Editor’s note: We are starting our player previews this week, which we typically reserve for the off-season. Since the NBA’s suspended season basically lasted an off-season, we felt it appropriate to bring everyone up to speed on the roster. The posts the rest of the week will follow a more uniform format.
After spending a majority of the hiatus back home in Slovenia, Luka Doncic is in Orlando and ready for basketball. Since returning from an ankle injury on February 12, Doncic has averaged 27.8 points , 8.9 assists, and 8.2 rebounds per game. Just a little below his season averages, but still very Luka-like numbers despite adjusting to the sprained ankle. The past few months of rest should prove to be a huge advantage to Doncic’s health and the Mavericks overall success.
Below are Doncic’s per game averages in wins vs losses this season. There is one stat that is significantly worse in losses compared to wins: three-point percentage.
Everyone knows the famous step back, or the pull-up after a screen, but what happens when it can’t go in? It appears to not fare well for the Mavericks. Obviously a win takes more than one person scoring the basketball. In fact, it’s incredible that Doncic’s points per game average doesn’t even slip a whole point despite his three-point percentage plummeting 13 percent. It’s clear that the Mavericks have their best chance at winning when Luka makes his shots; that’s a no-brainier. This is especially important to note for a bubble roster that is short three players.
I seem to mention the pick-and-roll every article, which despite as frequent as it feels, makes sense seeing as it’s the bread and butter of the Mavericks offense. The numbers for Doncic as the ball handler in a pick and roll are just absurd. According to NBA.com/Stats, Doncic scores 46.9 percent of the time he’s in a pick-and-roll. That’s good for third in the league of players who run it at a frequency of 45 percent or higher. As good as he is in the pick-and-roll, most of his three pointers come from his step-back in one-on-one situations. Doncic has taken 236 step back three’s this season compared to 170 conventional jump shot threes.
The key to making sure Luka’s shot goes in is making sure he gets to his spot. Oddly enough, he not only favors, but shoots significantly better going to the left, his non-dominant hand, than he is going to the right. Take a look at his three-point shot chart from this past season:
The key to the Mavericks getting consistent and sustainable scoring will be ensuring Doncic can get to his spot. The constant motion that happens in this offense is perfect for making sure he can get there. Look at how even the slightest disturbance from Dwight Powell gives Luka enough time to make a shot:
Powell being injured and unable to play in the bubble is an undeniable loss. Fortunately, Maxi Kleber and Kristaps Porzingis are also great options to play that two-man game with Doncic. It goes without saying that Rick Carlisle has done a great job at running the offense so far this season. I’m sure his game plan for Luka includes a lot of left-side step backs and pick-and-roll situations. If these things can be executed efficiently, the Mavericks not only have a chance to compete with but even surprise whoever their first round match up is.