When you get a player like Luka Doncic, it’s understandable to want to open him up right away. As fantastic as Doncic has been so far during his rookie season, it’s easy to forget it’s only been 13 games — not that long!
So yes, Doncic isn’t the Mavericks full-time point guard right now and his usage (25.1 percent before Monday night’s game against Chicago) is second on the team, virtually tied with Dennis Smith Jr. and a few percentage points above J.J. Barea and Harrison Barnes. Despite that, the Mavericks are still doing some interesting things with Doncic, mainly how they’re getting him space around the rim in pick and rolls.
I noticed this set first when Doncic nailed a game-tying shot against the Los Angeles Lakers back on Halloween. DeAndre Jordan set a high-screen for Doncic as he brought the ball up. That’s nothing special, what’s cool is the wrinkle Carlisle (and other coaches) put in — having someone off-ball screen the helper to give Doncic a clearer path to the rim:
Since the Lakers switched on this play, Barea didn’t really clear for Doncic here. It’s still a useful set since if the Lakers aren’t communicating well, Jordan could have an easy alley-oop.
The Mavs have busted out this play every now and then and against the Knicks earlier this month, it was much more successful since the Knicks didn’t immediately switch the pick and roll.
Instead of the Knicks prolific rookie shot-blocker Mitchel Robinson having a chance against at the rim, Barnes screens him out of the play and forces Tim Hardaway Jr. to guard Doncic which is, uhm, a much better situation to say the least. Each time Doncic is going away from the screen, making it even harder for the defense to help as they lurch toward Jordan and where they think the play is going.
This isn’t a terribly unique play, but it’s still cool to see the Mavs finding ways to make Doncic’s life a bit easier as he transitions to the NBA level.
Doncic is scoring 1.00 points per possession as the ball handler in the pick and roll with an effective field goal percentage just below 61, according to NBA.com’s stats page and plays like this help explain why. Eventually Doncic will get more of a control of the Mavs offense, but until then these wrinkles will keep him putting up bonkers efficiency for a 19-year-old (48.9 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three).
Doncic’s brilliant free-styling will always make him slightly unpredictable, especially as he keeps canning those off-the-bounce triples. These set plays though will be a nice way for him to get his without having to force it. It’s a fun balance the Mavericks are working right now, giving Doncic enough to work with but not overloading him.
Again, that time will come. It’s only 13 games! We all knew Doncic was good and it’s fun to see him land with a team and coach that will only continue to bring more out of him.