Head coach Jason Kidd gave a glimpse into some early strategy for the Dallas Mavericks at media day on Monday. The Mavericks will ease Luka Doncic into the season after a busy summer playing in World Cup qualifiers and Eurobasket for his home nation of Slovenia.
“We’re going to start a little light, but as we all know in this room, Luka loves to play basketball,” Kidd said when he spoke to the media. “He’s ready to go...but this is a marathon.”
Kidd didn’t offer specifics, but one can assume that means lighter practices for Doncic, and less of them than in the past. It also probably means very few minutes in preseason games, and a general ramping up of his minutes to start the season. It’ll be interesting to see how long the Mavericks can get away with holding Doncic to let’s say around 33 minutes per game. The team is woefully short of players who can create their own shot when he’s not on the floor. Spencer Dinwiddie will help, of course, but after that, you’re looking at Josh Green and Frank Ntilikina.
Doncic was second in the NBA in usage rate last season. Only Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers ranked ahead of him. That high usage rate isn’t going to change, especially with the loss of Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks. There’s always the possibility of a midseason trade to help ease that burden, but until then, we’ll have to assume Doncic will have the ball in his hands constantly.
The Mavericks are in the unenviable position of needing Doncic to do everything on the court, but need to pace his minutes in order to have him fresh for the playoffs. Like Kidd said above, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.