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Luka Doncic is proud to present: from VIP to MVP - voila! sport


The finest nuances distinguish between very senior players in the NBA and those who are on the short list of candidates for the title of the best player in the world. The Slovenian lift is on its way there

Donovan Mitchell celebrates his 71-point game against Chicago (from the official Twitter account of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

The West has a new one, at least in the NBA regular season.

Towards the middle of the season, three of the four conference leaders are led by the next generation of stars: Jay Morant, Zaion Williamson and Luka Doncic, who are 22-23 years old.

The "oldest" star in the first four is 27-year-old Nikola Jokic.

The team that is particularly surprising to discover in the fourth is Dallas, which seems that just a moment ago was one of the West's flounderers, on the verge of a real crisis.

Seven consecutive wins changed the picture and jumped the Mavs to an area worth a home advantage.

The schedule of games during this period was particularly light, including no less than three games against Houston and one against San Antonio, but Dallas reached it in the midst of a plague of injuries.

The great Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kaliba who will be absent for a long period of time, Kemba Walker who joined recently and is just starting to get into shape, Josh Green who is improving and also Jabil Magee who had a hard time fitting in - all of these missed all or most of the games in a row.

Two key factors allowed Jason Kidd's team to achieve this winning streak despite the thin rotation.

The first is that Luka Doncic has delivered the best streak of his career so far, and when it comes to Luka, that's saying a lot.

These are his numbers in the seven games of the streak: 41.7 points per game on 55.6 percent from the field, 3.1 threes on 40.7 percent, 15.4 free throws on 75.9 percent, 11 rebounds, 9.9 assists on 3.4 turnovers and 2.3 steals.

Includes three games of 50 points or more.

The second factor is that Kidd has found the five that works best this year, when in short, the solution is to surround Luca with the best offensive tools available on Dallas' roster.

These two factors feed each other, but you should first give space to each of them separately.

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in good shape in career.

Doncic (Photo: GettyImages, Ron Jenkin)


At the age of 23, the Slovenian phenomenon is already at the stage where his upgrades take place in the most subtle nuances, the ones that distinguish another very senior player in the league from those who are on the short list of candidates for MVP and the title of the best player in the world.

Sometimes these are small and almost imperceptible changes in the proportions of actions and decision-making, so it is useful to use the statistical data to understand the change that Luca has undergone this year.

Numerically, this is a record season for Doncic in quite a few categories.

Two stand out in particular.

The field goal percentage jumped to 50.7, an improvement of nearly three percent from the record season so far, and the amount of turnovers decreased significantly compared to the last three seasons, leading to an upgrade in the assist/turnover ratio from 2:1 to about 2.5:1.

The key word in this data is efficiency: Luca takes fewer bad shots, feels better when he's hot, uses less adventurous passes that only he understands and in general there seem to be fewer moments during games where he is scattered.

The shot profile indicates a player who deserves the paint much more compared to the last two years, in which he took a step back in the field.

He gets to the free throw line 11.2 times in a game, the most in his career, and compared to the last two years, he gave up a few threes and throws more under the basket.

He included his use of the board and sometimes manages to create a good shot from particularly difficult angles, and he squeezes fouls like the greatest experts in the field.

He seems to have more faith in his ability to create something in the paint even if there isn't an obvious penetration lane, and most of the time would rather do that than settle for step-back threes with a hand to his face.

A look at the types of moves he uses reveals that he is more effective than ever in the three most common moves.

Without going into too much detail, he achieves more than a point per possession both in isolations, both in pick n' roll and in the post, in all three areas he has improved compared to previous years and his efficiency is considered high.

It's a profile of a creative player without flaws, he does a lot of everything and is good at everything.

In terms of proportions, the interesting point is that Luka uses the post game more than ever.

He ranks fifth in the league with 5.6 post moves per game, when he is the only outside player in the top 10 in this category (another interesting point: of all ten, Anthony Davis is the only American, when DeAndre Ayton who grew up in the American system can also be considered).

When an opponent puts a short and/or physically inferior guard in front of him, he immediately takes him down to the post and uses his combination of size and creativity to create good shooting situations with ease, including a fade-away reminiscent of another Dallas European star.

Many times Luka's post-up is just the opening position for the attack, a position that forces the defense to shrink or bring a double-team, which makes it easier to move the ball after it.

Dallas' 50-point quarter against the Lakers on Christmas came just like this: Doncic took down Patrick Beverley in the post, the Lakers drew consistent double-teams, and Dallas made more and more free threes off the ensuing drive.

Luca's post game could be a significant tiebreaker for him.

It usually takes the senior outfield players many years, even decades, to develop their post game, Luka has become the dominant post player in the league among the outfield players already at the age of 23 and has given himself another significant tool to deal with defenses of all kinds.

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Tie-breaker weapon at age 23. Doncic vs. Patrick Beverley (Photo: GettyImages, Ron Jenkins)

the five

Last year, it took Jason Kidd about half a season to form a defensive identity for his new team.

Only after the trade for Kristaps Porzingis did the five that worked well together form.

Except for Luca and Jaylen Brunson, there were players with a defensive orientation and limited offensive abilities.

Following the injury of Tim Hardaway Jr., there were also mostly defensive players on the bench alongside Spencer Dinwiddie.

The idea was that around Luca you don't need players who create too much but mainly those who score free throws, so the combination of Luca, good defense and a lot of scorers will make a good team.

It worked, Dallas made it to the Western Conference Finals against all odds.

Kidd came into this season with a similar attitude.

Dinwiddie replaced Bronson as the secondary creator in the top five, Magee and Dwight Powell battled for the starting defensive center role.

Waiting on the bench was Christian Wood, the talented attacking midfielder who lacks something defensively both as a forward and as a center, alongside Hardaway who returned from a long injury.

This time it didn't work.

The three-pointers of Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock did not go in, Magee did not integrate, the defensive determination disappeared and the dependence on Doncic began to look excessive, at a level that raised questions about how long he would be willing to stay in a team that does not provide him with minimal offensive help.

Many of the arrows of criticism for the lukewarm start to the season were directed at Kidd.

To his credit, it is already the second year that he does not freeze on the yeast and identifies the right changes during the season.

This year it was the opposite move from last year: to insert as much offensive firepower as possible into the five alongside Luca at the expense of most of the defensive specialists.

First Hardaway entered the top five, followed by Wood.

The first game in which the quartet of Doncic, Dinwiddie, Hardaway and Wood started together in the top five was seven games ago, the winning streak started as soon as this quartet took the stage.

The sample is small, but for now this looks like one of the best offensive quartets in the league.

Its offensive rating in the seven games is 125.2, much higher than the best offense in the league.

It won't last like this, the opposing defenses were particularly weak, but it's the start of something interesting.

Wood, Dinwiddie and Hardaway are far from being All-Stars, it can even be said that their talent is less than that of Bronson and Porzingis who played alongside Doncic last year.

But all three of them know how to express their abilities next to a dominant player like Luca.

Dinwiddie has reinvented himself since arriving in Dallas, becoming a player who specializes in penetrating the outside shooter and a secondary creator who moves the ball quickly.

Hardaway has always been at his best next to Luka, taking advantage of the starting advantages that the star next to him arranges for him to get into shooting situations that he would not have been able to create on his own.

Since entering the top five, he is hitting 3.6 threes per game at 40 percent.

Wood is the most intriguing of the three.

From the moment he became the starting center it created offensive options for Dallas that it didn't have with any other center.

Even Porzingis wasn't such a versatile pick-n-roll partner, one who knows how to both roll inside and finish well in the paint and also roll outside, shoot a three or continue the offense from there.

Wood is a very creative player whose addition to the Mavs' offensive five has released something in him, allowing him to express himself more fully as the true second option.

He has probably cemented his position as the starting center for the rest of the year.

While it's clear how everyone else is enjoying Luca's presence, it's also evident that he's enjoying the presence of more offensive talent around him than he's had at any point since arriving in the NBA.

He feels that he does not have to constantly find players for free throws, he can create a small initial advantage and the others will already know how to take advantage of it.

Dallas' offense is at its best moving the ball quickly after the defense shrinks to Doncic or double-teams him.

In the current five, this movement of the ball occurs between four good outside shooters with enough ability to pass and create shooting situations to perform sharp and quick actions.

Sometimes the ball also returns to Luka with an advantage that he takes advantage of easily.

Luca's most versatile partner, more so than Porzingis.

Christian Wood (Photo: GettyImages, Bob Levey)

Will it be enough?

The feeling about Dallas is that the blanket will always be a little too short.

In the defensive formations there is not enough offensive spark and the dependence on Luka is excessive, the offensive formations are too problematic in defense.

The new attacking quartet does not include any defensive player that is considered quality.

They have the size to make turnovers and grab enough rebounds, Wood has been very active in the paint since he has been in the top five (he has 2.8 blocks per game in nine games since entering the top five), but this is not a group that can prevent good offensive teams from consistently getting into good shooting situations.

I am deliberately talking about a four and not a five, because she has not yet played with who is supposed to be the fifth rib - the injured Finney-Smith.

He is a better and more versatile keeper than Bullock, who is currently being developed as the fifth wing and is also more versatile in attack.

Perhaps he will allow the five to look better defensively, with a greater ability to deal with wing players and more help, good enough to allow the offense to win games even against senior opponents.

The bigger question is what will happen when Kidd starts using substitutes.

Most of his bench currently consists of defensive wing players with a fairly similar profile and flightless centers.

If Kidd has to split the minutes of the five players in order to have offensive talent even when Luca is rested, he will lose much of the advantage of playing with everyone together and the short blanket will show in that way.

But it is very difficult to imagine formations of three-four substitutes without Luca getting along even for a few minutes in the playoffs.

That's why Kemba Walker could be a key player.

The wonderful scorer fell from his greatness at a dizzying speed in recent years, and was left without a team at the start of the season.

At the age of 32 and after a series of injuries, he is no longer built to lead a team and finds it difficult to manage in a secondary role.

Maybe the role he is destined for in Dallas is the one that suits him right now.

He should be a player with a lot of output in a few minutes, be the scorer and manager of the game in limited minutes, maybe only in Luca's rest minutes.

If he succeeds in turning replacement lineups with one or two top-five players into ones that hold up against opposing second units in the playoffs, his value will be great, even in single-digit minutes per game.

To be considered a real contender, Dallas will probably need another significant player.

It makes more sense for her to wait until the summer and look for such a player.

After giving up its first-round pick to the Knicks this summer, Dallas will be free of first-rounder obligations, allowing it to build the kind of future-pick package that has formed the basis of trades for most All-Stars in recent years.

She will have enough contracts to complete what is needed, and the potential of Josh Green as an addition to the selections.

The change of the five and the streak of victories reduces, for the time being, the pressure for a more immediate change.

Even if it won't be enough for a significant playoff run, the success of the current quartet demonstrates how to properly build a five around Luka Doncic and allows Mark Cuban to keep the tools for a significant move at the right timing, even if it means that Luka will spend another playoff without an All-Star by his side.

  • sport

  • NBA


  • Luka Doncic

  • Dallas Mavericks

Source: walla

All sports articles on 2023-01-03

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