Dastardly Doncic: How Luka Legend Rips NBA Defenses to Shreds

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Dastardly Doncic: How Luka Legend Rips NBA Defenses to Shreds

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Dastardly Doncic: How Luka Legend Rips NBA Defenses to Shreds

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It’s official, Luka Doncic is now a Jedi Grandmaster of NBA offense. He’s been exposing defenses in the league since he was a rookie. In year one, Doncic’s passing flashed as his signature trait. He could map out the court expertly and dime up teammates out of the pick and roll as a jumbo creator. As the years went on, Doncic’s skills as a ball handler and shot maker grew which in turn elevated his playmaking into the upper stratosphere. 

Sometime during the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Doncic became simply unguardable in every way. There was no coverage whatsoever that opposing coaches could throw at Luka to faze him. This season, Doncic is averaging an absurd league-leading 34.3 PTS, 8.7 REB, & 8.1 AST on a clean 60% TS. It’s safe to say Doncic has carried over his fully coverage proof game from last year’s postseason into the new regular season. So let’s dive into just how Luka Doncic puts NBA defenses into binds and generates elite team offense. 

Luka Attacking Drop Coverage 

In the modern NBA, drop coverage has become one of the staples of how NBA team’s defend ball screen action. It allows a defense to keep a rim protector anchored down in paint where they’re most effective. The downside to the coverage depends on the positioning of the other three defenders who typically guard floor spacers on the perimeter. Let’s look at two clips from Mavs vs. Raptors that illustrate how Doncic attacks drop defense. 

In the first clip, Doncic rejects a screen from Powell to drive in the middle of the floor. Christian Koloko is the dropping defender who sags off Powell and shades Doncic into help. The key to this play is how the strong side corner defender reacts to Doncic’s drive. Siakam is that defender and he emphatically helps off the corner shooter to tag team Doncic with Koloko in the paint. With an extra defender draped onto his body, embraces the contact and at the last possible second, snaps a pass out to Dorian Finney-Smith for a corner three. 

The second part to this dynamic for Luka Doncic comes when the three defenders outside of the pick and roll dance stay home on their shooters. Chris Boucher stays at the level of the screen initially before dropping down into the paint. They run the ball screen on the right side of the floor and Doncic snake dribbles across the floor. Doncic shifts directions because the strong side corner isn’t empty so there’s too much congestion on that side of the floor. As Luka snakes to the left side of the basket, all of the potential help defenders stay home on their man which opens up a path to a basket for Doncic. If the help stays home he will score and if the help overloads Doncic then he’ll find the open teammate. 

When the Defense Brings Two Towards Doncic 

When he is faced with two defenders gravitating towards his air space off a screen, Doncic has all the counters in the book. Dallas loves to run standard pick and pop action with Kleber or Bullock since both are knockdown shooters when left open. If the defense brings two to the ball handler, Doncic is able to sneakily pass out to his popper in creative ways. Namely, Doncic deploys a deadly behind the back pass to find the open shooter at the top of the key. The way Doncic smoothly flicks the ball in perfect stride and with perfect accuracy is just insane and a kind of pass that few if any do as well as Luka Magic. 

Likewise, if the defense gets scrambled around by the Mavs pick and pop action. Luka is more than capable of exposing the defense with his own scoring prowess. Here, Bullock’s screen knocks multiple defenders out of the play so long that Doncic drives and even more help is sent his way. Ben Simmons rotates up to stop a full drive into the paint but Doncic has more than enough space to rise and fire for a clean looking mid-range jumper. The Mavs pick and pop action with five-out spacing is a staple of their offense and allows Luka and co. to get theirs in spades offensively. 

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