Luka Doncic, the sophomore king
Image edit: Javier Jábega

Two days after breaking the record for points in a game in Mexico, European marvel Luka Doncic found himself leaving the game against the Miami Heat just 1 minute 40 seconds into it with an ankle sprain. The Mavericks would go on to lose that game in overtime, unsurprising considering the talent Doncic possesses, and the importance he has to his team. He is likely to miss two weeks from the injury.

Going into Saturday’s game, he was averaging 30.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists on 61.9% True Shooting and has solidified himself as an MVP candidate in just his second year in the league. 

His scoring is simple and direct, with brilliant balance in the paint along with great finishing around the rim allowing him to score a multitude of points inside. His step-back three is borderline unguardable, although he is still only hitting on 32.8% of them. And, finally, his free throws, which he shoots regularly due to a skill at putting his body into defenders. He shoots very few mid-range shots, but takes a lot of floaters, hooks and other shots outside of the restricted area. This scoring style has drawn comparisons to rival MVP candidate James Harden.

His playmaking ability stems from the attention he draws from the defense. He has an unmatched ability to find open shooters, but is also incredibly fast and accurate on paint-penetrating passes. This complete passing game combined with the strength of the shooters around him make the Mavericks an offensive juggernaut.

Image via Dallas Mavericks
Image via Dallas Mavericks

The efficiency he brings inside the paint is a direct result of an incredible basketball IQ, taking smart shots in the paint and evading bigger defenders with his famous driving floater. His shooting percentage from 0-3 feet has climbed from 63.7% to 75.6%, quite a jump that clearly doesn’t just reflect a growth in talent, but also a much improved IQ.

Doncic has been playing Point Guard for Dallas this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting his rebounds. In fact, that number has increased 2.1 from last season, as the Mavericks utilise him similar to Russell Westbrook, letting him take rebounds to get their offense moving quickly. 

It is clear that offensively, Doncic is a complete player, but the one knock on his play has always been his defense. He seems to be a much more solid defender in the early stages of the season, even with his lack of athleticism. He relies mainly on his height, but is also smart enough defensively to make good reads off-ball. The lack of quickness does affect him though, and he is still a below-average player on that side of the ball.

The Mavericks are sitting pretty at 3rd in the West and 17-8, largely due to Luka's jump from a perennial all-star to an MVP candidate. Even with Porzingis struggling, the Mavericks being so great is a great credit to Luka and the impact he has.