The Dallas Mavericks’ dynamic duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis we advertised as the next big thing for the state of Dallas Basketball. With the season starting off to a 2-0 start, the duo of Doncic and Porzingis has been better than advertised.
The legend of Luka Doncic started in Madrid Spain where Doncic signed his first professional basketball contract at the ripe age of 13 years old. Doncic’s ability to play well against those more experienced than him helped spread the rumor of the Wonder Boy. Even as he progressed to the Real Madrid senior team, Doncic continued to display his basketball IQ and scoring ability against some of the best basketball players in the world.
After coming to the Mavericks, Doncic’s success was unprecedented even considering his success in Europe as one of the youngest players in the Euroleague. Doncic looked like an All-Star with one of the worst starting lineups in the league. Knowing he was the foundation for success, the Mavericks approached the trade deadline looking to shake up the roster.
With Kristaps Porzingis and the New York Knicks front office feeling differently about the direction of the franchise, the Mavericks made the franchise altering transaction of trading for an All-Star power forward who had a history of leg injuries.
After blowing up the starting lineup, the Mavericks looked to just let the season finish with hope that the following season would bring a fresh start. In preparation for the upcoming sea, the Mavericks tried to get Porzingis stronger and Doncic leaner.
The efforts worked as Porzingis was often compared to famous Russian villain Ivan Drago from the Rocky movies and Doncic’s jawline looked more clean cut then ever. Maverick fans everywhere were excited to see how far the dynamic duo could lead the team especially after a year of Doncic dominating the league without a defined abdomen. This, however, did not come without reservations.
Even with the Mavericks training staff making a clear attempt to get Porzingis notably stronger, questions were always going to exist about Porzingis’s durability. Would he be playing a serious amount of minutes from the beginning? Would he play intimidated at the possibility of re-injuring himself so quickly?
In addition to these questions about Porzingis, there were questions about how well the duo would play. With Porzingis having missed a lot of game action, would he look rusty starting the season? Could Doncic succumb to a sophomore slump? Would Doncic continue to shoot the ball the way he ended the previous season? Could Porzingis be a true center for the Mavericks?
The Mavericks have now played 2 games. It is difficult and unwise to draw conclusions from two games in an 82 game regular season, but the way the Mavericks have played to start the season is a precursor to what we should expect this season. So how have they played?
The two have scored a lot of points thus far…
In their first game together, Doncic and Porzingis scored 57 points. This total was higher than some of the greatest duos to grace the NBA. However, points alone don’t illustrate how great the two played in their debut.
Doncic scored 34 points on 12 of 19 from the field. Of those 19 attempts, he made 4 of 9 from the three-point line. Porzingis scored 23 on 7 of 16 from the field. While he shot less than 50 percent from the field, the All-Star shot a commendable 3 of 7 from the three-point line. The efficiency, especially from the three-point line, is worth noting as the team collectively made 31 percent of their three-point shots.
In addition to the efficient scoring, head coach Rick Carlisle was able to stagger the minutes of the two such that at least one player could be on the floor for a significant part of the time. Porzingis played 29 minutes while Doncic played 34. Carlisle evidently had no reservations of putting Porzingis on a minutes cap to start the season and is confident in his team that he’s letting Porzingis play with the bench as a primary scoring option.
While it was clear Porzingis would see ample playing time, how their minutes staggered was something we would only know after watching them play. The ability for either player to have this dramatic of an impact individually was something we weren’t expecting would happen so quickly.
The scoring continued against the New Orleans Pelicans. Doncic scored 25 points on 10 of 19 shooting, however, he only shot 3 of 9 from the three-point line. Porzingis on the other hand made 8 of 17 attempts and 3 of 5 three-point attempts for a grand total of 24 points. After a 57 point debut, the two followed it up with a 49 point showcase against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Both players are scoring at efficient rates and if they can keep it up against the most difficult competition, this will be huge for the development of the team. Fortunately, these two aren’t only affecting the team on the offensive side of the ball.
The Mavs have always had a defensive identity, but now the production is showing
Even after the phenomenal rookie season, it was evident Luka Doncic wasn’t a great defender. His relatively unathletic build combined with his average defensive instincts weren’t a great combo on a back court that also had an offensive minded guard in Dennis Smith Jr.
However, bring in Kristaps Porzingis. In his last season with the Knicks, the All-Star averaged over 2 blocks per game. With the expectation that he was playing the center position, there was hope that the Mavericks were going to have an elite rim protector.
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Low and behold the time has come. Porzingis has proven his shot blocking ability with a 5 block game against the Pelicans and he has successfully been able to switch on to smaller guards in pick and roll situations. The athleticism combined with length have allowed Porzingis to flourish as a center for Rick Carlisle.
Meanwhile, Doncic has been a steal machine in a back court with point guard Delon Wright. It is worth noting the addition of Wright has helped set a defensive intensity that did not previously exist last season. Wright’s length and athleticism allow him to guard point guards with relative ease while his IQ and awareness set up steals and transition baskets.
Doncic, however, has also been impressive on the defensive end. He stole the ball twice in each game against the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans and has been able to provide the Mavericks a mismatch as he uses his length and IQ to his advantage. Him and Wright combined for seven steals against the Pelicans, which turned into important baskets on the transition.
This team has a ways to go before it reaches its potential, however, the first two games have been encouraging. This Mavericks team is deep in offensive and defensive talent and could very well see themselves competing against the best later on in the year. However, how far they go will be decided by how far the pairing of Doncic and Porzingis can take them.
- Published on 10/26/2019 at 11:01 AM
- Last updated at 10/26/2019 at 06:33 AM