Paul George recently declared that he and Los Angeles Clippers teammate Kawhi Leonard are the best duo in the National Basketball Association. Other critics and analysts suggest this simply isn’t true and award the title of “best duo” to their Staples Center rivals LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Some arguments can be made for the Warriors’ Klay Thompson and Steph Curry or Brooklyn Nets’ pair of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Each pair is undeniably talented and has the merit to provide a strong case for who is actually the best. However, there is one other duo flying below the radar that nobody is really talking about…
European-born superstars Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic are a pick-and-roll nightmare ready to build their own case as best duo in the NBA. The Europeans plan on proving it at the expense of opposing defenses league wide. The Dallas Mavericks’ star-studded pair are expected to usher in a new era of basketball this season for Mavs fans, as the team moves on from the glory days where legend Dirk Nowitzki paired with Steve Nash to establish Mavs basketball as a force to be reckoned with. Eventually, Nash departed and Dirk led the team to an NBA finals victory in 2011 against LeBron James’ Miami Heat for the franchise’s first championship.
Times change and for the past few years Dallas has struggled, while Nowitzki exited his prime and entered the twilight of his career. Free agents have bypassed the Mavericks season after season, and it’s apparent that owner Mark Cuban and longtime head coach Rick Carlisle are each excited about the upcoming season for the first time in quite a while.
The franchise’s fortunes began changing last season when the Mavs drafted Luka in the first round with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Eventually, the 19-year-old Slovenian won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award after averaging 21.2 points per game, while adding 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per contest.
Last Season, Porzingis grew disgruntled with the New York Knicks franchise as he recovered from a torn ACL suffered in February 2018. In January, Dallas traded for the 7-foot-3 Latvian forward and eventually signed him to a max-contract worth $158 Million over the duration of five years. Both he and Doncic are expected to become Dallas’ new “faces” of the franchise. The Mavericks expect them to act as foundational pillars moving forward for years to come, as they are already drawing comparisons to the Nowitzki/Nash duo both inside the organization and outside. Only this duo is a little bigger, and are being met with higher expectations.
According to ESPN, Porzingis has bulked up to a personal-high of 242 pounds after working on strength building and conditioning over the summer and has displayed explosiveness to teammates during scrimmages. “ I feel great physically. I feel 100%. I feel probably better than I ever have in my life,” Porzingis told ESPN while further adding, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been out, but I’ve been putting in work throughout this rehab process. I’m extremely excited to be back on the court and to remind everybody what I’m capable of doing.”
Carlisle also spoke highly of Doncic recently when comparing the young star to his former teammate Larry Bird. The coach told ESPN, “I wouldn’t trade Doncic for anybody,” and proceeded to tell the Dallas News, “One of the things that makes him the most special is that he has the ability when he steps on the floor to make the four other guys significantly better”.
Both players are generational European-born stars that may not get talked about as much because of their nationalities, or because they aren’t playing for one of the NBA’s premier franchises. Nevertheless, the pair plans to pick-and-pop around opposing defenses all season. Porzingis’ finishing ability paired with Doncic’s natural instincts to create plays will prove to be a lethal combination and surely will establish the Dallas Mavericks as the NBA’s “surprise” team of the year, where the duo will lead their team to finish the season ranked at nothing lower than a 5th seed in the brutally tough Western Conference, as both certainly garner All-NBA honors.
Header Photo Credit: Sky Sports