Season in review
Luka Doncic came into the season as the betting favorite to win Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. He did not quite live up to that lofty ideal as he finished fifth in MVP voting but he was most certainly the most valuable Maverick.
Luka finished the season averaging 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. He shot 45.7% from the field, 35.3% from three, and 74.4% from the free throw line. He also averaged 4.5 turnovers per game which is less troubling than it appears given his enormous playmaking and scoring burdens.
Luka came to camp out of shape once again and was forced to play his way into shape. Because of this, he struggled beginning the season again. Given the extreme talent that he is, he owes it to himself and the game itself to keep himself in better shape.
Luka put up so many ridiculous games that choosing his best game is extremely difficult. It is tempting to select one of his 40 point playoff games given the more important stakes but his best playoff games came in losses. So the first 50 point game of Luka’s career takes the prize here.
He scored 51 points on 26 shots. He was 17-of-26 from the floor and 7-of-14 from three. He chipped in nine rebounds and six assists. He was absolutely brilliant in this game. The most ridiculous thing about this game is that it was more surprising it took Luka this long to score 50 rather than that he scored 50.
Luka signed a maximum contract extension last offseason. It will kick in this season beginning at $34.7 million in 2022-2023 and ending at $45.9 million in 2026-2027, depending on the salary cap changes.
Luka has areas that he can look to improve going forward. He MUST improve as a free throw shooter. It is a matter of time until he is among the league leaders in free throw attempts given his talent, star power, and strength. With his natural touch, it is realistic to expect him to improve to being an 80-plus percent free throw shooter or better. He shot 77 percent from the free throw line in the playoffs, which should be a good sign going forward.
He can also improve as a defender. He has shown that in bursts he can defend. He is a versatile defender with the strength to guard big men. He utilizes that versatility to guard the weakest offensive player which he should in order to conserve energy and avoid foul trouble.
The more he can utilize his defensive ability to avoid being hunted, the better off the Mavericks will be. This was true last season and it will remain true until Luka becomes apex Luka. He is the best offensive player in the world. When he becomes a defensive plus, the Mavericks will be incredibly difficult to beat.
He needs to be in better shape, and that plays into the shooting improvements and defense. One of the reasons his defense suffers is the tremendous offensive load he carries. That is a function of team building, but it is also a function of how he chooses to play. The better shape he is in, the better he will be able to balance carrying a large burden offensively and defending.
Luka is no longer the only the hope of the Dallas Mavericks. Jalen Brunson is a fantastic basketball player and Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combine to form one of the best “three and D” wing duos in the league. But he remains the reason that those ancillary parts have any chance of being an NBA champion. For the Mavericks to be at their best, Luka must be at his.
Luka was simply amazing. The minus is only because of the otherworldly expectations Luka has earned. He came into camp out of shape and struggled early because of it. That and his defense are the only reason this season was not an A+.