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Luka Doncic has just scratched the surface

There is no ceiling to Luka’s offensive game

Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks, 2021 NBA Western Conference Playoffs First Round Set Number: X163650 TK1

Luka Doncic has been fantastic each of the last two years. But while the results were relatively similar, the process was dramatically different. In 2019-20, Luka was dominant at and around the rim. The only player in the league who both finished at a higher percentage and took more attempts in the restricted area was John Collins.

The finishing was amazing, but that version of Luka was not a three level scorer. He barely shot from the midrange and was not particularly accurate. Outside of the paint, 2019-20 Luka was just not an efficient scorer.

2020-21 Luka was completely different. Luka took fewer restricted area attempts and made them at a much lower rate. He was still very good for a guard but no longer elite. He became much better at pulling up from either the “floater range” or the midrange, as his attempts in both areas rose dramatically along with his percentages. His three point shooting also improved despite a very slow start.

The good news is we’ve already seen Luka marry his at rim efficiency with his improved shooting. He shot much better from February 4 of this year through the end of the regular season, even if his volume at the rim hasn’t returned to its 2019-20 level. All of those numbers add up to a player maturing into a truly elite three level scorer.

Luka Shooting by Zone

Season At Rim Attempts At Rim Percentage Non Rest. Paint Att. Non Rest. Paint Perc. Midrange Att. Midrange Perc. 3 point att. 3 Point Perc.
Season At Rim Attempts At Rim Percentage Non Rest. Paint Att. Non Rest. Paint Perc. Midrange Att. Midrange Perc. 3 point att. 3 Point Perc.
2018-19 4.2 62% 3.3 42.1% 1.8 38.3% 7.1 32.7%
2019-20 6.2 73% 4.6 41.4% 0.9 35.1% 8.9 31.6%
2020-21 4.3 68.9% 5.1 50.7% 2.8 48.6% 8.3 35.0%
2-4-21 onward 3.9 73.1% 4.8 50.0% 2.6 49.6% 9 37.2%

Biggest Question

What shape is he going to be in coming into the season? There were reasons given, but the fact remains that he did not come into last season in good shape. If he comes into this season in good shape, that can be written off as reasonable. If he doesn’t, those reasons are nothing but excuses.

His shooting opens up so much of his game, but it comes and goes with his legs. He owes it to himself and his prodigious talent to give himself the best chance to truly dominate, and that requires being in great shape.

Best Case Scenario

Luka comes to camp in incredible shape and utilizes the current roster’s improved spacing to absolutely dominate the league en route to his first most valuable player award. His ability to get to the rim returns with his fitness, which allows him to marry his midrange efficiency with his dominance at the rim.

Due to the offensive load he carries, Luka will never be asked to be a defensive stopper. But he does have the flexibility to guard positions one through four. That flexibility allows him to guard the worst player among those positions.

If he is fit, he should be able to do a better job of utilizing that flexibility to play free safety defensively and create more splash plays like blocks and steals. He already led the team in steals last year, but he should be able to have more. He has a combination of size, length and basketball IQ that means he can be a plus defender if he commits to it.

Worst Case Scenario

Outside of an injury, there is really only one worst case scenario for Luka: he comes in out of shape and plays himself into shape. He doesn’t really try defensively because he doesn’t have the energy. This leads to resentment from the rest of the team and a bad relationship with new coach Jason Kidd.

He and Kristaps Porzingis continue to be on different pages. Luka still puts up great numbers, but the team stagnates and the conversation changes from how to build around Luka to dreading the inevitable Luka trade demand.

Overall

It is important that Luka mends the on court relationship with Porzingis. It is not his responsibility to make Porzingis feel included, but his best chance for success is an engaged and happy Porzingis. They do not have to be best friends, but the pick and roll chemistry they showed in 2020 after Dwight Powell was injured needs to return.

Luka is on an absolutely stunning trajectory. He has been compared to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Somehow, those comparisons are valid. He is his own player, though, and his partnership with new coach Kidd will be an important part of his development going forward.

If he can maintain his midrange ability while regaining his burst to get to the rim, all-time offensive numbers are in play. Special things are in store for Luka this season. As Mavericks fans, we can just sit back and enjoy the show.