Too Good Too Fast: The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic Problem

Consider a tale of two NBA franchises, one whose fans suffered a seeming eternity of futility packed into just five years or so, the other which suffered hardly at all as their rock bottom coincided with the departure of an old superstar and the arrival of a new hope. Now consider that the Philadelphia 76ers, whose protracted period of being so bad that “putrid” would be overrating them, have a core consisting of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris, solid veterans off the bench in Danny Green and Dwight Howard, and a spot in the second round of the …

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A Wild 2021 Finish Brews in the Western Conference

Through games of May 2, the Western Conference features a three-way tie at 36-28 for the 5 seed with just eight games to go in the regular season. And as alluded to in last week’s “6 is the New 8”, this is a fantastic year to have such a three-car pileup on the NBA standings highway. Most of the time, when you get a tie across a bunch of mid-seeds, it’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as all that hangs in the balance is who gets to host whom in what ultimately meaningless Game 1 of a …

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A Study In Glorious Failure Part 1: Don Nelson

There have, in the annals of NBA history, been great players who never won a title. The mere mention of the concept immediately brings to mind a slew of guys who, because they came through the league during the reign of a team they weren’t on, retired without that elusive ring. Like “every star in the league who wasn’t on the Celtics in the 1960s.” Or “Every star in the league who was in his prime between 1991 and 1998 and wasn’t on the Bulls or Rockets.” Or the stars of the Dark Ages who weren’t on the Lakers or …

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Why Is Luka Doncic So Good?

One of the oldest arguments in basketball is, when given a player with eye-popping counting stats, “is that guy actually a great player or does he just get stats from getting a ton of touches?” It came up on Twitter again in regards to Luka Doncic, who had 42 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists in the Mavericks’ Game 1 loss to the Clippers Monday night and yet drew unfavorable comparisons to the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (who had 32 points and 13 rebounds in the Celtics’ win over the 76ers.) Is Luka better or do they just funnel their offense …

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America’s Greatest Slovenian: Luka Doncic’s November MVP Case

Luka Doncic is on pace for 17.6 Win Shares while nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double (29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game). He has 3.0 Win Shares…on a Dallas Mavericks team that, in total, has nine wins. Do the math. The Mavs, on pace for 49 wins, are getting fully a third of their advanced stat value from a single player, the greatest second-year player since LeBron James on the 2004-05 Cleveland Cavaliers, and Luka is doing this not only with arguably just as bad a supporting cast (news flash: Kristaps Porzingis‘ reputation is greater than his actual …

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Are the 2019-20 Dallas Mavericks Good?

The 2018-19 Dallas Mavericks were ironclad proof that unless you’ve got one of those players who can put up seasons like a top-5 in the entire league player, you’re not getting to the mountaintop—or, in the Western Conference, even the playoffs—with just one star. Luka Doncic put up a 3.6 VORP in 2018-19. That’s 0.5 VORP better than LeBron James managed in his rookie season in Cleveland back in 2003-04. Those 2004 Cavaliers went 35-47. The 2019 Mavericks went 33-39. This year, however, Doncic is entering the build-on-his-talents year, Kristaps Porzingis is coming back from injury, and the Mavs have …

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NBA Best And Worst Contracts Part V: Southwest Division

Welcome to Part 5 of our 6-part series taking a look at every contract in the NBA—except for rookies and two-way contracts, plus anyone who didn’t play in the league last season due to injury or having been overseas or something—and quantifying the ratio of minute-weighted dollars paid to Win Shares produced. To remind folks who haven’t read previous entries in this series: As a quick reminder, a rookie, veteran minimum, or midlevel exception contract should produce a Wiggins Factor below 100, a rotation player with a rotation salary should be under 200, and ideally you want your superstar-level contracts …

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Does Trae Young Really Have a Rookie of the Year Case?

Trae Young has been picking up a ton of Rookie of the Year momentum in the giant kangaroo court that is NBA Twitter. Especially among the hey-look-at-the-highlights crowd, the Barkley and Scott-Hollins Syndrome and “eye test” people, who if you’re reading hi welcome to Pace and Space we don’t do that here, Young is the rallying cry for the backlash against a season of people anointing Luka Doncic as Rookie of the Year and treating the debate as settled. Now granted, there’s some merit to the idea that Young should get the benefit of the doubt if you believe that …

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Breakfast Special: Ben Simmons Does the Unthinkable

Ben Simmons went 0-of-1 from the three-point arc in Sunday’s 143-120 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, as his Philadelphia 76ers finally saw their cowardly lion of a guard shoot a three in the run of play. Sure, he missed, but the shot rimmed out, looking at least as good as any horror show of a three-pointer that Russell Westbrook‘s attempted this season. Simmons had a terrible game—he hit just 3-of-13 overall for eight points, seven assists, and just three rebounds—but we may be seeing the beginnings of Simmons actually turning into a post-1979 NBA perimeter player. Take away Simmons’ …

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Breakfast Special: Milwaukee’s Unstoppable Attack

Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 17-of-21, the Milwaukee Bucks scored 50 points in the first quarter, and the Bucks went on to beat the Washington Wizards 148-129. In an NBA landscape where there have been a few too many lower-scoring games in recent weeks (thanks, Memphis and Indiana, who seem to be at the center of most of them), that 277-point combined outburst is the modern basketball we all know and love, a world where you can race out to nearly 150 points and still have to keep one eye on the scoreboard because your opponents might pop a few threes and …

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