Formula Doncic: the battles with Real Madrid, the genius of Carlisle, the 'extra kilos' ...

Doncic sweeps the NBA with 21 years. He breaks taboos about Europeans and their physical profile and works under an extraordinary coach.


Luka Doncic debuted in the NBA playoffs at 21 years and 171 days. And, you know, he broke the record for points in a debut in the playoffs: 42. With 28 in the second game, he was the first player to reach 70 in his first two performances since George Mikan's 75 in prehistory ( 1949). In the next (13 + 10 + 10) he was injured, but he had time to be the third youngest (after Magic Johnson and LeBron James) to sign a triple-double in the playoffs. And in the fourth came the apotheosis, a game that is already part of the modern history of the fight for the title: 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. With a low ankle minimum, without Kristaps Porzingis, after coming back 21 points and with the triple winner on the horn of extra time. Hollywoodian? Yes. And also one more day in the life of Luka Doncic.

Doncic is averaging 31.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 9.8 assists in the playoffs. With almost 52% in shots, 38% in triples and an improvable 69% in free throws. His true shooting percentage, a figure that weighs all the shots made, exceeds 62%. An excellent figure for a player who monopolizes 37% of his team's possessions, who facilitates 46% of his teammates' baskets with his passes when he is on the court and who captures, pivot numbers, 16% of rebounds that has to shot. Porzingis, 2.21, is at 15%. The Slovenian has also signed two of the three triple-doubles that have been seen in these bubble playoffs (the other is LeBron James) and has the Clippers, one of the thunderous favorites to the ring, in a dangerous 2-2 . Scared. The surprise, if the Mavericks were to consume it, would be tremendous. In efficiency (PER), he is the eighth of the playoffs (29.6). He is also third in points and assists and seventh in rebounds.

None of this, of course, is accidental. In two seasons in the NBA, Doncic already has the Rookie of the Year award and the first designation (of many, many to come) to the All Star Game. If all goes smoothly, he will also be in the Best Quintet of the season and has entered the top three Most Improved Player finalists. As a rookie he signed 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists per game. Those numbers have jumped in its second season to 28.8, 9.4 and 8.8. It can be agreed, although it is a cliché, that not even the most optimistic, those who saw Doncic as an NBA star, expected a similar performance in just two seasons. He is already, quite simply, one of the best players in the NBA.

Talent in the perfect team to express it

There are many reasons, but the main one is the talent, innate and extraordinary, of a player who likes the pace and style of play of the current NBA like a glove. Right now, the American League is dominated by dynamic, outside-shooting guards. As soon as the post is played, the pivots open to shoot three and the circulation and creation of spaces is the key to a way of attacking that (with its detractors) generates video game numbers. Doncic's 2019-20 Mavericks have had the best offensive rating (number of points per 100 possessions, carbon 14 of offensive efficiency) in history: 116.1, or 1.16 points per possession, if you prefer like that. The 2018-19 Warriors (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson ...) had put the top at 115.

Doncic was chosen with number 3 in the 2018 draft. Not having a university pedigree (an issue that is becoming less and less taboo but still is for some) penalized him. Also a little explosive physical profile. The Suns (they chose center DeAndre Ayton) the Kings (power forward Marvin Bagley) let the Slovenian pass, the first with the coach who had directed him in the 2017 Eurobasket gold, Igor Kokoskov. The latter with offices governed by a Balkan, Vlade Divac. The Hawks selected him with No. 3, but sent him to Dallas, which gave in exchange Trae Young (No. 5) and a first round (it was No. 10) of 2019. The Mavericks have Doncic as the obvious lynchpin of the game. It was post Dirk Nowitzki, and they had (a blessing for a newcomer like the Slovenian) one of the best coaches in the NBA: Rick Carlisle.

Carlisle played for Larry Bird's Celtics, was already Coach of the Year in 2002 and led the Mavs to their only title in 2011, with a prodigious slate display against the terrifying Heat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. During this season, he has been moving pieces around Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, the new star couple and two Europeans aged 21 and 25. Especially from Doncic: it was about maximizing his conditions, making a team for him and not the other way around. Of not corseting a different talent. The first plan was to put Delon Wright, a defensive guard, at his side in the backcourt (outside game) to do his dirty work. But the attack suffered as Wright is not a good shot. And Carlisle did the obvious: if he was going to create a system for Doncic to generate free shots for his teammates, they had to be able to get them. Thus, Tim Hardaway Jr became a starter and fit in perfectly with a Doncic who shoots more than three each time (35% of his shots in these playoffs) and he does so from ever further away. Seth Curry, Stephen's very brother, also became essential for his shooting skills. And Porzingis went from playing the post to making it more and more open, threatening from the outside. From generating your shots to finishing plays. From colliding with defenders stronger than him to shooting over smaller opponents. With Dorian Finney-Smith as a defensive worker, generally in charge of the rival star, and some supporting players with very defined roles (the giant Marjanovic, the intelligent Kleger, Wright, the injured Powell, Burke ...) the Mavericks were unleashed after Christmas. as an attack on historical efficiency. And with an obvious sun king: Doncic.

The vision of the game of the privileged

Because one of the decisive virtues of the former Real Madrid player, of course, and not the one that usually shines the most in the highlights, is his ability to see the plays before the rest of the players, to find a partner freed, to pass at angles that only the privileged find and take advantage of. Carlisle knows it, uses it and compares Doncic to Larry Bird (whom he played with) and Jason Kidd (whom he coached). The Mavs' system is a spread pick and roll (one player drives, another blocks, three are placed beyond the line of three) that opens the court a lot and generates superiorities from the blocking and continuation plays directed by Doncic . A style that suits him like a glove and that places attackers in increasingly open positions. In September, when they arrived at preseason training camp, Mavs players found a theoretical four-point line taped beyond the three-point line. Space was the new obsession, it is for almost all competitive teams in today's NBA: space, space and more space.

Years of battles before landing in the US

Experience, of course, is a degree. Doncic has played three NBA playoff games in 2020 ... but made his debut in the ACB League in May 2015, at the age of 16. Earlier, on April 30, he had made his official debut with the Real Madrid first team. He was the youngest to do so in the history of a club with which, until his jump to Texas in 2018, he won a Euroleague, three Leagues and 2 Cups. He was MVP of ACB and MVP of the regular phase and the final four of the Euroleague (all in 2018). Nobody had been so young the best of the maximum continental competition. A year earlier, at 18, he was European champion with Slovenia and entered the Best Five of the Eurobasket. Basically he came to the NBA with an already historic resume ... and still 19 years old. After his battles against CSKA, Fenerbahçe, Baskonia or Barça, Doncic crossed the Atlantic with a baggage and a competitive toughness that many university players are still far from acquiring.

A physique with more advantages than weights

So the Slovenian broke down that taboo of the European player, but also that of his physique. And this one exists: you just have to remember that during confinement it was rumored again, based on decontextualized statements from his personal trainer, that he was out of shape and overweight. Doncic is a 5-pound, 5-pound point guard, a football linebacker in the body of an NBA playmaker, in the words of an (anonymous) Western Conference coach. “It's okay to be fat,” SB Nation headlined an article about Doncic's physical profile, how he was breaking down a false belief about his playing and how he was taking advantage of, and not the opposite, of his body. Very strong in penetration, bigger than many of his defenders, able to take the game at his own pace and not vice versa and with mental reflexes of genius that precede the movements of his feet. Still with a lot to improve as a defender, Carlisle hides it from rival stars and ensures that, at the very least, it is not a negative factor… in view of his tremendous offensive display. With his physique, Doncic absorbs blows, plays close to the rim, rebounds, passes from high above and, in short, knocks down taboos and establishes himself as one of the best players in the NBA. In the 2019-20 season and for many, many years. It cannot be otherwise.

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