DALLAS — The Mavericks are leaning toward holding No. 3 overall pick Luka Doncic out of the Las Vegas Summer League, team sources told ESPN, as the franchise is prioritizing rest for their prized rookie on the heels of the 19-year-old’s long season with Real Madrid.
Doncic, whom the Mavs acquired by moving up two spots in a draft-night trade with the Atlanta Hawks, led Real Madrid to the Euroleague and ACB (Spanish league) championships this season. Real Madrid’s season ended Tuesday with an ACB title-clinching victory.
Doncic, 19, the youngest player to be named the Euroleague MVP, also led Slovenia to the Eurobasket championship in September. With Doncic playing competitively for most of the past 10 months, the Mavs believe he would benefit more from a break than from playing in the NBA’s summer league.
Mavs point guard Dennis Smith Jr., a second-team All-Rookie selection last season, is expected to play at least a couple of games in Las Vegas. The Mavs plan for Doncic to join the team in Las Vegas to support his teammates and work with team staffers, as a strength and conditioning program will be a priority for Doncic as he makes the transition to the NBA.
The Mavs envision Doncic, Smith and 26-year-old Harrison Barnes as a long-term core for the franchise, with president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson going so far as to compare them to the trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley that led Dallas’ turnaround two decades ago.
“We feel at this point that we’ve got some building blocks that we can watch grow together,” Nelson said at a news conference Friday introducing Doncic and second-round pick Jalen Brunson. “Now you’re seeing the makings of the stuff that we had back 20 years ago. Now, it’s letting these guys grow together.”
Coach Rick Carlisle called the trade to get Doncic, which cost the Mavs the No. 5 overall pick and a lightly protected future first-rounder, “a defining moment in this rebuild” after Dallas went 24-58 last season.
“We’re going to propel forward with the idea that we’ve got to start winning games,” Carlisle said, but he also preached the need to be patient with Doncic because of his age.
“I like challenges,” Doncic said. “When they say you’re going to be good, I like to be challenged. When they say you’re not going to be good, I say, let’s see. When I step on the court, I need to show. No matter what pick you are, you need to show it on the court.”