By Liam Melrose
The Dallas Mavericks are led by Slovenian Luka Doncic and Latvian Kristaps Porzingis. Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
It’s rare in the NBA to see two of the best international players in the league pair up to become the duo of a franchise. In fact, it’s so rare we’ve never seen it before.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis may have exited the 2019-20 season in the first round of the playoffs, however they went down swinging to one of the best teams in the league, the Los Angeles Clippers. For both players, it was their first time in the playoffs.
Through the six games of the series Doncic averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He was just the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 30 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in a playoff series, and even more remarkably the first player ever to do so in their inaugural playoff campaign.
The Clippers did all they could to provoke Doncic in a similar way to how the Detroit Pistons used to attack Michael Jordan. He had to earn every basket with Los Angeles using Marcus Morris Snr to attack the young superstar.
It started in Game 1, with Morris unnecessarily wrapping his arms around Doncic, which eventually led to things getting heated and Kristaps Porzingis ejected with a second technical foul. Doncic was nursing an injured ankle in Game 5, and while Morris denies any wrongdoing, it looked to many as if he deliberately stood on Doncic’s injured ankle. In the first quarter of Game 6, Morris once again was under the spotlight, this time receiving a flagrant two foul, as he hit Doncic hard on his way to the ring, eventually leading to an ejection.
Doncic suggested following Game 6 he felt as though Morris was trying to hurt him.
“It’s two games in a row that he did something like that,” Doncic said. “I really hope the first game it wasn’t on purpose. But looking back at the foul this game, you know what I think. I don’t want to deal with those kind of players. I just move on.”
Luka Doncic has taken the NBA by storm at just 21 years of age. Photo: Sam Hodde/AP
It speaks volumes of Doncic's character and maturity for such a young player, to be able to handle anything that the Clippers threw at him, and still be able to perform at his absolute peak.
While Doncic put up historic numbers for a first-time playoff appearance, we can’t forget about Kristaps Porzingis. In my opinion he was the strongest performing big man throughout the seeding games, and if it wasn’t for him going down with a knee injury, who knows how far this team could have gone.
Throughout the six seeding games Porzingis played, he averaged 30.5 points per game, an increase of 11.1 from during the regular season before the restart, as well as 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Mavericks have the opportunity to build a dynasty with Porzingis being just 25 years of age, and Doncic remarkably just 21. Both players are also contracted for multiple years to come.
After the Mavericks made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 this season, the chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis should continue to grow. We should expect to see Dallas advance past the first round for the first time since 2011 as early as next season, if they can find the right pieces to put alongside the exciting pair.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis could be a force for years to come. Photo: AP/Tony Gutierrez
Doncic and Porzingis are both superstars in a team that has a number of strong role players that make them a playoff team in the Western Conference for the time being. However, if they’re going to take the next step and win a title in seasons to come, they need a defensive anchor. Porzingis averaged 1.5 blocks per game following the restart of the season, however his value is on the offensive end.
While there are a number of scoring wing options that would fit in the Dallas lineup, such as Gordon Hayward, JJ Redick or Caris LaVert, the Mavericks should put their focus into the defensive end.
A player I think would fit perfectly is Utah’s Rudy Gobert, and it’s not an unrealistic option. With well documented tension between Gobert and superstar teammate Donovan Mitchell, the Frenchman could be on the move next season. By adding Gobert, suddenly the Mavericks would have extreme length at the four and five positions, making them extremely hard to score against, and a balance of offensive and defensive strength between their two talls.
A potential trade that would see Rudy Gobert get to the Dallas Mavericks.
Another terrific fit would be Patrick Beverley of the Los Angeles Clippers. Beverley is one of the toughest defensive guards in the league, and if the Mavericks could secure a player like him it takes the pressure off Luka Doncic, and allows Dallas to assign Beverley to the oppositions best offensive guard. Doncic can then put most of his focus into scoring and playmaking, which is his greatest strength.
Rudy Gobert would be a perfect fit alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Photo: Michael Ainsworth/AP
It was a priority for Dallas to make the postseason for the first time in four years going into the 2019-20 season, and while they have two young superstars with untapped potential, the ball is in their hands in terms of how far this franchise can go in years to come.
However, no matter what pieces the Mavericks place around them, the sky is the limit for this dream European superstar duo.
Cover Photo: Derick E.Hingle-USA TODAY Sports