Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. have been impressive on the offensive end of the floor, but their defensive intensity is lacking focus.
The Dallas Mavericks looked disjointed offensively against the Suns. In the home-opener against the Timberwolves, they scored with ease. The two games couldn’t be more different, except in one facet: the Dallas defense was awful in both games. And the worst culprits are two Mavs fans favorites in Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr.
Doncic is routinely getting caught ball watching on the weak side, and playing a few steps too far away from the man he’s supposed to guard, leading to wide open 3-pointers for the opposing squad. It’s possible he’s just adjusting to the speed of the NBA. A league where passes arrive a little quicker and from across the floor at times.
Doncic seems too focused on help defense and not enough on his own man. He’s got to learn to trust his teammates to guard.
Smith, on the other hand, is trying to do too much on defense. He’s leaving his man to double-team opponents when it’s not necessary, coming from too far away to be able to recover. This is leading to wide open 3-pointers, just like Doncic’s miscues. Smith has to learn when to be aggressive, and when to stay at home on his man.
The good news is that Doncic and Smith’s defensive problems are all focus related. And that’s to be expected. They’re young players still finding their way in the NBA. It’s very rare for a player to enter the NBA with a perfect defensive mindset.
Physically, Doncic and Smith will have no issue defending. Doncic is tall, long, and stout. When he uses his size and superior basketball I.Q., he gives opponents serious issues. Smith’s athleticism and aggressive attitude will make him a lock-down defender once he learns when to take chances and when to be conservative.
The Mavericks’ two young stars are very different but are dealing with growing pains that have led to Dallas giving up an average of 128.5 points in their first two games. But as they mature and learn to focus, Doncic and Smith can develop into defensive anchors for this Mavericks squad.