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Dallas Mavericks to struggle unless Luka Dončić buys into team concept

There’s no “I” in “team,” Luka.

There’s no “I” in “team,” Luka.
Image: Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks’ struggles this season are well-documented and likely won’t be put to rest anytime soon. Their All-World leader, Luka Dončić, is off to another hot start, but that’s only translated into a 9-7 record, and the team barely keeping their heads above water. While Dončić is playing at an MVP level, he’s failed to bring his team along for the ride and make them a better unit.

Dončić recently became the second-fastest player in the history of the NBA to record 50 career triple-doubles. Watching “The Grillmaster” play is like a one-man demolition derby. He can do so many things and affect a game in so many ways offensively, but he still isn’t completely trusting in those around him.

Luka leads the NBA in scoring over the first month averaging 33.5 points per game. The Mavs rank 25th in the association in scoring at 109.1 ppg while ranking last in assists per game with 20.8. Dončić is taking that me against the world attitude to another level, and as usual, it’s to the team’s detriment.

However, we cannot place all the blame on the shoulders of Dončić. The front office and head coach Jason Kidd should also be held accountable. While it seemed like the Mavs had turned the corner last year with their improbable run to the Western Conference Finals, they’ve taken massive steps back early this season.

Quite frankly, Dallas has swung and missed when it comes to surrounding its star with other playmakers. It either hasn’t worked out when they have, or they’ve failed to keep those players on the roster.

A prime example of this is the emergence of Jalen Brunson as Luka’s running mate and No. 2 option last season. Brunson carried the Mavs through the first round of the postseason, with Dončić missing half the series against the Utah Jazz. Then the offseason and free agency period rolled around, and it was a foregone conclusion that Brunson was heading to New York, where he now resides as a Knick. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban barely seemed to put up any fight attempting to keep Brunson on the payroll.

Then there’s the Kristaps Porzingis deal that flopped last year. Porzingis clearly isn’t the “unicorn” he was once billed as. His frustration playing alongside Dončić was glaring. Porzingis and the Mavs had seen enough, and the unicorn was traded to Washington at the trade deadline last season for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertrand. Dinwiddie was a nice addition, but he can’t be the second option on a team with championship aspirations.

Dallas also traded for former Houston Rockets rising star Christian Wood over the summer, and he was supposed to be the answer in helping the Mavs capitalize on what they began last season. So far, that hasn’t been the reality in Dallas with Wood on the roster. For some reason, Kidd has chosen not to play Wood as much in the second half of games this year. In an overtime loss to the Thunder, Wood never touched the floor in OT.

“We left C Wood out there with that group, and it didn’t go well on either end,” Kidd said of Wood sitting late in the game.

You traded for this player, so you need to give him a chance to get acclimated and mesh with your star and the rest of his teammates. The Mavs are expected to be playoff contenders, and they’ll need Wood if they plan to make another deep run like last season.

Eventually, Dončić needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as another all-time great scorer or if he wants to be an all-time great player who learned how to make his teammates better and win titles. Michael Jordan had to figure that out, and once he began to trust his team, the Bulls broke through and became a championship team. Dončić isn’t Jordan, but he is in that mold of wanting to take on the world by himself as Jordan was early on.

That one-on-one streetball mentality doesn’t win in today’s NBA. It never really has. Look no further than players like James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, etc. Durant won when he played a system that moved the ball, and he wasn’t happy about that at times. Irving won riding LeBron James’ coattails, and that’s not an overstatement. Dončić will have to learn trust. Until then, Luka will be another flashy high-volume scorer who continues to come up short in the postseason. 

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