clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Grading the Mavericks: Luka Doncic is as good as he’s ever been

The Mavericks have already been blessed with plenty of Luka magic

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks conclude the first week of the season 2-0 for the first time since 2019-20. They opened the season in San Antonio where they took down the Spurs 126-119. Dallas then came home and defeated the Brooklyn Nets 125-120. Dallas remains one of the last three undefeated teams in the Western Conference.

Grade: B+

The Mavericks are going to be exciting this season. They have the perfect mix of weird role players and pure greatness from their stars and this was on full display in the first two games. Both featured early deficits with late fourth-quarter heroics from Luka Doncic to will Dallas to victory. Both were clutch games as well, which is familiar territory for Dallas. Last year they played a league-high 55 games in the clutch, winning just 26. This year they already have two and have not lost either.

Offensively, Dallas looks very good. The spacing and the actions run have been effective. The Doncic-Lively pick-and-roll has looked nearly unstoppable, helping Doncic score 38 points on just 25 possessions as the ball handler in a pick-and-roll. Their 251 points through the first two games have them second in points per game. Dallas is fourth in offensive rating, third in assist-to-turnover ratio, and seventh in pace, after finishing third from last last season. They are playing faster, moving the ball more, and utilizing skillsets well. This all comes with lower production from Irving, who has just 39 points this season.

The defense leaves much to be desired as they have given up 249 points in two games. There have been a lot of lost assignments and players getting blown by. The defensive issues are fixable and will get better as the team plays together and locks down the rotation. To be fair, they did get stops when needed down the stretch in both games.

Straight A’s: Luka Doncic

With the exception of Nikola Jokic, you would be pressed to pick someone better than Luka Doncic right now. He leads the league in scoring, has scored the most points he ever has through the first two games (82), is shooting 58 percent from the field, and has a triple-double. The Mavericks may have two wins, but they might not have any if Doncic did not want them to.

Both games ended with Doncic daggers, and the win against Brooklyn featured four consecutive made threes by him down the stretch. He is shooting almost 64 percent in isolation and almost 67 percent on drives. He is at 48 percent from three and a hair over 70 percent at the line, so right now defenders are getting every weapon in Doncic’s arsenal at full strength. It’s easy to forget just how good Doncic is over the summer and when he comes back better every year, it’s breathtaking to refresh your memory.

Currently Failing: On-ball defense

The most noticeable issue with Dallas’ defense is the amount of times they get beat off the dribble. They’re allowing teams to shoot 68 percent at the rim and 59 percent in the mid-range (10-14 feet). These are two areas that get targeted after a blow-by. Although it has only been two games, this is a bit concerning. Dallas placed an emphasis on defense this summer so seeing this amount of easy baskets for opponents already is not great. While these two areas are not directly tied to a great defense, they can be used to explain why a defense does so well. For example, last year Memphis and Cleveland were both top-three in defensive rating and top-four in field goal percentage for these two areas. Dallas needs to clean up their point of attack to limit the easy shots that they give up.

Extra Credit: Derek Lively II’s debut

There was a large spectrum of opinions when Lively was drafted. After his NBA debut, he silenced a lot of the doubters when he posted a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. He outperformed the number one pick Victor Wembanyama and for one night, he was the best center in the 2023 draft. He fit with Doncic perfectly and did not foul excessively like he did in the summer. Lively looked way farther along than he projected to be, which is going to be huge for Dallas’ success.