It's a weary old story. Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic isn't the most athletic player on the hardcourt. The man doesn't assault defenses through sheer strength or lightning quickness. Instead, the Slovenian basically uses guile and inherent basketball knowledge to do whatever he wants on the floor. However, a recent interview backed up by statistics proves that Doncic is a basketball Einstein and an athletic freak.
Doncic shared what is running through his mind whenever he faces a team with a known superstar. As a franchise player, he wants to be challenged by his rivals. In addition, he knows how much beating a superstar endures throughout the entire game. From a strategic standpoint, it makes sense for Doncic to sandbag the opposing superstar further.
"I would say like this: because the best players, they gotta work on both ends. You just have to make them work on both ends... They play the whole game, they handle the ball a lot. You just want to make them tired... When you have the best player on you, you want to score: yes or yes. So it's like pride, proud moment too," Doncic said, per The Old Man and the Three podcast.
It may seem that any basketball fan could come up with this strategy. What makes it interesting is that it is coming from Doncic — someone who's rarely been complimented for his athletic prowess. We've heard analysts sing praises for LeBron James for doing amazing things at his age. In the past, we have heard people give kudos to Rip Hamilton's endurance and how he seemingly does not get tired from running around. Of course, we have seen Shaquille O'Neal make fellow centers look like toddlers, which is a testament to his superhuman-like strength.
Usage rate, defensive rating
The fact that Doncic points out that opposing superstars can and will get tired throughout the game says a lot about his confidence in his stamina. Watch Mavs games and see how the team's plays heavily revolve around Doncic. Stats reveal that the Slovenian has the highest usage rate in the NBA with 37.0 percent. He’s followed by Joel Embiid (36.7) and ad Giannis Antetokounmpo (34.6).
Not to put Embiid and Antetokounmpo down. But as the team's point guard, the Slovenian has his work cut out for him. Not only does Doncic bring the ball up on almost every possession, but he's also matched up against some of the quickest guards in the world. He usually switches it up with someone faster, like Jalen Brunson. But this means that Doncic has to guard someone who is a bit stronger than him.
If you think this is where the argument falls, you are dead wrong. Statistics show that Doncic has the best defensive rating among guards with 105.2. Behind him are Chris Paul (105.6) and Marcus Smart (106.2). This confirms that Doncic isn't just an offensive savant. He's a two-way player, pretty much like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kawhi Leonard, just to name a few.
Perhaps the narrative that Luka Doncic is not athletic should be finally swept under the rug. His comments backed up by some advanced statistics prove that he might even be one of the most robust players out there. Besides, how can a non-athletic player make it to the big league?