Luka Doncic cannot always be “superhuman”, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd insists, after the preseason MVP favourite continued a mixed start to the campaign with an “average” night against the Chicago Bulls.
Mavericks superstar Doncic, now in his fourth year in the NBA, was expecting to be among the league’s leading players in 2021-22.
Dallas are a competitive 7-4 through 11 games and their point forward has 24.5 points per game, but that is a considerable drop on last year’s 27.7 or his 2019-20 peak of 28.8.
And Doncic, despite a sensational game-winning buzzer-beater against the Boston Celtics last week, is not helping the Mavs in the way his team would hope.
Only eight qualifying players – seven of them on teams with .250 records or worse – have a lower plus/minus per game than Doncic’s -8.7.
That was -20 in Wednesday’s 117-107 defeat to the Bulls despite the 22-year-old averaging close to his first triple-double of the season with 20 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Doncic had four steals for only the sixth time in his career but also gave up four turnovers and is averaging 4.4 for the year, a new high.
“Luka was just average tonight,” Kidd said. “We always expect him to be superhuman, but there’s going to be nights in this season where he’s going to be average.
“His average is really good, but he again had some great looks that didn’t go down for him.”
Indeed, Doncic made just six of 18 shots from the field and one of six from three-point range.
Although he is attempting more field goals than ever before (21.2 per game), his shooting is down to 43.3 per cent, including a career-low 28.6 per cent from three.
Kidd praised much-maligned team-mate Kristaps Porzingis, who “stepped up” with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the Mavs clearly cannot afford a player, in Doncic, with a team-high 35.9 per cent usage rate to be missing both shots and passes.
“I think that’s a question for him,” Kidd said of Doncic’s shooting woes. “When you look at the shots that he’s taking, he’s getting a lot of great looks.
“I think in the game of basketball, some go in, some don’t. He still has to continue to be aggressive and take those looks. The ones that he’s missing right now will fall for him – he just has to stay with it.”
One tweak could be to get Doncic closer to the basket, with his shooting at the rim way up to 75.6 per cent. He has scored 40.1 per cent of his points in the paint this year (only marginally up on 40.0 per cent).
“His strength is being able to create on the perimeter for others and for himself, so that’s something that we can definitely do, put him in the post to try to take some of the stress away from him having to work so hard,” Kidd said. “That will come in due time as the season goes on.”