Dallas Mavericks player Luka Doncic is making waves this year. Leading the Mavericks to fifth place in the Western Conference, their best performance in recent years, his 29.1 point-per-game average is telling NBA fans that the young Slovenian is another Dirk Nowitzki in the making. Unfortunately, there's a chip on his armour, he is a terrible free-throw shooter.
Currently averaging 74% on the stripe and sinking only 29 of 51 in the last six games (56%), people are starting to notice something. In their last game, a 112-107 loss to the Utah Jazz, Doncic shot only 1 of 5 on the line.
According to ClutchPoints, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle believes it is a mental issue and can easily be resolved."He'll be fine, he'll be fine. We'll work through it," he said.
Shooting 76-77% in his two seasons in the NBA, a short slump can be resolved through coaching. Doncic will only turn 21 next month and is already an All-Star game starter this season. There may be immense pressure on the young player, and it's manifesting in his free-throw shots.
Europeans sometimes take time to adjust to the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks player who led them to their first and only NBA Championship, didn't start a superstar. The 7'0" German was only grabbing 6.5 rebounds a game when he became a Dallas starter. Mavericks coach at the time, Don Nelson, believed it was also a mental issue with Nowitzki being 7'0 tall and having a long reach. He was able to raise it as high as 10, and 9.0 by the time Nowitzki won his MVP in 2006.
The young Slovenian's case is the same. A respectable shooter firing 46.6% on the field, Doncic is more than just a diamond in the rough, He already shines, he just needs a bit of polishing. Already one of the youngest players to start in an All-Star Game, we can expect big things from him.
If it doesn't work out and Doncic becomes a terrible free-throw shooter for the rest of his career, then we are bound to see a "Hack-a-Luka" tactic in his future, an irony for Dallas.