Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Have Secretly Developed a Championship Formula

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks did not get off to the best of starts this season. The team was below .500 on New Year’s Eve and had been essentially written off as championship contenders, and rightly so.

But Luka and the Mavs took the old “New year, new beginning” adage to heart. Dallas has been one of the best teams in the NBA since Jan. 1.

The franchise has secretly developed a championship formula right under our noses, and, at this point, the Mavericks have to be included in the NBA title conversation.

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks just rallied for a win over the Lakers

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks have found a formula to win the NBA Championship.
Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks react during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Two nights after Luka and the Mavs responded from 21 down to beat the Golden State Warriors, they repeated the feat and rallied to beat LeBron James and the struggling Los Angeles Lakers 109-104.

(They first had to blow a 15-point halftime lead to complete said rally, but it still counts as a comeback.)

“We stayed together and just executed the game plan, played the game,” Doncic said via ESPN. “My mentality is to close the game with the best shot possible. We executed down the stretch.”

But the story of the night isn’t the win itself. It’s how and why Dallas came back to win that’s worth noticing because it’s a perfect microcosm of the formula the team has developed since Jan. 1.

The Mavericks have quietly developed into NBA championship contenders

The Mavs were 17-18 entering 2022. But since Jan. 1, they’re 20-7, which is third-best in the league behind only the Phoenix Suns and Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies.

Doncic is nearly averaging a triple-double at 29.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.0 assists in that same span. He exploded even further in February to the tune of 34.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists in a 10-game stretch that saw Dallas go 7-3.

Doncic finished the Lakers’ win with 25 points (seven in the fourth quarter), eight rebounds, five assists, a steal, and two blocks.

He did, however, commit six turnovers and go 0-for-5 from three and just 9-of-21 from the floor in what could be deemed a terrible game by his recent standards (which is unbelievable).

“I don’t know if you can do a better job on Luka than we did tonight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said per ESPN.

Yet Dallas still won with the contributions of Doncic’s supporting cast. Jalen Brunson had 22 points and was 4-of-6 from three. Dorian Finney-Smith scored 16 and had nine rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 14 and had nine assists off the bench in 24 minutes.

And Dallas only allowed LA to score 17 fourth-quarter points, which is perfectly in line with what the Mavs have done on the defensive end this year, and also something no one seems to be talking about.

As of March 2, the team is 25th in the league in scoring. Which would be a problem, except that it’s also second in the NBA in points allowed. Dallas has the fifth-best defensive rating in the league, and perhaps even more shockingly, the team is 2.4 points better defensively with Doncic on the floor.

This isn’t the Luka-led Mavs of old. The offense still revolves around Doncic, and it should, as he’s one of the best offensive players in the world.

But more players are getting involved — even Dinwiddie, who’s only played five games with the team but is scoring 14 points a night.

The Mavericks have simply become better in the areas that have held them back since Luka arrived in Texas

This could be just the beginning for Luka and this year’s Mavs team

The Milwaukee Bucks won the 2021 NBA Championship with Giannis Antetokounmpo, a collection of role players, and the league’s best defensive rating in the postseason, according to StatMuse.

Brunson, Finney-Smith, and Dinwiddie aren’t Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, or Brook Lopez. But Doncic is more capable of carrying an offense than Giannis.

Luka is the hub that the Mavericks go through, they have role players that fit what he needs, and they’ve morphed into one of the best defensive squads in the NBA.

Will Doncic stop being one of the most dominant offensive players in the world? Will Brunson and Finney-Smith’s play slip dramatically after four months of consistent performance?

Will the Mavs’ defense — which has also consistently been one of the best in the NBA — suddenly falter? The likely answer to all those questions is no.

What this team has turned into since Jan. 1 seems legitimately sustainable. If that’s the case, then it’s time Dallas is considered a genuine championship contender.

All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.

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