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The Butterfly Effect of Drafting Luka Doncic: Revisiting the Phoenix Suns' 2018 NBA Draft

On the night of the 2018 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns, who owned the top pick handed their selection card to Adam Silver to announce a player they had hoped would change their franchise for the better. With a decision that would ultimately change the fate of their franchise, the Suns’ made an announcement that left some scratching their head. 

Not since Steve Nash left following the  2011-12 season had the Suns’ organization and their fans had an elite player who sparked excitement and anticipation. Not since “Kid Canada” did the Suns have a transformative figure to breathe life back into their franchise. 

Rather than selecting Deandre Ayton, a paint-dominating big man on both ends of the court from Arizona, the Suns veered away from conventional wisdom. They decided to pair the sensational Slovenian guard Luka Donic (Dallas would keep Trae Young, their original pick) with their all-star guard Devin Booker. Sure the two guards shared similar skill traits and sure it made more sense to balance the floor with a star in the backcourt and a star up front, but today’s NBA is no longer your dad’s NBA when teams had players of a specific role. 

(As for Ayton, the rookie big man’s development would take a different turn, landing in Sacramento, giving the Kings three young pillars to build around with future star De’Aaron Fox and sharpshooter Buddy Hield). 

With several years of professional experience under his belt from his time with the Euroleague, Donic arrived in Phoenix with a well-polished skill set, a basketball IQ of a seasoned vet, and a swagger that was an eclectic mix of confidence and cockiness, Donic captivated the Valley of the Sun from the opening of training camp. 

Rather than rivals, Luka Doncic and Devin Booker would team up to lead the Phoenix Suns

The partnership between the dynamic rook and Booker, two maestros of scoring and playmaking, quickly led to becoming the league’s most dynamic duo and must-see TV. A nightly spectacle, the Suns’ backcourt dazzled fans with what seemed to be a telepathic connection, resulting in plays often saved for NBA2K. With Luka’s exceptional court vision and ability to control the game’s pace, the Suns’ offense would be reshaped. Not only would he be able to create scoring opportunities for himself, but also for his teammates, similar to that of a supersized Nash in the Seven Seconds or Less era. 

In step with what has become the norm for today’s NBA, the Suns would find themselves in nightly shootouts full of offensive chaos sending the scoreboard into a frenzy, while play on the defensive end took a siesta. But who cares about defense anyway, right?

Undeterred by the chaos, an unleashed Doncic would quickly become a staple of SportsCenter highlights with his behind-the-back passes, step-back threes, and a Euro-step that was so smooth coaches and fans were torn as to whether they should rename it the Doncic. 

Winners of just 21 games the year prior, rather than winning the 19 games that they did in reality, the 2018-19 Phoenix Suns quickly turned from perennial underdogs into a spectacle of must-see-tv. No longer the laughing stock of Ernie, Shaq, Kenny, and Chuck on Inside The NBA, the Suns found themselves receiving praise from analysts, opposing coaches, and fans. 

Doncic and Booker’s relationship would mirror that of a buddy-cop movie full of theatrics, pairing a flashy ball-handling magician with a sharp shooting gunslinger. With his magnetic personality and basketball brilliance, the Suns would now become a national and international attraction. More importantly, Phoenix would become an attractive destination for free agents, and the Suns' path to success, and their first NBA title would have been fast-tracked. 

With the balance of power shifted in the Western Conference, the Suns would be on the road to becoming the NBA’s next great dynasty.

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