Team Slovenia is on a roll in Tokyo. In their first Olympics ever, the Slovenians qualified for the semifinals, with Luka Dončić leading the charge. No matter how their Olympic story ends, the Slovenians showed how to build a winning team around Luka, and hopefully, people in Dallas are watching.
Luka Dončić with Mavericks
Luka is highly successful in his time with the Mavericks in terms of personal achievements. He has been an All-Star starter and a 2-time All-NBA first team member. At only 22 years old, the only missing feat in his very young career is a trophy that remains elusive for Dallas, even if Luka’s rise helped them reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons. In two straight playoffs, the Mavericks saw their hopes fade away after getting bounced by Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, with a new coach and GM in town, fans have high expectations for next season.
How Slovenia is winning with Doncic
When you watch Slovenia’s men’s basketball team in the Olympics, you’ll be surprised to know it is their first time in the tournament. They don’t play like it, especially Luka, who torched Argentina with 48 points in his Olympic debut. The incredible display led many to believe that Slovenia can give the heavily favored Team USA a run for its money, with Kevin Durant and his NBA star teammates struggling in some games.
Slovenia is perfect in international games when Luka plays. If the nation of just above 2 million people wins the gold medal, Dallas should copy its blueprint on how to win with their franchise player.
When you look at Slovenia’s roster, the team is full of perfect pick and roll partners for Dončić. They can roll to the basket or spot up on a wide-open 3 point shot. The good thing is that the Ljubljana native does not even have to do the heavy lifting every game. He may score close to 50 one game while the next one would barely register a triple-double.
The team knows Luka is the head of the snake, they will go as far as he can take them, but the players also know Luka can’t win it all by himself. As such was the case against the Spain team bannered by NBA veterans Marc and Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, and Willy Hernangómez. Spain tried to take the ball out of Luka’s hands every time – they played zone for the entire game and doubled Luka as soon as he passed center court. If they were going to lose, other players on Team Slovenia had to beat them, and that’s exactly what happened. The plan backfired as Mike Tobey had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Vlatko Čančar scored 22 points.
The ability of his teammates to make shots and contribute when Luka makes the right basketball play and gives up the ball should make it clear for Dallas – surround Luka with shooters and reap the benefits. Luka’s performance against Spain demonstrated he’s smart enough not to force the issue and trust his teammates. Now it’s on Nico Harrison, Jason Kidd, and Mark Cuban to surround Luka with teammates worthy of his trust.
The team let go of Josh Richardson and added former Knicks shooter Reggie Bullock, in addition to re-signing Hardaway Jr. and bringing in Sterling Brown. Solid contributors, but no one who makes the Mavs a serious contender. Who knows, maybe Slovenia’s success in Tokyo is proof all Luka needs is solid guys who know their role, make shots, and play hard for the entire game.
If a certain big man from Latvia could fit into that description and use the first healthy offseason he’s had in a long time in the form he showed in New York, Dallas will start any playoff series thinking they can beat the other team. That’s all you can ask.