Pre-draft remarks labeled Luka Dončić “immature" and "full of himself.” How much of these are true, and can the Slovenian superstar attract All-Star reinforcements in Dallas with him leading the charge?
There is no question Luka Doncic is a generational talent. He is arguably the most accomplished 22-year-old basketball player at the moment, possibly of all time. If you check out his resume, you'll see the following: 2018 EuroLeague MVP, Euroleague Champion, 3-time Liga ACB champion with Real Madrid, EuroLeague 2010–20 All-Decade Team member, 2-time NBA All-Star, 2-time All NBA First Team, and European Champion with the Slovenian National Team. The list goes on and on. But the only thing missing here is an NBA title. Can he win it? As we've seen, not on his own. The question remains, will another superstar join him?
Is Luka a Good Teammate?
Pre-draft reports described Luka as “...very immature, not liked by teammates and full of himself.” While the source of this statement remains a mystery. At first glance, it seems safe to say Dončić is a good teammate. He creates for others and is often seen having light moments during warmups and shoot-around. But his game is the closest anyone's got to James Harden with the Rockets - that may be OK with Dorian Finney Smith, but All-Star level players won't feel the same way.
Great players often have very high standards when it comes to management and teammates. It’s no secret Michael Jordan would never win Mr. Congeniality, but he won, and that’s all that matters. If things didn't go his way, the Slovenian was often caught pouting and whining to the refs about missed calls. Experts see this as a sign of immaturity.
Anybody is entitled to bad days and off nights, but as a leader of the team and a future MVP, Luka should start addressing his attitude on and off the court. He said the right things when asked about it, but the time has come to see a significant change in his attitude on the court. How teammates view him is crucial if Dallas can attract All-Star reinforcements in the offseason. How many players want to be teammates with Dončić? How many of them are willing to take a step back and let a 22-year-old wunderkind run the system?
The rumored rift with Kristaps Porzingis could be telling. Once seen as another superstar who can help Dončić, KP’s role in the team has diminished, especially during the last playoffs. A part of it was due to KP's injuries, but he was reduced to a spot-up shooter to leave the paint open for Luka. Other star players notice this and would surely have questions before joining Dončić in Dallas.
How the Mavs Responded
After hiring Jason Kidd as head coach and Nico Harrison as general manager, Dallas quickly restored order in the organization. The team is also looking to tap JJ Barea and Jason Terry as assistant coaches after getting Dirk Nowitzki as advisors. Dallas is in transition, and the moves are all part of a grand agenda: make Dončić happy and make sure he's Dirk's heir as the face of the franchise.
The hiring of former teammates who won the franchise’s only title could teach the locker room a thing or two on what it means to sacrifice and play for each other. Harrison’s employment is a step in the right direction. He is close to several players after working with them as a Nike executive, and his connections and personal relationships can lure free agents to Dallas.
If Luka can prove he's willing to be more of a Brooklyn Harden than a Rockets Harden, and Nico Harrison is as half as good charming and attracting talent as we hear, the Mavs should be able to get someone significant in the next few years. The Mavs need to get better, but so does Luka. He can do almost anything on the court. The next step in his evolution is how he builds up his teammates, on and off it.
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