When the Dallas Mavericks traded for Kristaps Porzingis in early 2019, they anticipated getting a co-star to stick next to a 19-year-old Luka Doncic. It was a move that seemed like it had all the makings of a Nash/Nowitzki 2.0, but two years and a half later, fans have not seen Porzingis play to the lofty expectations set on him. There’s been a lack of continuity between the tandem. Supporters have seen the Porzingis that played in New York in flashes, but it has never seemed like he and Luka have meshed.
Luka and Porzingis aren’t great friends off the court, and that’s okay. Of course, that’s not ideal, but it doesn’t mean the pairing is doomed. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen never had a relationship off the court. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal notoriously didn’t like each other for a lot of the time during the height of their powers. So with these two not being friends off the court, how can the organization make these two coexist?
First and foremost, Kristaps Porzingis has to find a way to stay healthy. He’s played in only 90 games in two years, including the playoffs, so the lack of consistency has stunted the growth of their chemistry along with Porzingis’ personal development. With both guys on the court, they’ve still never seemed to click.
How can the Dallas Mavericks maximize Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic?
The root of the on-court problems between them is that the offense runs exclusively through Luka Doncic. The most success Porzingis has had in the league was in New York, where he was given the ball in the post, and the offense ran through him. He used the 3-point line as a weapon, but it wasn’t his whole arsenal.
Obviously, with a player of Luka’s caliber, KP has to understand he’s not going to get the same amount of touches he got in New York, and the Unicorn knows that. Porzingis is the B side in their partnership, but he can’t be treated as an afterthought. Maximizing the Luka and Porzingis partnership would mean way more touches in the paint and other spots KP’s comfortable. The Unicorn got the ball in favorable areas and constantly took advantage of smaller defenders by getting on either the elbow or near the basket and shooting over them.
Porzingis also has to show he wants it more. Averaging 5.4 rebounds in a playoff series at 7’3″ is unacceptable. A big part of the disconnect is that Luka feels Porzingis lacks the dedication to basketball. Luka Doncic is an ultra competitor, so asking him to have the ball less to suit someone he feels isn’t pulling his weight might be hard for him to do. However, relinquishing some of the offensive responsibility is a necessary adjustment for the success of the Doncic and Porzingis duo.
Porzingis needs to play better, and there’s no denying that. However, if the Dallas Mavericks want to get the most out of this duo, they have to take the ball out of Doncics’s hands a little bit and let Porzingis play in a role he’s more comfortable. The more effective and involved Kristaps Porzingis is, the higher this pair’s ceiling will be for the next ten years.