Not only did the Dallas Mavericks lose to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, but head coach Jason Kidd also issued a warning to his team and highlighted why Luka Doncic and the Mavs cannot truly contend in the Western Conference.
Dallas opened the season at 7-4. It is a respectable fifth in the West. But Doncic bears an overwhelming amount of responsibility, and Kidd revealed a certain expectation of greatness on a nightly basis.
The Mavs’ current trajectory is unsustainable. Dallas might need, as Charles Barkley suggested, to add secondary or tertiary playmakers. Kidd could also look to alter his rotations.
Regardless, the Mavericks will not make any kind of leap if they keep relying solely on Doncic.
The Mavericks got smacked by the Chicago Bulls as Luka Doncic struggled to score the ball
Jason Kidd entered Wednesday’s matchup with the Bulls on a high. Dallas had won three consecutive games and four of its last five. A matchup with Chicago offered the Mavericks a chance to sustain momentum.
But Kidd’s squad blew away in the Windy City.
The Bulls outscored the Mavs by 16 combined points in the second and third quarter, effectively putting the contest out of reach ahead of the final period. Chicago didn’t even need the triumphant fourth quarter it served up on multiple occasions early in the season.
On the whole, Dallas shot the ball pretty well (45.8% from the field), save for one man. Luka Doncic finished the game 6-of-18 from the field and just 1-of-6 from the three-point line. He still managed to impact the contest, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing eight rebounds. However, the Mavs ultimately lacked the necessary firepower to beat the Bulls.
After the game, Kidd said the Mavs unexpectedly got an “average” Doncic, among other things. His comments implicitly hint at the team’s lackluster supporting cast, which in turn affect Kidd’s rotations and make some of his own coaching decisions look all the more questionable.
Jason Kidd admitted the Mavs expect Doncic to be “super-human” every game
Luka Doncic is a generational talent and perennial MVP candidate. He’s also 22 years old and is prone to having off nights, though the Mavericks never believe as much.
After Wednesday’s game, Jason Kidd fully admitted (h/t the Dallas Morning News) that Dallas often depends upon Doncic to put on the cape and transform into some hero of the DC or Marvel variety.
“Luka was average tonight. We always expect him to be super-human.”–Jason Kidd, via the Dallas Morning News
Dallas’ reliance on Doncic isn’t exactly a secret. He led the NBA in usage rate during the 2020-21 campaign and again leads the league in that category this season. However, Kidd’s words ring out louder because of the organization’s fairly stagnant trajectory in recent years.
The Mavs have been ousted in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. They signed Doncic to a supermax extension this past summer, but their most notable offseason addition ended up being Reggie Bullock.
Luka is good enough to get Dallas to the playoffs. But the Mavs need to alleviate some of their dependence on him if they hope to make a run in the postseason.
Making an acquisition is likely the most necessary route. However, Kidd might be able to lessen Doncic’s responsibilities by changing up his rotations.
Kidd must adjust some of his coaching lineups
Mavericks fans might notice something interesting when looking at NBA.com‘s two-man player combinations.
Jason Kidd is adamant about playing Luka Doncic with Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell. Those combinations might seem straightforward since all three players start for Dallas. But there’s more to it.
Finney-Smith is averaging 31.2 minutes this season. Nearly 29 come with Doncic also on the floor. Almost all of Powell’s 23.7 minutes also come with Doncic. Why is this significant? Because Finney-Smith and Powell offer little value without Luka.
Powell is a rim-runner largely dependent on getting easy chances and lobs at the rim. That seemingly makes him a good match with Doncic, who excels at keeping opposing bigs in limbo when he gets into the paint. But the issue is that Powell mostly just serves as a body otherwise and boasts a shaky track record defensively.
Finney-Smith is one of the team’s best defenders, and Kidd uses him to offset the other starters’ deficiencies on that side of the ball. But he’s shooting 25.9% from beyond the arc, and that number would be even worse without Luka creating open looks. Throw in Kristaps Porzingis and his poor start, and it becomes more apparent that Doncic must do everything considering the players he shares the floor with.
Kidd likes to stagger Doncic and Jalen Brunson a bit, but playing them together more often might be the best solution. Brunson is the team’s best secondary playmaker. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists and, like Doncic, excels at getting to the rim and scoring or creating for his teammates. Kidd could insert him into the starting lineup for Finney-Smith, moving Doncic to the 2-guard spot and sliding Tim Hardaway Jr. to small forward.
The Mavericks might also give more playing time to Maxi Kleber when he gets fully healthy. Kleber is probably a preferable option to Powell because he can space the floor with his shooting ability and is more dependable as a rim protector.
Some of the proposed changes could expose Dallas’ defensive weaknesses and the lack of depth on the bench. However, Kidd must find ways to ease the pressure on Doncic to be perfect. The Mavericks have to mix things up. Otherwise, they’ll keep getting exposed by good teams.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted.