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Euro star Luka Doncic no longer a secret, on the Bulls’ radar

If there’s one aspect of general manager Gar Forman’s job that will be closely monitored the next few years, it will be the draft.

Under no circumstances can Forman miss on a player. Not with the Bulls breaking ground on the rebuild and fans already having so much disdain for the front office.

Luckily for him, Luka Doncic might be the most can’t-miss prospect to come out of Europe in at least a decade.

“I played against him in the EuroLeague,’’ Bulls forward Paul Zipser said. “When I first saw him, I think he was like 15, playing well for Real Madrid, and I was like, ‘Oh.’

“I think Luka has it all. He plays the right way, he can shoot, he’s athletic, he’s got ball-handling, size, he can defend. He has all the tools. There’s nothing he can’t do.’’

And now the secret is out.

While Zipser and the rest of the Euro players have had discussions over the years of how good Doncic could be in the NBA, word of his game started building momentum in the U.S. last year. As a 17-year-old, Doncic won the EuroLeague and Liga ACB Rising Star awards.

Now 18, as well as standing 6-8 at 228 pounds, Doncic dominated Eurobasket 2017, winning the gold medal and showing why he could be more polished than highly touted prospect Michael Porter Jr. According to several scouts, he might be the first Euro player considered once in a generation.

And the Bulls could be bad enough to have the most pingpong balls in the draft lottery.

“Now as we go into this new direction of rebuilding, the draft’s going to be very, very important,’’ Forman said. “From everything we’ve studied up to this point, our sense is it’s going to be a very good draft, and obviously it’s going to be important. The draft is going to be important to us over the next couple of years.’’

Zipser, rookie Lauri Markkanen and Nikola Mirotic are aware of the impact the Slovenian-born Doncic will have in the NBA. More importantly, they hope he can continue to change stereotypes of the Euro players being one dimensional and a bit soft.

It’s almost as if Doncic is their chosen one, as well.

“If you look at [the Bucks’] Giannis [Antetokounmpo], he wasn’t that successful over in Europe, and now look where he is right now,’’ Zipser said. “We’re more than finesse. I wouldn’t say Giannis is a finesse guy. We have more than that now, of course, and I think it continues changing.

“[Doncic] will only help that.’’

The only debate about Doncic’s game: Can he play point guard in the NBA, or would he become a wing player. His court vision and passing ability is almost LeBron-esque, so there’s little doubt about his playmaking ability.

Considering where the Bulls stand, they’ll draft the best player available and worry about a position later.

“People here will get to see it soon,’’ Zipser said. “He’s going to be one of the better ones.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.



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