European hoops sensation Luka Doncic could have started his NBA career with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers were offered the opportunity to trade up and select the top NBA prospect by the Atlanta Hawks, but Cleveland's front office thought the asking price was too high, according to Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon.
Doncic, who was selected third overall by the Hawks and then promptly traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young's draft rights and a protected 2019 first-round pick, was shopped by the Hawks as part of a package including swingman Kent Bazemore.
Bazemore's hearty contract likely scared away the Cavaliers, who wanted nothing to do with his $18-million salary next year, and player option the following season for just over $19 million. Cleveland's front office, which entered the draft with the No. 8 selection, was also set on selecting point guard Collin Sexton.
The Alabama product is already turning heads in Summer League with his offense prowess, averaging 18.8 points on 48-percent shooting through four games.
"Collin's been very good," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "I like the way he attacks the basket, he's good in the pick-and-roll. He's got a good pull-up jump shot, and he's just making the right play. There are some things he still needs to work on and get better at, but I am very, very pleased with the way Collin's been playing."
Doncic has elected to sit out Summer League for what appears to be a couple of reasons. Firstly, he's played in 113 games over the last 14 months in Europe, so the Mavericks have agreed to rest him ahead of his rookie campaign. Others are speculating his buyout with his former club, Real Madrid, hasn't been finalized yet despite him signing his rookie NBA deal. For whatever reason, Mavericks fans will have to wait for his North American debut.
Doncic would've had big shoes to fill in the post-LeBron era had the trade materialized. Even with The King's departure and his hefty salary off the books, Cleveland still didn't have the salary cap flexibility to make such a deal happen.
The Slovenian's rookie-scale contract will pay him $5.46 million next season, $6.4 million in 2019-20, and $6.7 million during the 2020/21 campaign. In the fourth year of his contract, Doncic will receive a 26.4% increase on his third-year salary, or the Mavericks can sign him to a long-term extension.
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