Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic Has Greatly Improved As A Defender

Jeremy Sochan, Luka Doncic, Mavericks, NBA
Feb 14, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan (10) passes the ball past Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the second quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest knocks against Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic throughout his NBA career has been his defense or lack thereof. His ability on the offensive side of the ball is magnificent, but he has left a lot to be desired on the other end of the court.

Sometimes, that was out of necessity. Given how much energy and effort Doncic was putting forth to carry the Mavericks on offense, his performance defensively would be lax. In crunch time and in the postseason, we would see more effort from Doncic defensively, was it was inconsistent, at best, in the regular season.

However, that narrative is one that Doncic looks to be putting to rest during the 2023-24 regular season. After being regarded as a poor defender for so many seasons, the script has been flipped as Doncic is getting the job done on that end of the court.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Luka Doncic & Dallas Mavericks Updates

As shared by the user Jac on X, formerly Twitter, Doncic is currently 10th in the NBA when it comes to isolation defense by players with at least 50 possessions. Doncic is giving up only 0.79 points per possession in those scenarios. Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings is currently first, giving up 0.59 points per possession.

It isn’t just in isolation where Doncic is getting the job done defensively. As shared by FlukaMagic on X, the Mavericks star is the best post defender in the NBA with at least 25 possessions. 

He is giving up only 0.55 points per possession on post-ups and forcing a turnover on approximately 32 percent of the 31 possessions he has played post-defense. It should come as no surprise that Doncic can hold his own in that position, as he is listed at 6’7” and 230 pounds. That is a big person to be pushing around when motivated defensively.

When defending spot-ups, Doncic has also gotten the job done this season. He is allowing 0.98 points per possession on 241 possessions defending a spot-up shooter. These are numbers that will shock some people as Doncic, for the most part, is regarded as a poor defender by the national NBA media.

Again, his size comes into play here as shooting over a player who is 6’7’ is easier said than done. The leader in that category is Josh Hart of the New York Knicks, who is giving up 0.86 points per possession on 201 possessions.

Some people will nitpick those stats, saying Doncic isn’t being required to defend as difficult of matchups as other players are. While that may be true, it has always been the case for the Mavericks.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Luka Doncic & Dallas Mavericks Updates

Part of their game plan has been to surround Doncic with defensive-minded players to help ease the burden on that side of the ball. He has never drawn the toughest assignments, but for the first time in his career, he is now dominating those matchups defensively.

The results are undeniable, as the Mavericks are playing very well this season. Having Kyrie Irving in the lineup has taken some of the onus off of Doncic to carry the load offensively by himself, enabling him to engage on the defensive end more consistently.

When those two are on the court together, Dallas is one of the best teams in the NBA. If they can stay healthy, the Mavericks are going to make some noise the remainder of the season, especially after the moves they made ahead of the NBA Trade Deadline to upgrade the frontcourt.

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