Maybe it was only a matter of time, but Luka Doncic has officially joined the exclusive logo club.
Golden State’s Steph Curry is the president and founding member. But when Doncic reared up with his feet on the center-court circle Friday against Milwaukee and swished what was officially listed as a 32-foot 3-pointer, he became a card-carrying member of the logo club.
There are a few others around the NBA who are in the long-range clique, but not many.
Shooting ranges are extending by the season, even by the game, it seems. It’s no longer enough just to be able to make 3-pointers. Making really, really long 3-pointers puts a new dynamic into a team’s offense that makes it tougher for a defense to stop.
“When you get hot . . . there are certain players who keep stretching it out and have unlimited range,” said Mavericks’ sharpshooter Seth Curry, Steph’s brother who is no stranger to flinging up trifectas. “Luka’s one of them. That’s the next step. Obviously, if you’re a ballhandler and you’re playing pick and roll, the farther out you can shoot, the easier it is to make plays and get your shot off.”
The Mavericks clearly are tinkering with everything during the preseason. Their record slipped to 0-3 with the loss to the Bucks. They have a home date with Oklahoma City on Monday and close out the exhibition season with a trip to Vancouver, Canada, to play the LA Clippers on Thursday.
Through the first three games, the Mavericks have hoisted 50 3-pointers in two of them. Coach Rick Carlisle is a huge fan of the long ball. And he doesn’t mind his good shooters stretching out and taking longer triples.
But he’d prefer those shots happen judiciously.
“It’s a weapon, but it’s not an all-time-time weapon,” Carlisle said. “Longer shots are a reality. We work on them to develop range, we work on them because they are a reality. Guys like Luka and Kristaps (Porzingis), they have the range to shoot them. It’s a thing where you got to pick your spots.”
Carlisle is confident the Mavericks will find a sensible middle ground.
He said some of the 3-pointers were too quick, but a lot of them were really good looks.
That the Mavericks have not shot a good percentage so far in the preseason from beyond the arc (31 percent) can be traced to many variables. They are mixing and matching a lot of lineups. They have a handful of players who are coming off long-term injuries and are knocking off the rust.
For his part, Doncic sometimes just wants to fall back on what works.
“I say to myself, I can’t make a normal shot,” he said. “I always make the shots (he’s not) supposed to make.”
The NBA’s outlook on 3-pointers has changed in recent years, and understandably so. The long shot is worth more. And the down side of missing is tolerable. Teams can occasionally get a run-out fast break after a long rebound.
But teams often can offensive rebound better with a crazy-bounce rebound off of a long shot.
But as Carlisle said, it’s a fine line.
“We’re getting a lot of good ones,” he said. “But you can always get better ones. We’re working on it. We had some difficult stretches (against Milwaukee). But overall, we’ve made some mile progress. We just got to keep working at it.
Quality of shots and ball security are two key issues that Carlisle wants to see improve in the final two preseason games and into the regular season.
So what, exactly, do Doncic’s teammates think when they see him rising up from almost as close to midcourt as the 3-point arc?
“I think we’re shooting a lot of deep threes,” said J.J. Barea. “I don’t know how that’s going to go. Leave those for when you get hot, (then) you can shoot a little deeper threes.
“But I think you got to be a little closer to the line. I think our percentage will go better. But when he hit two in a row, the third one, he can shoot from wherever.”
The Mavericks shot a franchise record 3,002 3-pointers last season. But they were 27th in the league in 3-point percentage at 34.0.
But there’s no stopping the strategy of shooting from farther away. The Mavericks have put lines on their practice floor to stress the importance of spacing as much as suggesting that those are preferred shooting spots.
“When you have the confidence to shoot from that far and the defense knows you’re willing to take it, that brings the big (guy ) up farther on the floor and on ball screens,” Curry said. “And he (Doncic) can do his thing. That’s another weapon for him.
“You got to work on extending your range. As you get hot, that’s something you just play with the instincts of the game.”