The Dallas Mavericks are currently in ninth place (10-10) in the Western Conference despite Luka Doncic putting up outwardly numbers game after game.
Doncic, who is fresh off a superb stint in EuroBasket 2022 tournament, is currently averaging a career-high 33.1 points, 8.4 assists, and 8.7 rebounds a game. He also has a usage rate of 37.1%, which ranks 4th highest in the league. But despite Doncic playing at an all-MVP level, why have the Mavs already lost 10 out of their first 20 games?
Charles Barkley thinks it's because the Mavs are all about Luka
According to former NBA player and current TNT "Inside the NBA" analyst Charles Barkley, Dallas' main problem (as it has been for quite some time now) is that they rely too much on Doncic. While there's no doubt that Luka can lead his team to victory against any opponent, the Mavs' heliocentric style of play that revolves around him poses a lot of problems. Barkley reiterated that it's also up to Doncic to figure out how to play off the ball and get his teammates involved.
"… Luka's gotta learn how to play without the ball. Like me and Shaq have been saying, they can't win even if he's a great player, he's gotta learn how to play without the ball, give it up more and he's gotta empower the other guys instead of waiting for him to do everything. Those guys are always like 'Let's see what Luka is going to do' like no man, you're in the NBA too you can play but they're never going to win a championship the way they play right now because it's all Luka all the time," Barkley said in Tuesday's Inside the NBA segment.
Doncic excels perfectly in a heliocentric style, but that doesn't mean elite defenses can't figure it out. The Mavs must know how to counter, especially when their opponents throw the kitchen sink on Luka. As Barkley said, Luka is an elite player, but relying on him too much can burn him out, especially if Doncic doesn't learn how to play off the ball and depend on his teammates more as a way to conserve energy.
The Mavs haven't addressed their problem for years
Despite their attempts to get Doncic some help over the past couple of seasons (whether by acquiring Kristaps Porziņģis, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Christian Wood), the Mavs continue to struggle with the same challenge every season — and that's burning Doncic out during the dog days of the regular season.
At this point, both the Mavs and Doncic need to figure out how to help themselves, whether by acquiring another superstar next to Luka or, like Barkley said, encouraging the superstar to change his playstyle a bit by letting him play off the ball and leaning on his teammates more. Luckily for the Mavs, their current formula is still working and has kept them within .500, but to get to the promised land, a couple of tweaks need to be made pronto.