It’s been a brutal start to the season for the Dallas Mavericks. Coming into this season with lofty expectations, the Mavericks have opened in disappointing fashion.
Dallas was 8-13 through their first 21 games, placing them second to last in the Western Conference standings. Their roster has had multiple players enter Health and Safety Protocols, as well as Kristaps Porzingis having to miss games at the front-end of the schedule.
Things haven’t exactly gotten better, either. Dallas went on a six-game losing streak last week, with their last win coming on Jan. 22. Despite all the dread Mavericks’ fans have had to suffer through, one player, in particular, has provided some much-needed relief: Luka Doncic.
From Jan. 21 to Feb. 1, Luka Doncic was tied in seventh place in scoring average at 28.8 points per game. The players in front of him included red-hot Bradley Beal, MVP-candidate big men Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, as well as Trae Young.
Doncic scored in a variety of ways, primarily attacking the basket and scoring at the rim. His finishing has always been impressive, but he was especially reliable in that facet last week. According to NBA.com/Stats, Doncic shot 76.2 percent in the restricted area during the five-game stretch. He even threw down this transition dunk against the Nuggets.
LUKA DONCIC DUNK in transition pic.twitter.com/KwHjepbV3H— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) January 26, 2021
Not only was the finishing good for Doncic, but he also saw some much-needed improvements in his shooting efficiencies. During the week, Doncic shot 34.4 percent on three-point attempts; a significant development from his season average of 29.3 percent. Doncic’s shot-making is a huge asset to his team, especially considering he is taking seven three-point attempts per game.
Doncic has also been effective from the free-throw line. A large part of his offensive game involves getting calls when going to the basket, as he’s taking 7.6 free throws per game so far this season. But as a career 74.1 percent free-throw shooter, Doncic hasn’t always been reliable from the stripe. In the past week, he’s shot a much improved 83.8 percent from the line, providing his team with some crucial scoring.
Doncic continues to facilitate in other areas of his game as well, primarily with his passing. Doncic finished the week averaging 8.8 assists, making him one of only four players to be in the top-10 of both scoring and assist averages last week.
Even when he passes didn’t result in an assist, it’s clear how much attention Doncic draws when the ball is in his hands. Here, he completely controls the entire Denver defense. Opponents are forced to track what he does with the ball since his ability to create is such a threat. This pass does result in an assist, but possessions like this are an example of how impactful Doncic is at times.
Luka's ball control and passing are something else.— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) January 26, 2021
How many guys would've traveled or turned this over several times in this sequence? pic.twitter.com/kxvWWhnG8A
Although the assist numbers were impressive for Doncic, they don’t necessarily reflect the job he’s done creating looks for his teammates. According to NBA.com/Stats, Doncic had 53 potential assists to 28 record assists on the week. Dallas is dead-last in three-point shooting efficiency. In addition to that, the Mavericks are shooting an abysmal 33.7 percent on wide-open threes so far this season. Making open shots created off of Doncic drives was the centerpiece of last season’s historically good offense. The cold start for shooters on the Mavericks has not only led to a decrease in Doncic’s overall production but for the team’s efficiency as a whole.
Doncic is also providing some much-needed relief for Dallas on the glass. The Mavericks have been an abysmal rebounding team, ranking third to last in rebounding rate. Doncic provided some relief for that over the week, averaging 6.8 rebounds per game over the stretch.
With his defense looking much improved at this point in the season, this is yet another area where Doncic has made an impact. In fact, his 1.6 steals per game were the highest among players also in the top-10 of points per game average over the last week.
The Mavericks season has been disappointing to this point. Fortunately for Dallas, they have a superstar on their team. This season will continue to have growing pains. It may take a while before all of the new returners get their legs back under them. There are certainly more unexpected complications this team will face.
Dallas has to be better if they want to start winning more games. Making shots, getting rebounds and defending the paint will need to become centerpieces of their identity. Luka Doncic can’t be expected to do everything. That’s just not possible. Doncic is already averaging a career-high 34.8 minutes per game. But as long as the Mavericks’ franchise player continues to play at a level like he did this past week, I feel good about things evening out and their chances going forward.
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