of staying in Europe to pick his team. “Luka has stated no particular thought on any NBA teams,” his agent, Bill Duffy, told Sporting News on Thursday.

There will be plenty of time for assessment and evaluation, but both players would fit well with the talent the Suns have assembled. Devin Booker is already a franchise cornerstone and his ability to space the floor, coupled with Doncic’s potential as a stretch guard, is tantalizing. But the option to add Ayton, a physically imposing center who would immediately offer an inside-out presence to Booker, is intriguing as well. “Hopefully (the No. 1 pick) gives us another foundational player to build around,” McDonough said. “We feel like we have one in Devin Booker, we feel like Josh Jackson has the potential to be one. He certainly made strides over the second half of the past season. Usually in the NBA it takes three elite players to win at a high level.”

In his interview for Marca TV, Suns star player Devin Booker talked about the talent gathered in the NBA Draft, also mentioning Real Madrid‘s Luka Doncic. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I don’t know if we are going to have number one pick yet but it’s going to be exciting. There’s a lot of talented people in college with DeAndre Ayton from Arizona, Marvin Bagley from Duke, Luka (Doncic, Real Madrid), Trae Young (Oklahoma Sooners)… So, it’s going to be an interesting draft. I’m looking forward to it. Whatever guy comes in, I hope he’s ready to work and ready to join this journey that we’re about to take.”

One of the most important personalities in the history of European basketball, the now retired, 74-year-old Ivkovic had coached most (if not all) prominent players incubated in the heart of the Balkan peninsula, while at the helm of the national teams of Yugoslavia and Serbia. Including Kukoc and the late Drazen. “He’s (Doncic) a phenomenon. Drazen Petrovic played “1” and Toni Kukoc from “1” to “4”. I believe that neither of them played so maturely when they were 18, as Doncic plays now,” Ivkovic said with a tone of certainty, while interviewed by Greek Cosmote TV.

“Luka is a unique player. I don’t compare him to anyone. For me he plays in a magical way. I enjoy it, but not because he is my son or I am crazy. Luke is a bohemian, a basketball romantic. He has to improve his shot and I would love to see him shooting more from two” Sasa told AS. “NBA? He will play with Real Madrid this season. Luka is 18. It is going to he his decision. He is likely to go to the NBA very soon. But people from Madrid don’t need to be worried about that. They have a great basketball school full of young players and there will be soon the new Luka” Sasa added.

Markelle says he’s “cool” with Lonzo Ball, and if there’s any lingering criticism of Markelle it is that he is indeed too cool — so laid back and emotionless he can come off robotic. “People think I’m not happy, but I’m always happy,” he says, pointing out he’s taken expressionless photos since his days with braces. “I’m saving my smile for a big day, and that day is coming up soon. All those people who say he’s not going to smile on draft day, that’s the day I’m going to have the biggest smile on my face.”

A day after Markelle Fultz talked up his fit next to D’Angelo Russell following his first workout for the Los Angeles Lakers, there are reports that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson wants to make such a pairing a reality. According to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, Johnson “‘is in love’ with Fultz” and might attempt to trade for the Boston Celtics No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in order to select him. Givony reports that Johnson might try to do this with an offer of Julius Randle and the Lakers’ own No. 2 pick.
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May 20, 2018 | 6:26 pm EDT Update
Rudy Fernandez spoke to Eurohoops when the locker rooms opened to the press after the team’s celebrations and speaking about Luka Doncic, he admitted that this is expected to be his last season in Europe. “He is a special guy, we have to enjoy this year because we know”, said the two time EuroLeague champ with Real Madrid and former NBA player. “He has to play with the best players in the world, maybe in the next year we are going to miss him, but it’s normal. He is 19 years old and he deserves it”.
Storyline: No. 1 pick
May 20, 2018 | 4:58 pm EDT Update