2021-22 Kia Season Preview

10 key questions: Will Jason Kidd get the best out of Luka Doncic?

Jason Kidd, the savvy former guard, looks to bring his Hall of Fame expertise to Dallas and elevate it to another level this season.

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

After previous coaching stops with the Bucks and Nets, Jason Kidd returns to Dallas as coach of the Mavs.

For the next 10 days, we’ll be answering one key question surrounding the 2021-22 NBA season. Here’s question six:

What might change for Luka Doncic under new coach Jason Kidd?

It seems like a match made in basketball heaven, a Hall of Fame point guard brought in to coach a generational talent who initiates offense like few others in the NBA. And it might be just that, particularly if Kidd benefits from his previous stops in Brooklyn and Milwaukee and largely lets Luka be Luka. Adapting to the talent in front of him wasn’t always Kidd’s first choice in coaching the Nets and the Bucks.

Defense was and will remain Kidd’s top priority, which is perfectly fair. The Mavericks ranked 21st in 2020-21, giving up 112.3 points per 100 possessions, and were 16-28 when allowing 109 points or more. Doncic isn’t considered a stopper of any sorts, so sure, he can do a better job on the ball. But offensively, there’s not a lot to nitpick, and Kidd already has said he now knows when to leave well enough alone.

Dallas slipped last season in its 3-point proficiency and that seemed to limit Doncic in the room he had to attack the rim. So he did more of his own shot-creation from the mid-range while improving from the arc himself. The next natural step is for Doncic to get the ball out of his hands more, and that’s where Kidd can help him the most.

Doncic’s usage rate of 35% ranked second in the NBA last season, and it jumped to 39.1% in the seven-game loss to the Clippers in the first round. Having him play off the ball more would help him and the offense, assuming the other pieces are up to the task. A reported acquisition of Goran Dragic, via Raptors buyout or trade, hasn’t happened. The recent signing of Frank Ntilikina likely won’t answer any offensive questions.

The best thing Kidd can do for Doncic is keep him fresh, in spite of his preeminence in Dallas’ attack. Fatigue has been a factor for the Slovenian star, with his shooting, trips to the line and plus-minus impact all slipping in the fourth quarter last season.

Other questions: 

Which team is poised for a breakout season?
Which second-year players will flourish?
• Can Hawks build on their playoff success?
• How can Zion improve his game next season?
• Will experience push Lakers to top of West?
• Are the Nets clearly the team to beat?
• Can the Suns return to The Finals?
• How can Lowry help the Heat?
• What will be the Bucks’ biggest challenge?

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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