Balance has been a key factor in the Mavericks’ recent success. They have maintained the most efficient offense in the league to the tune of a 16-7 record. In a significant upgrade from last year, they’re currently on pace to win 50 plus games.
So, at what point do the Mavericks go from perceived pretenders to legit contenders?
The early realization of the squad’s expectations brings a new set of rules that change how their viewed. Many MFFL’s have already adopted this new wave but the NBA remains reluctant. The newly formed duo in Houston recently accounted for 61% of their team’s shots in a single contest (68-112). Granted this feat took extra time to achieve the fact the Rockets were that dependent on two players is eye-popping. The Mavericks began the season with a bit of the same logic as most expected Kristaps to be Robin to Luka’s Batman.
Although producing solid numbers KP hasn’t been able to consistently replicate the high-level figures seen in previous seasons. The Mavs’ newfound strength in numbers give them the luxury of relying upon multiple players, not just one. Porzingis is still the team’s second-leading scorer by a slim margin of only three points. While eight players are two to three points from averaging double figures.
The Mavericks well-rounded point production is a rarity they have successfully utilized but its sustainability remains a mystery. Although offensively inconsistent Kristaps has continued to be impactful. The former All-Star is averaging a career-high 8.7 rebounds along with 2 blocks to complement his 16.4 points per game. It’s clear the Unicorn is adjusting to game action so his role and perception have to differ from initial pre-season expectations. Everyone wanted &/or expected KP to begin the year on fire and to some degree he did. However, with a quarter of the season done the mix of hope and expectation must take a backseat to reality.
The examples make clear Kristaps is a finesse four, not a center. Expecting him to battle 1v1 with typical big men across the NBA is futile (ie: Embid, Gobert & Capela). Like his moniker KP’s game is unique. Three-point shooting, weak-side shot-blocking, and rebounding are his strong suits. While defensive consistency (ie: allowing deep post position & 1v1 post baskets) and back to the basket scoring are areas of improvement.
To date, 40% of KP’s field goal attempts have come from three-point range while 86% of his minutes have been logged at power forward. These figures outline the true nature of his game. So as KP adjust let’s also adjust our expectations for him this season. It’s only the beginning.
Time to Upgrade
Luka Dončić is an MVP candidate and his game should be viewed accordingly. The points, assist, rebounds and exclusive triples speak for themselves. However, there’s no better way to prove this point than by looking at trips to the charity stripe. In 23 games the young superstar is ranked fourth in free throw attempts per game (9.3) and third in total free-throw attempts (215). The familiar theme among the people ahead of him is their also potential candidates for the award. No question it’s early but if this level of production is maintained the longevity could prove crucial.
His ascension is without question worthy of the Breakout award recently given by Sports Illustrated. After a record-setting rookie year he has continued to play his way into statistical categories only matched by legends of the game. In a loss versus the Kings Dončić recently surpassed Michael Jordan with his 19th consecutive game with at least 20 points, five-assist and five rebounds. When asked about his recent leap past Jordan Dončić humbly giggled at any potential comparison relegating the feat to mere stats.
Luka wants to talk ball, not numbers ?
“Too much stats. You can’t compare nobody to Michael Jordan.”
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 9, 2019
There is no better way to answer this question. If you’re paying attention you know this kid is media gold. All reports suggest he’s genuine, humble and confident when speaking with the media. There hasn’t been evidence to suggest the contrary but I can’t be the only one catching “The Hick from French Lick” vibes. This was a moniker sometimes placed on Larry Bird. Many accused the legend of subduing opponents with a humble yet confident tone in an effort to disguise his competitive fire. True or not it’s great to just have those types of thoughts! It’s equally gratifying to see young players acknowledge the former greats that came before them.
Luka has played 80% of his minutes at point guard this season solidifying his leadership role for the Mavericks. He’s also averaged a triple-double for a month, won player of the week (Nov 25), and player of the month (November).
Yet many remain reluctant to mention him among the league’s top players. Luka’s game is multifaceted but what makes his greatness absolute is his age. What he is doing at 20 others were doing at 22 or 23. Improving defensively will be a welcomed task yet the way he incorporates the entire team, it can seem to be an afterthought. Even so, the time is now to change how the Slovenian native is perceived.
By season end he could very well be the best player in the league!
Featured Image: Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images Stats: - www.basketball-reference.com - www.nba.com