“I always say – if I’m not injured or anything, I’m going to play for the national team,” Luka Dončić said his exit interview following the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.
This summer, Dončić will be playing at EuroBasket with the Slovenian national team. The FIBA World Cup European Qualifiers begin on June 30th but EuroBasket does not begin until September. Dončić is currently in Slovenia training and practicing, as many have seen from content of him online already this offseason. While playing this summer is not a surprise, it does come with some benefits and drawbacks.
Getting to play in a different league style to improve ease of scoring even further.
One of the biggest shock value quotes that Dončić had in 2019 was when he said, “Here [in the NBA] it’s easier to score compared to Europe, of course. In Europe, the court is smaller, and here there is the three seconds rule. I think it’s easier to score here.” When considering the differing rules, it is understandable what he means when he makes a statement like this. As he mentioned, when you go from playing on a smaller court, with less time, and no defensive restrictions it is harder to score so when you go to the NBA with better players, the rules then play in your favor. Being able to play structured games in Europe will be good for him for this very reason.
Making connections with/playing against current NBA players and potential future NBA players.
The NBA has a plethora of international players and several notable players will also be playing at EuroBasket as well. This list includes Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Nikola Jokić (Serbia), and Rudy Gobert (France). Being able to play against these players, as mentioned previously with a different set of rules, can really help Dončić grow as a player. There will be players that challenge Dončić or even some that he is interested in teaming up with in the future. The NBA is a league of connections and this is an opportune time to seek those out.
Speaking of connections, this is also a great time for Dončić to continue to learn from veteran Slovenian teammate Goran Dragić, especially in the realm of leadership.
These two cons are heavily contradictory but it is equally important to maintain a correct balance between them.
Not having as much time for rest immediately before the NBA season.
This first concern is important because of the quick turnaround when it comes to the NBA season. EuroBasket begins September 1st, and if things go perfectly it ends on the 18th of September. Obviously the 2022 – 2023 NBA season would start shortly after this in October. This does not leave a lot of time for proper rest and recovery between the two which should be a concern because of how long and grueling an NBA season is. In addition to this Dončić played an average of 35.4 minutes per game in the regular season and had the second highest usage rate (36.8%) in the NBA this past season.
Potentially not working out enough or being able to refine certain skills.
One of the biggest criticisms of Dončić last season was the shape that he was in when he first began the season. In December he addressed it in a post game press conference saying, “I had a long summer. I had the Olympics, took three weeks off, and I relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I’ve just got to get back on track.” A potential worry this summer could be a repeat of what Mavs fans saw last year and it would also be useful for certain aspects of his game to be heavily developed and focused on. Obviously this development can still happen and it looks like he is already on track this summer but this is still something to keep in mind.
Ultimately it will be exciting to see Dončić play this summer, as well as this Slovenian team. I became a fan of their style of play from watching them play in the Olympics last summer when the games were held in Tokyo. It will be nice for fans in Europe to not have to wake up insanely early / stay up late to watch their favorite player.