Luka Doncic has faced the Minnesota Timberwolves twice this season, and the Slovenian star has excelled in both encounters.
Against the NBA’s top defense, Doncic averaged 36.5 points, 10.5 assists, and 6.0 rebounds with a shooting percentage of 50.9%. While the Timberwolves won the first game, Doncic led his team to revenge in the second meeting. In the most recent matchup, Doncic recorded 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Doncic is currently the leading offensive star in the NBA, averaging over 30 points per game, and no defense in the league can contain the Dallas Mavericks’ star. Let’s explore the keys that help Doncic penetrate any defense, as revealed by Sporting News.
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How Luka Doncic Uses Pick-and-Roll to Defeat the NBA’s Best Defenses 🎥 Scenario
✏️ Deployment Dwight Powell brings the ball near Doncic on the right side and then makes the pass.
Rather than immediately moving, Doncic waits for Derrick Jones Jr. to move back to the corner before continuing the attack. He then executes a fake shot motion, causing Anthony Edwards to rise high to defend.
Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 1 (NBA) Doncic’s fake shot motion forces Edwards to rise, right into the position Powell has already screened after passing the ball to Doncic. With Powell blocking Edwards, he cannot continue to guard Doncic.
Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 2 (NBA) As Edwards is blocked by Powell, Rudy Gobert – a right-center – rushes out to prevent Doncic from shooting a three-pointer. The 24-year-old intentionally dribbles to pull Gobert away from the paint and opens up space behind the French center.
Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 3 (NBA) This situation puts the Timberwolves in a challenging position.
The Wolves don’t want Gobert to guard Doncic, so Edwards has to return after escaping Powell’s screen. However, this means they have two players guarding Doncic simultaneously. With Jaden McDaniels unable to assist while covering Kyrie Irving on the left side, the Wolves’ defensive formation is skewed.
Doncic has three options, depending on the final defensive rotation of Minnesota, involving Kyle Anderson and Karl-Anthony Towns:
Option 1: Pass to Tim Hardaway Jr. on the left corner if Anderson decides to stay in the paint to prevent Powell’s penetration. Option 2: Pass the ball to Jones on the right corner if Towns holds his position and doesn’t step out to guard. Option 3: Directly pass to Powell cutting to the basket if Anderson and Towns react too slowly or anticipate the pass to the corner. And Doncic makes a fake move, looking towards Jones on the right corner, seemingly choosing option 2.
Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 4 (NBA) However, with Anderson stepping out to the right corner to defend Hardaway and Towns staying, Doncic opts for option 3 – a straight pass to Powell. Doncic’s 2.03-meter height allows him to survey the court and make the best decision.
Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 5 (NBA) 🤔 How to Stop Luka Doncic? Doncic is one of the most troublesome pick-and-roll players in the current NBA.
Statistically, only Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks scores more points per game than Doncic from pick-and-roll plays. However, Doncic is more efficient than Trae Young and most players in the league, ranking 89th with 1.06 points per possession.
Doncic may not shoot three-pointers as quickly as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, but he excels in other areas at the highest level in the league.
The only player with more long-range floaters than Doncic is Nikola Jokic, a center known for his remarkable floaters in the NBA. Doncic also showcases incredible finishing around the rim, with a 77.3% success rate – a skill expected from frontcourt players like Giannis Antetokounmpo rather than a skilled guard like Doncic.
Doncic is much more technically and tactically adept than his 2.03-meter stature suggests. This is why the Wolves hesitate to let Gobert guard Doncic, as the French center would easily be surpassed if forced to guard him beyond the three-point line. It’s not Gobert’s fault, as Doncic can beat any opponent one-on-one.
Currently, Doncic leads the league in scoring independence, achieving a 76.4% efficiency rate. He surpasses most guards in height and can exploit his physique to defeat them. When facing big men, they aren’t quick enough to catch someone as agile and fast as him. As Doncic’s step-back shots become more effective, no defense can find a solution to stop him.
Most of Doncic’s solo plays start with pick-and-roll situations. This is what Gobert and the Timberwolves are trying to avoid:
So, what can be done to stop Doncic? He will call for pick-and-roll and penetrate the paint to finish at the rim, use a floater, or perform a turnaround jumper. In addition, Doncic is ready for a one-on-one battle with anyone, as he is also a skilled post-up player.
Many teams have even tried to catch Doncic off guard by changing the way and timing they double-team him, but Doncic is often sensitive enough to notice.
Doncic’s playing style hasn’t changed much over the years, but his skills have become sharper, making it increasingly challenging for teams to hinder him. The Mavericks have also built their team around Doncic’s playing style, always having three players with good shooting ability on the court to stretch the defense and capitalize on Doncic’s passes. Additionally, they consistently deploy a big man ready to cut, creating space for Doncic under the basket.
Stopping Doncic at this moment is an impossible task for any NBA team.