Welcome back to another addition in Basketball Insiders “Grading the Offseason” series. Feel free to check out the other teams whose summers have been analyzed, including the Cavaliers, Bulls, Knicks, Hawks and Wizards. But for today, we’re taking a look at the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s hard not to be excited for Dallas’ future. Luka Doncic had one of the most exciting rookie seasons we’ve ever seen, and the long-awaited arrival of Kristaps Porzingis will be right around the corner mere months from now.
There are still some concerns. The Western Conference may be more loaded now than ever, and no one knows exactly how Porzingis will fare a year-and-a-half after he tore his ACL.
Luka Doncic. That’s pretty much all you have to say about the Mavericks this past season.
Thanks to Dirk Nowitzki waiting until the end of the season to announce his retirement, nothing overshadowed Luka’s jaw-dropping performance in his very first year in the NBA. Coming into the season, the hype was strong with the young Slovenian sensation, but there were questions surrounding both his conditioning and his spacing.
Doncic isn’t much of a freak of nature physically, and his three-point shooting leaves a lot to be desired (32.7 percent), but that didn’t stop him from being arguably the most entertaining rookie we have seen since Blake Griffin.
His 42.7 percent shooting from the field won’t jump out at you, which is usually the case with rookies especially if they have to run the offense – but his all-around averages – 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists – are quite impressive for someone under 21.
What made Luka so much fun to watch was his old school feel for the game despite his young age. He’s not a high flyer. He doesn’t have the quickest first step. At the moment, he’s not a consistent knockdown shooter.
What makes the “Wonderboy” so good is his craftiness. He knows where to pick his spots. He’s got phenomenal vision. He just knows the game, which makes him a frustratingly excellent basketball player. He shouldn’t be this good this quickly, but he is. Once he finally works out all the kinks conditioning-wise, it may not be long before he’s an MVP candidate.
In Luka alone, Dallas’ future was already promising. Then came the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
It was kind of strange saga leading up to when Dallas traded for KP. In less than an hour’s time, Porzingis went from talking to New York about his future, to officially wanting out of the city, to the Knicks fielding calls for him and the Mavericks ultimately finalizing a deal to get Porzingis.
It was a lot to take in such a short amount of time. Suddenly the Mavericks’ future went from promising to a potential dynasty. Even if it meant giving up pretty much all of the farm not named Luka Doncic and sacrificing their cap flexibility, the Mavericks made the right wager on Porzingis. The potential with Luka and Kristaps playing in their primes together is tantalizing to think about, but that’s a discussion tabled for Dallas next season. This is about what happened this year.
Besides Luka’s historic freshman season and the earth-shattering Porzingis trade, the third most notable storyline was Dirk’s swan song. Even though many believed Dirk was hanging it up, he kept it under wraps until his last game. Much like any living legend, there’s always a draw to seeing one of the greats in his last days no matter how past his prime he is.
Also, that was made so because Dallas basically tanked the rest of the season following the Porzingis trade. They traded away Harrison Barnes for Justin Jackson and cap room. J.J. Barea went down after tearing his Achilles. After the trade deadline, the Mavericks won four of their last 18 games in a vain attempt to keep their draft pick away from the Hawks.
The next step for them is building the right core around arguably the most talented young duo in the league. Were Mark Cuban and company up to the task?
Let’s be honest here. The Mavericks’ offseason started after the trade deadline. They already made their big splash with Porzingis who they planned to shelve until next season. They then traded Harrison Barnes to open up some cap room after agreeing to swallow Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr’s contracts whole as a condition in the trade for Porzingis.
Dallas’ late-season attempt to not forfeit its pick to Atlanta backfired. The Hawks were awarded the 10th pick in the draft while the Mavericks only had the 37th pick. The team later traded that pick to Detroit for the 43rd pick, which was used to select Isaiah Roby and two future second-rounders.
Roby was regarded for his 3&D potential, which made many question Dorian Finney-Smith’s future on the team. That was answered in due time, but the expectations for Roby should be minimal given that he was a mid-second round pick.
As for free agency, Dallas’ focus has been around keeping the band together for the most part. Finney-Smith, Barea, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Devin Harris were all brought back on pretty manageable deals. Along with that, following an impressive playoff performance, Seth Curry agreed to have a second stint in Dallas, signing a four-year/$32 million deal.
They didn’t make any really big splashes, but kudos to them for using every asset at their arsenal. They were able to sign-and-trade for Delon Wright with the trade exception they got for Harrison Barnes. Even though he’s been in the league for four years, Wright is 27 years old, which doesn’t exactly make him a young’n.
Wright’s fit with Luka isn’t perfect, but worth watching. He fits the secondary playmaker role quite well, but he doesn’t have the best three-point shot. He hasn’t relied on his spacing abilities, having averaged 1.8 three-point attempts a game for his career, but that’s probably going to change when he’s paired with Doncic.
The only other transaction was the addition of Boban Marjanovic. At best, he’s a solid replacement for Salah Mejri. At worst, he’s a fan favorite for Dallas faithful. It’s a no-harm, no-foul type deal.
The real eye-catching move that Dallas made was the extension it gave Porzingis. There were worries beforehand about KP’s durability since he hasn’t exactly been able to stay on the court. By giving him a mega extension, Dallas has given confidence that he will be every bit the unicorn he was before his ACL tear.
This isn’t a dumb move. It’s a necessary risk. The Mavericks gave up a lot to bring him in, and they couldn’t underpay him for the move potentially pay off. That being said, this extension is either going to go very right or very wrong for Dallas.
Lastly, Dallas just waived Kostas Antetokounmpo. This probably means no Giannis in 2021.
PLAYERS IN: Delon Wright, Seth Curry, Boban Marjanovic, Isaiah Roby
PLAYERS OUT: Trey Burke, Salah Mejri, Kostas Antetoukounmpo
The Mavericks’ season opener is basically going to be Christmas Day for fans because they’ve been waiting since February to see Porzingis take the floor with Doncic.
Outside of them, the Mavericks’ roster didn’t change too drastically, which is to be expected from them at this point. Right now they’re just feeling out how this pairing is going to work. When they see where this new direction is headed, they’ll know what other major moves need to be made.
Everyone’s gushed about how good the fit between these two cornerstones could be, and it’s easy to see why. Porzingis’ post-game and three-point shooting should complement Doncic’s playmaking and craftiness like chocolate and peanut butter. What’s even more insane is that should only be the beginning. This pairing could work out so well that it might not be crazy to suggest that Tim Hardaway Jr., as overpaid as he is, could fit really well as the third scorer next to these two.
If this duo lives up to the hype, then this could not have been a better transition from the Dirk Nowitzki era. Now that the torch has been passed, Dallas has its new face of the franchise in Luka. As lucky as the Mavericks are to have someone who could have a legacy potentially as good as or even better than Dirk Nowitzki, they must remember that they squandered multiple opportunities when Dirk was in his prime.
They mustn’t do the same with Luka, especially now that the concept of loyalty has changed a lot since the height of Dirk’s prime. If Porzingis pans out, then they’re on the right track.
On a related note, has the NBA ever had a promising young duo consist of two European superstars like this one?
OFFSEASON GRADE: B- (A+ if Porzingis works out)
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