Decoding how Luka Doncic uses pick-and-roll to beat the best defenses in the NBA

Luka Doncic has faced the Minnesota Timberwolves twice this season and the Slovenian star played well in both matches.

Against the NBA’s No. 1 defense, Doncic averaged 36.5 points, 10.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds and a 50.9% shooting success rate. Wolves won the first match, but Doncic led his teammates to revenge in the 2nd meeting. In the last match, Doncic scored 34 points, had 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Doncic is the top offensive star in the NBA with an average of more than 30 points/game, no defense in the NBA can stop the Dallas Mavericks star right now. Join Sporting News to learn about the key to helping Doncic penetrate every defense.

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️ How to deploy

Dwight Powell brought the ball closer to Doncic on the right, then made the pass.

Doncic was in no rush to move right away, instead, he waited for Derrick Jones Jr. Move back closer to the corner of the field to continue attacking. He then faked a throw, causing Anthony Edwards to rise high to block it.

Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 1

Doncic’s fake throw caused Edwards to rise, into the exact position that Powell had screened after passing the ball to Doncic. Blocked by Powell, Edwards could not continue to mark Doncic.

Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 2

When Edwards was stopped by Powell, Rudy Gobert – a center – had to rush out to prevent Doncic from shooting three points. The 24-year-old star deliberately continued to dribble to pull Gobert away from the area under the basket and open up space behind the French striker.

Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 3

The above situation puts Wolves in a rather difficult situation.

Wolves didn’t want Gobert marking Doncic, so Edwards had to return after escaping Powell’s man-made situation. However, that means they have up to 2 people marking Doncic at the same time. With Jaden McDaniels unable to assist because he was marking Kyrie Irving on the left, the Wolves’ formation was skewed.

Doncic has three options, depending on how Minnesota’s defensive linemen Kyle Anderson and Karl-Anthony Towns rotate:

  • Option 1 : Pass to Tim Hardaway Jr. in the left corner if Anderson decides to hold position in the paint to prevent Powell’s penetration.
  • Option 2 Pass the ball to Jones in the right corner if Towns holds position and does not come out to mark.
  • Option 3 : Pass the ball to Powell to go to the basket if Anderson and Towns react too slowly or anticipate the pass into the corner.

And Doncic did a fake move, he looked towards Jones in the right corner of the field, looking like he chose option 2.

Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 4

But with Anderson choosing to move out to the right corner to block Hardaway and Towns staying in, Doncic chose option 3 – a straight pass to Powell . His height of 2m03 helps Doncic observe extensively and make the best decisions.

Luka Doncic vs. Timberwolves No. 5

🤔 How to stop Luka Doncic?

Doncic is one of the most annoying pick-and-roll players in the NBA today.

According to statistics, only Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks scores more points per game than Doncic from pick-and-rolls. But Doncic is more efficient than Trae Young and most of the league’s players, ranking in the 89th percentile with 1.06 points per possession.

Doncic can’t shoot 3-pointers as quickly as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, but he does everything else at the best level in the league.

The only person who has made more long-range floaters than Doncic is Nikola Jokic, the best floater in the NBA despite playing center. Doncic also has incredible finishing around the basket, posting a 77.3% success rate. That’s what you expect to see from a direct player like Giannis Antetokounmpo, not a Doncic-style technical defender.

Doncic plays at his own pace, using his body to protect the ball from defending players, and beating them with fluid footwork like eurostep or spin. Doncic’s feel for the ball and the basket are both excellent, and poor dunks are Doncic’s only drawback on offense.

Doncic is much more technical and skillful than his 2m03 body suggests. That’s why Wolves don’t want to let Gobert mark Doncic, because the French striker will easily be overtaken if he has to mark him from outside the 3-point range. It’s not Gobert’s fault, because Doncic can beat every opponent if played one-on-one.

Doncic currently leads the league in independent scoring, scoring 76.4% in efficiency. Doncic is taller than most defenders, and can use his size to beat them. Meanwhile, if they meet big men, they are not fast enough to catch someone as skillful and fast as him. As Doncic’s step backs became more and more effective, no defense could find a solution for Doncic.

Most of Doncic’s solo plays start with a pick-and-roll. Here’s what Gobert and the Timberwolves are trying to avoid:

So, what should be done to stop Doncic? He will call the pick-and-roll and enter the paint area to make a basket, floater or turnaround. Besides, Doncic is ready to fight anyone 1vs1 because he is also a top post-up player.

Many teams have even tried to catch Doncic off guard by changing how and when they double team, but Doncic is usually very perceptive to realize that.

The way Doncic plays hasn’t changed much over the years, but his skills have gotten sharper and teams have had a harder time stopping him. The Mavericks also built the team around Doncic’s playing style. They always have three players on the field who can throw the ball well to stretch the defense and take advantage of Doncic’s passes. In addition, they always arrange a big man ready to cut, to create space for Doncic under the basket.

Stopping Doncic right now is impossible for every team in the NBA.

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