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Zach Lowe: Luka Doncic’s defense is much improved

Zach Lowe says Doncic is more active than ever on defense.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

So far in his young career, Luka Doncic hasn’t been known for his defense. But according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, that’s starting to change. In his recent “10 Things” article, Lowe pointed out that while Doncic still has lapses, his defense is much improved.

Lowe isn’t saying Doncic will be named to a NBA All-Defense team anytime soon. “There are still possessions where Doncic’s feet look heavy and he just kind of lurches around on defense,” Lowe writes. “The Mavs stash him on weaker offensive players.”

The difference this year, according to Lowe, is that Doncic is active and trying on defense. He’s not just going through the motions on defense this season, and it’s helping the Dallas Mavericks a lot. They’re far from a good defensive team, but Doncic not being a turnstile is huge for the team.

“His ability to read the game on offense translates to defense; he anticipates ball movement patterns,” Lowe continues. “He’s switching onto all kinds of players, and sliding his feet.”

Lowe has a clip of Doncic guarding Steph Curry, and it’s pretty remarkable to watch. With his size and feel for the game, Doncic can be stout on defense—if he tries. It seems like this year he’s putting in the effort, and it’s not minimal effort.

There are some encouraging statistics in Lowe’s piece—Doncic is second in opponent points per possession on post-ups, and 49th against opponent isolations, per Second Spectrum. Lowe gets more in depth on those stats, so I encourage you to go take a look. But again, they’re encouraging.

Anyone who’s watched Doncic closely knew this ability to defend was there. It was just a matter of him putting in the effort consistently. Having a better cast surrounding him on offense surely helps as well. The Mavericks are definitely hoping Doncic still has the energy to maintain this defensive level into the playoffs.