Much has been made about Luka Doncic’s struggles from the 3-point line, and with good reason. Doncic is shooting 26 percent from behind the arc this season, and he’s only shot 31 percent from distance for his career. For Doncic to take the next step, he has to improve his shooting.
The Ringer’s Zach Kram recently addressed Doncic’s poor shooting, pointing out that the young star’s struggles aren’t due to a broken shot. Kram posits that Doncic’s low 3-point shooting percentage is the result of taking some of the toughest shots in the game, such as pull-up 3-pointers late in the shot clock. Doncic also suffers from a lack of corner 3 attempts, one of the easiest shots in the game. As of this writing, Doncic has attempted zero corner 3’s, and last season he only got up 11 total. A few more attempts from either corner could help eliminate some of the harder shots in Doncic’s diet. This would make the Maverick’s offense a little less predictable.
The Mavericks had the best offense in the NBA last season, so asking for improvements seems a little greedy. But Dallas is currently 17th in net offense, and with Doncic’s poor shooting from deep, it’s worth asking how the Mavericks could get Doncic some easier 3-point attempts, like those corner 3’s mentioned above. Again, taking the ball out of Doncic’s hands when he just guided the Mavericks to a record-breaking offense last season seems unwise, but teams across the league adjust quickly. Dallas has to adapt.
So what can Dallas to do to get Doncic easier shots from behind the arc?
First, getting Josh Richardson involved as a playmaker would help. Richardson averaged 4.1 assists per game his last year in Miami. This season in Dallas he’s only averaging 1.6, his lowest since his rookie year. Putting the ball in Richardson’s hands and letting Doncic run through some screens off-ball would be beneficial for the offense as a whole.
In the play below, imagine Doncic in the Dorian Finney-Smith role.
The Mavericks probably don’t want Doncic setting a lot of screens due to the injury risk, and Doncic probably doesn’t want to do it much anyway, but this set would work. Doncic could fake the screen like Finney-Smith and fade to the corner. Richardson has the playmaking ability to hit him off the dribble, getting Doncic a look he’d never enjoy off the dribble.
Or take the play below, from Richardson’s time in Miami.
Rodney McGruder flares out to above the break, but the Mavericks could easily run a play like this for Doncic to the corner. Richardson has passing ability that’s lying dormant, and the Mavericks would benefit from unleashing it in small doses.
Another option is overlapping more of Doncic’s minutes with Jalen Brunson. As of this writing, Doncic and Brunson have only shared the court for 46 minutes. A lot of that has to do with the necessity of Brunson coming off the bench to run the second unit when Doncic sits. But Rick Carlisle could stagger his substitutions to grab a few minutes with both on the court and call a few plays where Brunson initiates the offense. Brunson has a long way to go as a playmaker, but he’s second on the team with 3.3 assists per game.
Check out the play below. Imagine Doncic in the Richardson role. Planting Doncic in the corner and letting Brunson penetrate and kick out serves two purposes. It gets Doncic an easy shot and gives him a break while still contributing the offense.
These are just a few ways the Mavericks could get Doncic some shots from the corner. Doing so would have the added benefit of keeping the offense from going stale, a problem going back to last season.
Obviously the Mavericks don’t want to take the ball out of Doncic’s hands too often. It wouldn’t be long until they hit diminishing returns. There’s also the fact that Doncic needs to take the easy spot-up looks, as we’ve already seen him pass out of a few so far this season.
Getting Doncic some easy 3-pointers would help him get in rhythm from deep, something he sorely needs. And if it comes along with easing his burden on offense at the same time, so much the better. If the Mavericks can find ways to make their offense more unpredictable and at the same time help Doncic improve his shooting, they’ll find their offensive struggles far behind them.