This is a very complicated commercial deadline for the Dallas Mavericks. Why? Let me tell you two different stories.
To sell! To sell! To sell!
The Mavericks are in sixth place and things are not looking good. Luka Doncic has returned from a sprained ankle and the Mavericks have lost six of their last 10 games. The schedule only gets more complicated, with a five-game road trip ahead against teams from the West grouped in the standings. Another bad week in basketball and the Mavericks could be out of the play-in tournament.
Defensively, the team crumbled without Maxi Kleber, who came out with a hamstring tear. Luka Doncic is having a historic season, but the Mavericks still need him to score 60 or 50 points to beat the Knicks or the Rockets. Or, more recently, the Pistons. To make matters worse, the Mavericks are the seventh oldest team in the league.
Most of the core around Doncic is not young, especially after Jalen Brunson left last summer. If you look at the top 10 minutes played for the Mavericks this season, only three players are under 25 and one of those three is Frank Ntilikina. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Mavericks were close to first place, but they’re just a few games away from being completely out of the play-in. Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock are all 30 or about to turn 30.
Think of it this way – Doncic is 23 years old. In about five years, he will be 28. When you look at history, when a great player is around 27-28 years old, you would expect that player to finish for the championships. Look how old Michael Jordan was when he won, or LeBron James. Or Kevin Durant. So when Doncic is at an age where championships are expected, his current rotation would include a majority of players between the ages of 34 and 36. It can’t happen.
The Mavericks must therefore sell. They need to listen to everyone who isn’t Luka and if they can get anything – gut a contract, get a first-round pick, anything – they should move on. Doncic is still very young, but time is running out. Dallas is still clinging to a roster that’s been around since 2019 and for some of those players, even longer than that. Look at the other competitors – they change from year to year, in some cases. Dallas needs to prepare for Doncic’s next peak years, and that won’t happen if they’re still clinging to role players who will be nearly old out of the league when that time comes.
To buy! To buy! To buy!
The Mavericks are sixth, but they’re just one game behind fourth. The teams ahead of them (Warriors, Timberwolves, Clippers) have all had to deal with as much injury and adversity as the Mavericks.
Yes, it’s not ideal, the Mavericks need Luka Doncic to be Superman, but guess what? He’s a superman! Superman can win you playoff games. Before the mass of injuries hit, Dallas, despite some struggles, was still one of the top 10 teams by net ranking according to Cleaning the Glass.
If the West was the most thought-out juggernaut, that would be one thing. But the conference is a mess. The Warriors are inconsistent, the Clippers rely on two stars who can’t stay healthy, Rudy Gobert’s trade to the Timberwolves was a disaster, the Suns are boiling without Devin Booker and the Pelicans don’t seem to be either to stay healthy. The only two behemoths in the conference are the Nuggets and the Grizzlies. And guess what? I’m not afraid of these teams!
Luka Doncic is 8-3 in his career against the Grizzlies. In the games that Ja Morant plays, it’s 6-1. Luka Doncic is 8-6 in his career against the Nuggets, 7-5 in games against Nikola Jokic. This season alone, the Mavericks have beaten the Grizzlies with Morant by 40 points. Dallas beat Jokic in Denver on the Mavericks’ second straight night, one of the toughest games an NBA team can play. Dallas can beat these teams.
So if Dallas can beat these teams, why not go all-in? Or even if you don’t go all out, why don’t you try to improve the team in every way possible, even if it’s a small move. The West is wide open, the Mavericks are playing the top two teams well, and Luka Doncic is playing like an MVP. The Mavericks can make another run.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the best fit is for the Mavericks at this trade deadline. It’s a complicated season, with no easy answers. The Mavericks have two paths ahead of them – we’ll learn more about what they’re going down in about a week.