Dallas Mavericks fans probably think Dirk Nowitzki when asked about the team, but Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are changing the Mavs identity.
Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki called it a career after 21 illustrious years. Throughout his tenure, Nowitzki undoubtedly served as the face of the Mavs. Many suggest he even embodied the identity of the organization.
Throughout the history of the NBA, fans have been able to easily label and identify teams. Dominant title contenders and perennial lottery participants alike all have a play-style, leader or consistent level of success (or failure) that steers our perception.
Fans know the Bad Boy Pistons as a rough and rugged squad that did not hesitate to use brute force to intimidate opponents. The Mike D’Antoni-led Phoenix Suns will forever be remembered for its seven seconds or less offense that left defenses scrambling to keep up. Most recently, the Golden State Warriors ushered in the small-ball era, shifting the way big men are utilized.
Space and Opportunity
Doncic, 20, and Porzingis, 23, represent the future of the Mavericks, as well as the way the game is played. Having two hybrid players is enough to make any GM foam at the mouth. Luka is a 6’7″ playmaker that fits well anywhere from point guard to small forward paired with a 7’3″ sharpshooting big who doubles as a shot-blocking savant in Porzingis.
That goes without mentioning any free agent additions for the Mavs.
Long gone are the days of players being too competitive or loyal to one city to team up with their peers. Also, in case no one has noticed, superstar-level players are more welcoming to players in that same stratosphere. All that matters to free agents now is having space to produce and an opportunity to play meaningful basketball.
Luka’s size, court vision and willingness to set up teammates for easy buckets makes him one of the most desirable floor generals to play alongside. Doncic scored (1,526) or assisted (1,048) on 28 percent of the 8,927 points Dallas scored this past season.
As per NBA.com, Dallas averaged 7.8 (t-9th) points on pick-and-roll plays with Luka as the ball-handler. That is where the addition of Porzingis begins to pay off. His height and shooting ability make him one of the toughest players to guard in this scenario.
In the 2017-18 season, he attempted 4.8 three-pointers and hit them at a 39.5 percent clip. If a defender goes under the screen or elects to help on the ball-handler, Porzingis is going to nail an open jumper.
Or he can use his height advantage, and survey the court to hit an open shooter.
Will the Mavericks become a sharpshooting force? Maybe. A lock-down defensive team? Possibly. Something else to keep in mind is what the Mavs are able to accomplish in the upcoming free agency period. Adding a third star, or a couple of solid role players can and will impact the team’s identity as well.
In any case, with the fluidity that Luka and Kristaps create, there will be more than enough space for anyone to fit in and contribute right away. Also, because of how young this duo is, there’s more than enough time to figure it out to perfection. As always, go Mavs!