DALLAS – Rick Carlisle was analyzing the effects Luka Doncic has had on his team when the Dallas Mavericks coach paused to give credit to the man who helped deliver the rookie from Slovenia to the Mavs.
“Donnie Nelson, who I really think is as good an evaluator of talent as I’ve ever met or come across in this league, told me over a year ago that he thought (Doncic) was going to be the best player in this draft,” Carlisle said. “He was pretty certain of it.”
So certain that Nelson – the president of basketball operations and general manager of the Mavs – helped engineer a draft day trade last June that enabled the Mavs to acquire Doncic from the Atlanta Hawks. It was as if the Mavs already knew Doncic would have an immediate impact in the NBA.
“I had heard so many things about him being a special player,” Carlisle said. “The one thing that I have consistently said about him based on the European films was that the European films didn’t show the strength and the size and the quickness that we’ve seen here. And speed as well.
“When he gets the rebound and goes, he’s really, end-to-end, extremely fast. He’s caught some people by surprise, but I’m not surprised or shocked at all that he’s having an impact.”
Doncic leads the Mavs in scoring with 18.1 point per game, and also averages 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists. In addition, he has developed a very impactful step-back 3-point shot that has been absolutely difficult to stop.
Some may consider Doncic’s step-back 3-pointer as a low percent shot. But he buried a pair of them during a personal late 11-0 run this past Saturday that was key to the Mavs’ 107-104 win over the Houston Rockets.
“I like the shot as a weapon,” Carlisle said. “I don’t like it as your only weapon, especially with the other things that he can do — put pressure on defenses.
“It’s all about the balance he’s able to create on the shot. Early in the year he was shooting them and he was ending up falling back and being short. If you can get on balance, it’s a great weapon.”
Lately, Doncic has been able to get on balance while keeping defenses off-balanced with his patented weapon.
“He’s such a good penetrator I feel it’s important that he strikes a balance between direct vertical paint attacks and rim attacks with using the step-back to create space and get the three,” Carlisle said. “What he did at the end of the Houston game was unique.”