The Dallas Mavericks went on a fantastic run last year, where they advanced to the Western Conference Finals. One primary reason for their success is the ascension of Luka Doncic to superstardom and arguably a top-three player in the NBA. Doncic has been phenomenal once again this year, proving why he is a legitimate MVP candidate at the early juncture of this season.
Even with his 34.3 PPG average of Doncic, the Mavs have been having trouble winning some games this season because of how much they rely on him on an everyday basis. Jalen Brunson was the secondary shot creator of Dallas for the past couple of seasons, but he decided to join the New York Knicks after his contract ended. With Luka Doncic already missing one game because of “rest”, it will be insurmountable for Doncic to sustain this elite play for a whole 82-game season and guarantee a top-six spot in the playoffs.
Luka Doncic will run out of gas by season's end
It has been far too long since a one-man team has propelled the whole franchise to a championship in the best basketball league in the world. LeBron James' 2007 Finals run and Allen Iverson's 2001 Finals campaign are prime examples of a solo act leading their team to the finals, but they also showed that it was not a sustainable approach for their organizations.
James left Cleveland after a couple of years, and Iverson was not able to return to the Finals anymore. At 23 years of age and in his fifth season in the NBA, the Mavs front office must make it a continuous process of adding pieces that would fit the style of Luka Doncic. Brunson was one athlete who fits tremendously with Doncic in the Mavs' backcourt but financial restrictions limited the flexibility of the organization.
These problems could have been avoided, such as absorbing the long-term deal of Davis Bertans and signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to a massive contract extension after the 2021 season. Some of their moves have put them in the top tier of franchises in terms of payroll. The front office pays eight players over $10 million, but these athletes are not close to the caliber of Jalen Brunson or other assets who will help Doncic win an NBA Championship.
With the possibility of waiting until 2025 before their cap opens up, Luka Doncic will carry a substantial load every year of having the pressure of leading Dallas to the Promised Land. It has been very evident that Doncic loses steam at the end of ballgames as his fourth-quarter point production drops to 4.9 on 37% shooting from the field and 20% from long distances. Those numbers are a far cry from his 12 points on average in the first quarters this season on over 50% shooting from the field.
These numbers indicate that defenses can adjust to Doncic's pick-and-roll plays and force him into contested shots in the endgame. The crucial part is Doncic being the decoy and creating shots for his teammates, but if they are not reliable consistently, then it will not lead to successive victories as well.
It is not only on offense where Doncic will get exhausted, but NBA squads are brilliant, and they know they can attack him on defense and force him to be involved in every action. This requires a ton of energy as well, and Doncic's usage rate of 37.7% and 37 MPG will not cut it out for the Mavs in the long run this season.