Dallas Mavericks young star Luka Doncic has improved on the defensive side of the ball, and the analytics definitely back it up.
It’s no secret that Luka Doncic is one of the best young talents in the NBA today. While the 22-year-old is averaging an impressive 24.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game, it is a far cry from the potential MVP-type year the fans were expecting from the Slovenian superstar.
However, he has been exceptional ever since he returned to the squad a week or two ago. The 22-year-old has been a walking triple-double over that time. In fact, he made history recently, having more than half of the triple-doubles in Mavs history.
Entering the NBA season, many fans wondered what Luka Doncic could improve on to win an MVP award. There was one glaringly obvious answer: Defense. A few months into the season, his effort on the defensive end seems to have increased in comparison to his previous years.
— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) January 18, 2022
Is Luka Doncic a better defender than what we give him credit for? What do the numbers say?
One thing that has taken everyone by surprise is Doncic’s defensive effort for the Mavs. The 2x All-Star has been averaging career-highs of 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.
To put things into perspective, it is a huge improvement from his 0.2 steals per game last year. In fact, Mavericks as a whole has improved on the defensive end. They currently have a defensive rating of 106.7, which is the 4th best in the league.
Top 5 NBA Leaders In Defensive Rating:
1. Golden State Warriors (102.6)
2. Phoenix Suns (104.2)
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (105.0)
4. Dallas Mavericks (106.4)
5. LA Clippers (107.0)
— Grant Afseth (@GrantAfseth) January 18, 2022
Speaking of defensive rating, an interesting stat related to Luka Doncic came up. The Slovenian currently has a DEF RTG of 93.9 in his last 10 games. In fact, he leads the NBA in DEF RTG for an NBA starter who’s played 30+ minutes and at least half their last 10 games.
Mavs’ defensive rating during 7-1 run: 97.1
It’s 93.7 with Luka Doncic on the court during that stretch.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 16, 2022
In fact, his teammates Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber are also on the list and is a testament to the recently improved Mavericks defense. Moreover, when it comes to defensive win shares, Doncic currently sits at 1.7 DWS, placing him above the likes of Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday on the list.
While we are not certainly not implying that Luka is a better defender than Holiday and that numbers don’t show the full story, especially when it comes to defense, it reveals how much the Mavs star has improved on defense over the past few years.
Luka Doncic evolving on the defensive end was always going to be a crucial part of earning accolades like the MVP award. Much more importantly, his improved defensive ability is a key part of the Mavericks becoming a championship team.