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Mavs’ Rick Carlisle unlocked Luka Doncic by shifting lineup around him

Luka Doncic, Rick Carlisle

Luka Doncic has quickly evolved from standout Rookie of the Year to a triple-double machine vying for the Most Valuable Player race — an emergence that is quite unprecedented. A lot of that credit goes to Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, who quickly tapped into Doncic’s full potential by pairing him with a lineup that would best suit his skill set.

According to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer, Carlisle has adjusted his rotation so that the players who don’t need the ball in their hands as often play more with Doncic.

The Mavs started off with a 6-5 record, but after using eight different starting lineups in the first 13 games, Carlisle settled on a fixed unit over the last six games: Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Tim Hardaway Jr. That group has put up a shocking net rating of plus-24.3 in 88 minutes, the best among all lineups in the NBA that have played at least 80 minutes this season.

Doncic, even at the ripe age of 20 years old, dominates the ball like no other player in today’s game:

“He leads the league in touches, at 98.8 per game. LeBron (James) and Nikola Jokic are the only other players this season at more than 91. And Luka’s average amount of time with the ball per game (9.2 minutes) is almost as much as LeBron and Jokic combined (10.8).”

Powell, Finney-Smith, and Hardaway Jr. are play-finishers and coupled with Doncic’s gravity and innate playmaking ability, they have quickly reaped the rewards of his talents.

Doncic has led the Mavs in scoring in 18 of their first 20 games, and his near-triple-double average of 30.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 9.4 assists is a huge reason why Dallas has accelerated a would-be post-Dirk Nowitzki rebuild and made itself into a Western Conference contender.