Going into the 2019-20 NBA campaign, the main theme in Dallas was Luka Doncic hype. And you know what? That was understandable, given how great of a rookie season Doncic had, and he is certainly living up to his lofty expectations this year.
But the funny thing is that Doncic is not even the Mavericks’ best player moving forward.
Nope. It’s not him.
That may come as a shock to many who have been hearing about Doncic all day and all night throughout the season, but as great as he is, he is not Dallas’ top guy.
That title belongs to Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis was one of the league’s biggest wild cards entering the season. We knew that the talent was there, but no one was sure if he would be able to stay healthy and/or realize that talent.
After all, Porzingis was out of basketball for a year-and-a-half while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered with the New York Knicks during the 2017-18 campaign. And then the Knicks did typical Knick things by trading him to the Mavs for Dennis Smith Jr. and draft picks last January.
Porzingis got off to a bit of a slow start this season, as he was still getting his feet wet after recovering from the injury. But my goodness, he has broken out over the last month.
In nine February games, the big man averaged 25.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks over 31.3 minutes per game. He has also shot 48.3 percent from the floor, 39.8 percent from three-point range and 88.1 percent from the free-throw line.
Through three contests in March, Porzingis is posting 32.7 points, 12 boards, 3.7 assists, 4.7 blocks and 1.3 steals across 37.1 minutes a night. He has also made 50 percent of his field-goal attempts, 40.6 percent of his long-distance tries and 72.2 percent of his foul shots.
On one hand, you can say it’s a small sample size. On the other hand, you can say that this is an incredibly talented kid finally realizing his sky-high potential.
What separates Porzingis from Doncic is not just his size; it’s his ability to play both ends of the floor at an elite level.
While Doncic is an offensive maestro, Porzingis is a dominant force in all facets, demonstrating the ability to play inside-out on offense and also showing his brilliance on the defensive end.
Porzingis is that good, and he has the ability to be a top-three player in this league at some point.
Of course, Porzingis needs to stay healthy. And that is a legitimate question for him moving forward because he hasn’t proven he can do that yet. But if he does? Sheesh, look out.
Given how good the two Los Angeles teams are right now, not enough people are paying attention to just how dangerous the Mavericks are with the Porzingis-Doncic combination. And let’s remember that they are far from done building this roster.
In a couple of years, Dallas could end up being the odds-on favorite to win a championship. And so long as he avoids injury, it will be more because of Porzingis than Doncic.