Luka Doncic has assisted on 62 corner three-pointers this season, which ranks sixth in the NBA. The number seems impressive on its face, but not “shout it from the top of the mountain” worthy. That distinction might fall instead on fellow rookie Trae Young, whose 86 assists on corner threes this season lead the NBA.
But dig a bit deeper into the numbers and film and you find a player with an elite skillset waiting to have the right teammates around him.
For starters, the Dallas Mavericks are shooting 36.1 percent on corner threes on the season, a mark that ranks 24th in the NBA. Since making the future-facing acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis at the deadline, the Mavs’ corner three-point shooting has plummeted to a frigid 30.5 percent, better than only the Los Angeles Lakers since Feb, 1.
Take a look at the way Doncic’s current teammates are shooting from the corners. It’s … not good.
Doncic has finished 51.3 percent of his possessions as the ballhandler in the pick and roll this season, a large reason why he’s currently on pace to tie Michael Jordan for the second highest rookie usage rate ever at 29.8 percent. On these possessions, he has demonstrated an expert-level ability to manipulate weakside defenders, taking advantage of the slightest momentum shifts or missteps.
Watch here as Doncic notices Taj Gibson divert his focus ever so slightly towards the rolling DeAndre Jordan. The rookie uses this distraction to rip a pass to the corner, where Kleber drains a wide open three.
Watch Doncic regularly and you begin to notice the frequency with which he finds teammates spotting up in the corners. A pass that’s complicated for most players is mundane for the Slovenian.
Doncic targets the weakside “tag” defender as a predator hunts its prey, a baby-faced wolf in sheep’s clothing. Wander too far into the paint and Doncic will pass behind your rotation for an open three …
… but fail to move early and risk Doncic throwing an off-beat lob before you know what hit you.
Doncic’s ability to survey the floor in a nanosecond while he simultaneously engages his defender forces defenders to stay engaged at all times off ball. If he catches someone out of position, like Mike Conley here, Doncic has the ability to zip a pass to a waiting teammate at a moment’s notice.
The Mavericks are scoring 1.15 points per possession off Doncic’s passes in the pick and roll, which ranks 12th among all high-volume pick and roll handlers. He has posted this mark despite a roster stripped to its bones with an eye toward the future and a supporting cast ill-suited for his needs.