Through just two years in his NBA career, Luka Doncic is already a superstar. Not only is he one of the best young players in the league, but he is one of the best players in the league, period.
He is already the MVP frontrunner. What more can you want from him?
Good defense would be nice

The defense was secondary for the young star. He took the league by storm with his offense. Maybe it was a ridiculous no-look assist, a stepback three in the clutch, or making his defender look foolish with his advanced ball-handling and clever pass fakes.

He seemed to break records every night, and last season, his exciting offensive style helped the Mavs capture the best offensive rating in NBA history.

But what came with all of the flash and “Luka-Magic” was a lack of commitment on the other end of the floor.

When he entered the league that was one of his major critiques, and it seemed like the unintelligent Doncic critics may have gotten ONE thing right.

The Mavericks made it a point to change during the offseason. They faced a constant mismatch against the Clippers in a testy playoff series, so they decided they had to be strong defensively to win a playoff series. Maybe it was not a great idea to have Seth Curry guarding Paul George for long periods of time.

Dallas did go out and get players known for their defense. But the biggest change was the culture. It doesn’t really matter what players you have if your culture isn’t right. The 2011 championship Mavs had a perfect culture. Rick Carlisle wanted to capture that again. A team cannot change its whole identity unless the superstar is on board.

It was quickly evident that Luka Doncic bought into the new Dallas Mavericks.

“The way you win championships is to play defense.” – Luka Doncic

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Doncic backed up his talk by starting the season strong, setting career highs in many defensive categories. Stats are not usually what you want to use when judging a player’s defensive ability, but they do indicate improvement. Through 12 games, he is averaging 1.1 steals per game and .8 blocks per game which ties a career-high and sets a career-high, respectively. In 61 games last season, Doncic blocked 14 shots. Through 12 games this year, he already has nine blocks, including a career-high four blocks in Dallas’ second game against Charlotte. He set another career-high when he recorded five steals in the overtime victory over Denver.

But outside of any stats, you can tell that defense is an emphasis for him this year. The simple eye-test. Does it look like he is trying on defense?

During his first two seasons, excluding the bubble, the answer to that would probably be no. But this year it is obvious that defense is something he pays attention to now. Last season, Luka was in the 31.6 percentile when it came to iso defensive possessions. This year, he only allows .42 points per iso possession, which is good enough to be in the 96.7 percentile.

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Casuals will always think Luka Doncic is a bad defender because that was literally the only negative to Doncic’s game. But even when he is not filling up the stat sheet defensively, you can watch him, and you can tell that he is no longer a liability and that he is becoming a solid two-way player for the Mavs. He is jumping pass lanes, anticipating shots, beating his opposition to a spot, and he can do a good job defending your favorite player.  He has bought into trying on defense, which is the new culture in Dallas.

The Mavs are tougher now, and that starts with Luka Doncic.

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