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    Mavs owner Mark Cuban sees a lot of Steve Nash in draft-day acquisition Luka Doncic

    Jun 22, 2018
    Dallas team owner Mark Cuban is high on Luka Doncic - and with good reason. AP
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    CHICAGO - An hour or so after the Dallas Mavericks became the 2018 NBA draft's biggest winner by netting Luka Doncic via trade, I e-mailed team owner and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban for his thoughts.

    To my jubilation, the Shark Tank star took only 29 minutes to fire back a reply, which was not surprising considering the kind interview access he had so generously afforded me through the years.

    "The Mavs got a great deal acquiring Doncic, how did you pull it? " I asked.

    Cuban wouldn't go into detail as to how exactly the draft night swap with Atlanta played out but he believes "it was a win-win trade for both teams."

    In securing the rights to the No.3 pick Doncic, the Mavericks surrendered their rights to No.5 pick Trae Young, an explosive scorer out of Oklahoma known for his unlimited range, plus a lightly protected first-round pick in the 2019 draft.

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    "Do you see Steve Nash Part Two in Doncic?"

    "Yes, he has a lot of Steve Nash in him," Cuban agreed.

    Doncic hails from Slovenia, which sits near the Adriatic Sea and is bordered by Italy on the west and Austria on the north. Despite a population of just slightly over two million souls, per Wikipedia, Slovenia has produced NBA talents such as Sasha Vujacic, Beno Udrih, Rasho Nestorevic, and most notably, Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat.

    But this ball whiz from the capital city of Ljubljana has extra sauce, gushing with All-Star potential.

    He started playing organized basketball at age eight and turned pro at 16. At 19 years of age, he was crowned the 2018 EuroLeague MVP and EuroLeague Final Four MVP for leading Real Madrid to the title.

    Measured at 6-foot-8 and 228 pounds, Doncic is a shooting guard but he handles the ball exceptionally well and passes it with the flair of a gifted point guard, evoking memories of the great Steve Nash, who was a star in Dallas from 1998 to 2004 before before winning back-to-back NBA MVP honors in Phoenix in 2005 and 2006.

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    "The Mavericks have been talking to me. They were nice to me. And I'm glad, you know? Just happy to be in the NBA. Just happy to be a part of that," Doncic told ESPN at the network's draft broadcast.

    In 174 EuroLeague games, Doncic averaged 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per. His all-around game is brilliant but according to ESPN Insider Mike Schmitz, NBA scouts have concerns about his "lack of athleticism, shaky defensive value, and occasionally losing his cool when faced with adversity."

    But that's what most experts say about European players, right?

    Whatever downside Doncic has is vastly overshadowed by his tremendous upside.

    Dennis Smith, an emerging powerhouse who finished his rookie season norming 15.2 points. 3.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 69 games, is excited with his new backcourt tandem and tweeted a picture of Doncic with the caption "I'm a fan."

    Doncic joins a Mavs team loaded with veterans - Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Doug McDermott, and future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki, who just wrapped up his 20th season in Dallas.

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    Is Dallas, which carded a disappointing 24-58 record this past season, a playoffs team in the 2017-18 season? I asked Mark.

    "I don't make predictions but that's the goal," Cuban said.

    In the talent rich Western Conference the Minnesota Timberwolves barely made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a 47-35 slate which means the Mavs would have a lot of ground to cover to see the light of the postseason.

    Can Dallas win 23 more games than last season with Doncic now on board?

    I don't know.

    But I have a feeling Cuban will make more moves when free agency rolls along this July. If they can get a valued piece or two and their starters can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for these Mavericks.

    NO BALL. Although no longer a devout one for sure, I was raised a Roman Catholic and I still practice some of the virtues I was taught growing up, including this: Do not rejoice in the misery of others.

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    And that is why I did not join the joyful chorus from Ball family critics who were elated that LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Lonzo Ball of the L.A. Lakers, went undrafted.

    Was LiAngelo "black-balled," pun intended, by owners and GMs who feared the circus that he comes along with given the boisterous nature of helicopter dad LaVar?

    No.

    LiAngelo wasn't drafted simply because he just doesn't have the tools yet to be an NBA player. Without even playing one regular season game in UCLA, he was withdrawn by his father from the storied program this past December after being indefinitely suspended by the team following a shoplifting incident during an official school travel to China on November 2017.

    With the benefit of a college structure pulled beneath him, 19-year old LiAngelo played pro ball in Lithuania where he averaged 12.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14 outings with Vytautas, according to Yahoo Sports.

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    The 6-foot-6 and 230-pound Ball shot a horrific 24.5 percent from 3-point range. In today's NBA, that means no ball.

    There's one more Ball in LaVar's rack - LaMelo. He is supposed to be good, a serial scorer who can shoot from the parking lot and became a YouTube sensation after scoring 92 points for Chino Hills high school in 2017.

    Only God and LaVar knows when that kid will grace the NBA draft with his illustrious presence, but I don't think NBA teams are holding their breath.

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    Dallas team owner Mark Cuban is high on Luka Doncic - and with good reason. AP
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