NBA

Mavs GM Nico Harrison says team must improve, but core around Luka Doncic is set

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After reaching the franchise’s third-ever NBA Finals this month, the Mavericks are now confident that they’ve built a roster that will keep producing great results into the future. During his exit interview, GM Nico Harrison expressed that the squad still has a lot to improve, but that he’s convinced that Luka Doncic has the ideal players around him. 

After losing 4-1 to the Celtics in the championship series, the manager revealed that he plans for the team’s rotation to return intact next campaign, but still issued a challenge for “everybody to come back 10 to 15% better.”

This also includes the Slovenian star, who became the first athlete in league history to ever lead the league in total points, rebounds, assists and steals during the playoffs. When asked about how the guard could improve his game, he referenced the leadership shown by Luka after the harsh criticism following their Game 3 loss to Boston.

Doncic bounced back in Game 4, with a historic win in Dallas. “We’re not where we’re at without Luka,” Harrison said this past weekend. “I think that’s important to point out, and we also won’t be able to get where we want to go without the best version of Luka.

“If you look at a guy who after Game 3 had the world on his neck — the scrutiny, which was crazy, the amount of scrutiny that he had to face — for him to focus in and do what he did in Game 4, I just think it just shows the character of him. He’s willing to fight through adversity, and I think he’s going to continue to get better.”

Nico is well aware that the European is young and still has ways to go, as he will naturally improve his game throughout his career. “He’s 25 years old,” he said. “I think just going through the Finals, him seeing what he needs to do to be at his best in the Finals after going through a grueling end of the year and then three tough, tough [playoff] matchups, I think you’re going to see the best version of him.”

Luka, who earned his first-ever scoring title by averaging 33.9 points per game this year, dealt with many injuries during their postseason run, but he still played every game and logged a league-high 899 playoff minutes. “He was hurting, but he’s a warrior,” Harrison expressed. “He’s going to fight through all those injuries. That’s just who he is. He loves to play.”

The Dallas front office has placed re-signing Derrick Jones Jr. as a priority during the summer, but must deal with tax limitations

One of the team’s best moves was signing forward Derrick Jones Jr. to a veteran’s minimum deal last year, as they got massive value from his performances. Now, there is mutual interest in the player returning to Dallas, but the squad is limited to offering the $5.2 million taxpayer midlevel exception, unless they cut some payroll and open up a higher budget.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but he’s a priority,” Harrison explained, and later added how he expects the Mavericks “top seven or eight” stars to return. “He’s priority one — 1A and 1B. I think he fits in with our team. He loves it here and we have to figure out obviously the dynamics to get him to stay. But that’s a priority and we’ll do what we have to do to get it done.”

Another mystery surrounding the Texan camp, is whether Doncic will play for the Slovenian national team this summer in the Olympic qualifying tournament to be held in Greece starting July 2.

“That’s probably one of his biggest joys,” Nico said about Luka’s non-committal stance of representing his nation, even though this has always been the player’s pride. “I think as long as he can walk, he’s probably going to go out there and play for them.”