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The Dallas Mavericks need to put Luka Doncic in more catch and shoot opportunities

More off-ball action would benefit him greatly

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night featured a handful of Mavericks showing what they are capable of. Reggie Bullock had a much-needed 3-of-4 shooting performance, Spencer Dinwiddie flirted with a triple double, and Frank Ntilikina flashed his defensive ability (although his ball-handling was suspect). The most enticing of all, however, was Luka Doncic’s decisiveness to catch and shoot the ball on multiple occasions.

The first came during Dallas’ 12-0 run to open the game, after Doncic came off a double-stagger screen on the backside:

The second came with just under four minutes left in the first quarter, after Doncic gave the ball up to Dorian Finney-Smith, who took an attack dribble and kicked it right back:

The third was the result of an offensive rebound, where Finney-Smith once again found Doncic spotting up:

The Mavericks have needed some sort of change to their offense for the first two-plus months of the season. Sure, some of the struggles can be attributed to shot-making, but the underlying issue is that teams know what Dallas is going to do. A Doncic high pick-and-roll, Doncic post-up or Doncic iso are the central pillars of the Mavericks offensive scheme. It works a lot because Doncic is so dominant, but, as we have seen, it is going to stall at times when other players can’t hit shots, or Doncic himself misses.

This is why these three plays are so important. Dallas could add a major wrinkle into their game plan if they draw up more off-ball plays for their MVP candidate. Being a threat to shoot the ball when you catch it creates a number of problems for the defense. The first is simply that the defender has to respect your shot a little more and is forced to close out a little harder. This is what makes guys like Steph Curry, Trae Young, and Devin Booker such prolific scorers. They’re all no-hesitation shooters, and get a good chunk of their points by just throwing a pump fake on a hard closeout and either shooting the three, or attacking the five-on-four with the defender behind them.

Another aspect of this is the off-ball screen action. Doncic already has the attention of almost all five defenders with the ball, and if they now have to worry about him coming off of screens away from the ball, it is only going to open up the floor for guys like Spencer Dinwiddie to operate. Take that first double-stagger for example. Tim Hardaway Jr. sets the first screen and Dwight Powell rubs Lugentz Dort on the second, allowing Doncic time to drift a step for the three. By using Hardaway on the first screen, it puts pressure on Oklahoma City to either switch (which Dallas wants) or have Dort fight through, and they opt for the latter. By utilizing Powell as the second screen, it forces Aleksej Pokusevski, to stay in drop, because if he comes up to hedge or show, Powell has an easy slip to the rim with Giddey spaced out to defend Finney-Smith in the opposite corner and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hugged up on Hardaway in the screen-side corner.

Once Dort fights hard over the first screen, the play is the drift, which Doncic does and knocks down the three without hesitation. Had Dort trailed Doncic on the screen, then Doncic is coming off Powell with the defender on his back, where he is most dangerous. This option was utilized just a few plays earlier:

It is this kind of play that the Mavericks need to start utilizing more to spice up their sometimes-stagnant offense. The threat of Doncic as a shooter off of the catch brings the defense up higher, creating driving lanes and spacing that he is one of the best at taking advantage of. Doncic is already one of the most dominant on-ball players to have ever lived, and if he (and the coaching staff) can add a significant threat of off-ball and catch-and-shoot action to his repertoire, the Mavericks will reap the benefits in a big way.