The best part about it is, Luka actually played a below-average game against Sacramento. When your second-year superstar can have a bad 34/20/12 game, those are good problems to have. One of Dončić’s best qualities is the fact he shows up in big games. Last night against the best team in the NBA this season, Luka posted 36/14/19 against Giannis and the Bucks. After the game, Rick Carlisle explained what makes Luka special.
“He knows where everybody is, not only on offense but defense. That’s a sign of a savant type guy. I played with Larry Bird; he could see everything like that. I had the privilege to coach Jason Kidd; he could see everything like that. Luka’s in that same mold.”Rick Carlisle
Carlisle pointed out Luka set up several open shots for his teammates that didn’t go in, “otherwise, these numbers could’ve been even more ridiculous.” Those who still wanted to find an argument drafting Ayton or Young instead of Luka was the right move raised the question of potential. What if Luka, amazing as he is, is a finished product and won’t develop much?
First of all, even if he doesn’t, that means you’re getting 10+ years of an MVP candidate. The scary fact is that there are still elements of his game Dončić can improve and become a much better player. In addition to the most often mentioned conditioning and athleticism (which has already improved), Luka’s outside shot can still develop plenty.
Dončić is shooting 30% from the three in the bubble, and teams already know he will settle for difficult step-back threes in crunchtime situations. With experience (and a few playoff losses), Dončić will learn patience in crunchtime and not force the issue.
More importantly, another part of Luka’s development lays in the hands of the Mavericks front office. Dončić is a modern version of a true playmaker. He’s good for 30 but doesn’t hold the ball; Luka is a willing passer who will find a way to get everyone involved. Dončić understands it’s his job to make players around him better. The Mavericks will probably have the same roster around next year, as they are preparing their books for big things in 2021.
That’s the final summer before Dončić becomes expensive, the perfect time to add more talent around Luka and KP. It could be in the form of a third star or a stronger supporting cast. Here are some names out of the 208 NBA players who have player options or are free agents in 2021: Giannis Antetokoumpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Victor Oladipo, Gordon Hayward, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Rudy Gobert, Will Barton, JJ Redick, Spencer Dinwiddie, etc.
The Mavs have struggled to attract free agents in the past, but now they have a “basketball savant” in his early 20s still not playing his best basketball, (and Texas is a no income tax state).