Welcome to "One Possession!" Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic takes the spotlight.
Context: In a win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, Doncic recorded his league-leading 11th triple-double of the season with 25 points, 17 assists and 15 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. He set a new career-high with those 17 assists, surpassing his previous career-high of 15 assists set earlier this season.
The possession: Of all of Doncic's assists against the Kings, this was by far and away the most impressive:
Breakdown: Doncic brings the ball up the court following a made shot by Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica.
The possession begins with what appears to be a pindown for Tim Hardaway Jr. in the right corner, with Maxi Kleber being the one to set the screen on him. However, rather than running off of the screen, Hardaway returns the favour by setting a screen on Kleber's defender, Bjelica.
Kleber curls to the 3-point line to receive a pass from Doncic. He then passes the ball back to Doncic and sets a screen on his defender, De'Aaron Fox.
Dwight Powell, who has been hanging around the elbow, turns to face Doncic and sets a second screen on Fox, turning the possession into a pick-and-roll while Kleber, who is shooting 40.6 percent from the 3-point line this season, pops to the top of the perimeter to draw Marvin Bagley out of the paint.
Doncic and Powell are two of the best pick-and-roll scorers in the league. According to NBA.com, only three players are scoring more points per game as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls this season than Doncic, and he ranks in the 90th percentile with 1.06 points per possession. Powell, meanwhile, ranks in the 85th percentile with 1.33 points per possession as the roll man.
That's important because Doncic's ability to score at all three levels as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls forces Bjelica to hedge when he comes off of Powell's screen.
And because Powell is one of the best finishers in the league, Buddy Hield has to slide over on the weakside to prevent him from getting all the way to the basket for an uncontested dunk.
That sets Doncic up to make a cross-court pass to Dorian Finney-Smith, who knocks down the open 3-pointer to extend the Mavericks' lead to 13 points.
Why it matters: I mean, goodness gracious.
I've broken down a similar pass from Doncic before, but this one takes it to another level. The timing is impeccable - he always seems to be a step ahead of the defence, knowing where the next rotation is coming from and which passes are available - and the accuracy with which he throws a one-handed pass from one side of the court to the other is, quite frankly, absurd. Finney-Smith has to shuffle over a little bit to receive the pass, but it arrives in his shooting pocket in time for him to get off a clean look before Hield recovers.
The alternative would've been to slip a pass to Powell on the roll for him to make the read - either continue towards the basket for a dunk if Hield rotates back to Finney-Smith or kick the ball out to Finney-Smith if Hield parks himself in the paint to draw a charge. By making the pass to Finney-Smith himself, Doncic cuts out the middle man and makes it harder for Bagley to rotate over to Finney-Smith.
Just look at Bagley here. It's safe to assume he wasn't expecting Doncic to do what he did.
The list of players who can make that sort of pass is ... not long. Without putting too much thought into it, it's basically Doncic, LeBron James, James Harden, Nikola Jokic and maybe Ben Simmons. Chris Paul and Trae Young can be included in that list, but the extra six or so inches Doncic has on them helps him see over defenders in ways they simply can't.
It's passes like this that have Doncic creating 22.8 points per game for his teammates this season, putting him behind only James (26.8) and Ricky Rubio (23.3) for most in the league.
If this is what 20-year-old Doncic is capable of, it's scary to think about what he's going to be doing in his prime.
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