Luka Dončić Must Step His Game up for Mavericks To Survive and Advance


  • Dončić’s knee injury is affecting his playoff performance, with decreased efficiency and limited explosiveness.
  • Despite his struggles, Dončić has a proven track record as one of the greatest playoff performers of this generation.
  • Teammates like Irving and Washington have stepped up to help Dallas, but they still need Dončić at his best to win.

Luka Dončić is the Dallas Mavericks’ best player, a statement that’s certainly not up for debate.

He is definitively one of the best five guys in the league, and is arguably top three. Dončić is already one of the greatest playoff performers of this generation despite just turning 25 years of age, with some of the most memorable postseason games in recent history under his belt to supplement his incredible statistics on the sport’s biggest stage.

Dončić had the best season of his career this year, posting near triple-double averages with excellent efficiency to lead Dallas to 50 wins and the fifth seed.

However, the Mavericks haven’t seen any of the player they’ve grown accustomed to during the first 10 games of their playoff run. If they have any hope of advancing past the Oklahoma City Thunder and making a bid for the championship, Dončić will need to return to his usual generational production.

Dončić Has Been a Shell of Himself in These Playoffs

His nagging knee injury shows up in the eye test and the box score

Luka Dončić Dallas Mavericks

Luka Dončić has been a ghost of the player he has been for the entirety of his career through the first two rounds of the playoffs. A lot of the blame for this decline in production can be attributed to a lingering knee sprain he’s been dealing with, but Dončić has also just played poorly in general by his standards.

Dončić has posted mediocre numbers of 26.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.8 assists, which is nearing a triple-double and is a statline 99% of players could only dream of in the playoff environment. However, his efficiency has tanked at an alarming rate from his regular season marksmanship to a pitiful 40% from the field and 26% from three.

Dončić Regular Season vs. Playoffs




Regular Season














The Mavericks’ superstar has even put up four games of 22 points or fewer on 41% or worse out of the 10 contests he has played in, which is jarring for a guy who scored nearly 34 points per game this year and 31 per game in his playoff career.

Dončić’s knee troubles have clearly limited his explosiveness and ability to beat defenders off the dribble, forcing him to make a choice between deferring to his teammates or launching a high volume of contested shots. He has chosen to continue shooting, averaging 23 field goal attempts per game in the playoffs despite the decreased quality of shots.

However, even when Dončić has been able to free himself for his patented step-back three or turnaround mid-range jumper, he has been ice-cold throughout the playoffs. This has led to terrible efficiency, as he’s posted five games with nine-plus three-point attempts but two or fewer makes. The poor results could also be partly due to his knee discomfort, as it is limiting his lift on jump-shots, and he has had an uncharacteristic number of short misses.

If Dončić continues to struggle with his shot, Dallas is drawing dead to not only beat OKC, but also two more series after that. They’re going to need him to regain his typical all-time great form if they have any hope of hoisting the trophy.

Mavericks’ Superstar Is One of the Greatest Playoff Performers Ever

Dallas desperately needs him to return to regular-season form

Luka Dončić Dallas Mavericks

If any fan needs reassurance that Dončić is capable of reaching another couple of levels, regardless of his knee injury, just take a look at his career playoff statistics. Pick any list of record-holders for postseason scoring, passing, or overall effect on the game, and he’s likely to be right up there with basketball’s greatest players.

At the age of 21 years old, Dončić burst onto the playoff scene with an incredible series, averaging 31 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists against a Los Angeles Clippers team featuring Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley on the perimeter defensively. He also hit one of the most memorable recent game winners in that series. Despite the loss, Dončić was primed to take off in his postseason career.

He followed his playoff debut with another prolific series against LA before leading an undermanned Dallas team to the Western Conference Finals in 2022. That run featured an incredibly impressive upset of a 64-win Phoenix Suns squad, where Dončić stole the heart of the Suns’ stacked roster with several individual masterpieces.

Luka Dončić Playoff Greatness



All-Time Rank







40-point games






In just three playoff appearances, Dončić had cemented himself as one of the most effective performers the sport has ever seen. He will need to access that greatness for the next month if Dallas wants a chance to reach the promise-land.

Dončić’s Mavericks Teammates Have Stepped up in His Place

Dončić is no longer a one-man show in DallasKyrie Irving PJ Washington Dallas Mavericks

After five seasons spent carrying a roster unfit to contend in the West, Dončić now has the luxury of being less than his usual self while still competing in big games. Dallas was able to advance past a talented Clippers team and reach a 2-2 series tie vs. the West’s first seed on the strength of scoring contributions from Kyrie Irving and PJ Washington as well as defensive and rebounding help from Derrick Jones Jr., Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively, and Maxi Kleber.

Irving has put all distractions aside to have a phenomenal season, and has been a great leader for Dallas when Dončić has been ineffective in these playoffs. Just like his stint with LeBron James, Irving has proven to be the perfect secondary ball-handler for a superstar player like Dončić, and has taken over several games offensively in his stead. Washington has elevated into a third scoring option and has carried the Mavericks against the Thunder with three twenty-plus point games in the series.

Dallas has also successfully built a roster that can compete on the boards and defensively by upgrading the athleticism and size of the team with players like Jones, Gafford, and Lively. Suddenly, the Mavericks are able to win playoff games through their defense, rather than trying to outscore opposing teams.

All-Around Contributions


Playoff PPG

Playoff APG/RPG



5.8 APG



6.7 RPG

Jones Jr.





5.2 RPG



5.9 RPG

There’s no doubt that the Mavericks have built a sustainable roster with a formula conducive to playoff success, and can cover for Dončić’s shortcomings better than before. However, if Dallas wants to advance past OKC and the teams that follow, they desperately need him to access his offensive greatness once again.


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