NBA

'Young Picasso' Luka Doncic recognises room for improvement in year four

By Sports Desk September 28, 2021

Luka Doncic accepts new coach Jason Kidd has a point when he asks his "young Picasso" to have more faith in his Dallas Mavericks team-mates.

Mavs superstar Doncic is heading into his fourth season in the NBA but is yet to win a playoff series.

It is not for a lack of effort or ability, however, with the Slovenian twice going toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Clippers and coming up just short.

Indeed, through 13 postseason games, Doncic has averaged 33.5 points – a league record at that stage of a career.

With or without Doncic, it is now 10 years since Dallas advanced through a series, last doing so when they were champions in 2011, and title-winning coach Rick Carlisle has been replaced by Kidd – a member of that successful Finals team.

Kidd is looking forward to working with the 22-year-old but, as a former point guard, has already identified a key area of potential improvement.

While Kidd sits second on the all-time list for regular season assists (12,091) and fourth for the playoffs (1,263), Doncic has so far proven a little more reluctant to put the ball in the hands of his colleagues.

The former Real Madrid sensation's 8.6 assists per game ranked fifth in the league, but only Steph Curry in the top 25 attempted more field goals (20.5 per game for Doncic, 21.7 for Curry).

Doncic's usage rate of 36.2 per cent was the highest among players with 500 or more possessions, yet Kidd wants his main man to make better choices.

"I look at Luka as a young Picasso, someone who's very talented, loves to win and understands how to play the game at a very high level," he said.

"As a coach, I don't know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his team-mates, and his team-mates are going to be there to help him.

"I'm very excited to have this opportunity to work with a young Picasso whose paintings have been incredible up to this point and are only going to get better with time and age."

Doncic had no issue with this critique, replying: "Of course. I just think there's a lot of things I can improve on off the court, on the court.

"Obviously, this is one of them. And I think he is right. But I've still got to improve on a lot of things."

Doncic's displays at the Tokyo Olympics suggested he is growing in this regard, clearly the best player on the Slovenia team but contributing a tournament high in assists (57) as well as points (143).

"I think leadership you develop through years," he said. "You see every year it's going to be a little bit better.

"Obviously, I learned from the playoffs, from the Olympics, how to be a leader. One thing I learned is I need to be more vocal with the team."

Plenty is expected from Doncic, who finished sixth in the MVP race last year without a single first-place vote but is the early favourite for 2021-22.

However, he said: "I don't care about that. It's only the beginning of the season. That's at the end. That's far away.

"The team goals and my goal is to win the championship. That's it."

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