During last season's hiatus, I took a deep dive into Luka Doncic's 3-point shooting.
The reason? Doncic has been a high-volume 3-point shooter since he stepped foot into the NBA, but he hasn't exactly been an efficient one.
As a rookie, Doncic attempted 7.1 3s per game and knocked them down at a 32.7 percent clip. As a sophomore, he attempted 8.9 3s per game and knocked them down at an even worse 31.6 percent clip. In the process, he became one of only nine players in NBA history to attempt 5.0 3-pointers per game while shooting less than 33.0 percent in multiple seasons.
The question wasn't whether or not Doncic is someone defences have to respect on the 3-point line. (It's safe to assume that teams would rather him fire up contested step backs if it means he isn't getting into the teeth of the defence, but he's shown he can make those shots, even in high-pressure situations). Instead, it revolved around how good of a 3-point shooter he actually is. Is he going to develop into a James Harden-type of shooter or have the Dallas Mavericks given him too bright of a green light?
Which brings us to this season.
MORE: Is Doncic the best passer in the NBA?
While not much had changed in December and January, Doncic caught fire from 3-point range in the month of February. Over 12 games, he fired up 7.7 3-pointers per contest and connected on a whopping 43.5 percent of those opportunities, making for the best stretch of 3-point shooting of his NBA career to date.
That doesn't necessarily mean Doncic's inconsistencies as a 3-point shooter are suddenly a thing of the past - 12 games is still a small sample size in the grand scheme of things and he has come back down to earth ever-so-slightly in the month of March - but it's a scary sign for the rest of the league when you consider that his only real weakness looks like it could be becoming a strength.
Because if defenders can no longer live with him taking shots like this...
...there might be no stopping him.
Doncic is already one of the league's scariest playmakers inside the 3-point line. His 22.5 drives per game rank second to only Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for most in the NBA this season. Not only is he an elite scorer in those situations - he's currently shooting 64.6 percent in the restricted area, 49.5 percent from floater range and 47.6 percent from midrange as of this writing, each of which are some of the best marks at his position - he's an elite facilitator. Our NBA.com Staff recently ranked Doncic as the fifth-best passer in the league behind only Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, James Harden and Chris Paul.
As NBA.com's Gilbert McGregor wrote...
The soon-to-be-22-year-old makes a number of passes on a nightly basis that many would describe as being magical. Whether it's a flashy behind-the-back pass or an alley to one of the lob threats he runs with, Doncic gets it done with his passing.
But Doncic's most impressive passes are almost always the cross-court lasers which seem to be right on the mark every single time.
Very few players can do that.
That balance of scoring and passing makes Doncic one of the toughest covers in the NBA. Every pick-and-roll and isolation becomes a game of pick-your-poison for the defence, choosing between letting him get his or loading up on him at the expense of his teammates getting open looks. There are very few players who manipulate defences as he does, let alone ones at his age. When he gets past the first line of defence, he usually has the opponent eating out of his hand.
MORE: How Doncic defied the odds to become an elite finisher
The one trump card has been 3-point shooting, which has been the lesser of two evils so far in his career. Even if his hot shooting in the month of February turns out to be a blip on the radar this season, it gives you a sense of the player Doncic could become if it ever does become a strength.
And that player sure looks a lot like the best offensive weapon in the entire league.
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