This is a very difficult trade deadline for the dallas mavericks. Why? Let me tell you two different stories.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
The Mavericks are in sixth place and things are not looking good. Luka Doncic returned from a sprained ankle and the Mavericks have lost six of their last 10. The schedule only gets tougher, with a five-game road trip against teams from the West that are grouped in the standings. Another bad week of basketball and the Mavericks could be out of the play-in tournament.
Defensively, the team has collapsed without Maxi Kleber, out with a torn hamstring. 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 top it off, the Mavericks are the seventh oldest team in the league.
Most of the core around Doncic isn’t young, especially after Jalen Brunson left last summer. If you look at the top 10 in minutes played by the Mavericks this season, only three players are under the age of 25 and one of those three is Frank Ntilikina. That wouldn’t be so bad if the Mavericks were close to first place, but they’re just games away from being out of the play-in altogether. Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock are all in their 30s or about to turn 30.
Think of it this way: Doncic is 23 years old. In about five years, he’ll be 28. Looking at history, when a great player is between 27 and 28, the expectation is that that player will complete for championships. Look how old Michael Jordan was when he won, or LeBron James. Gold Kevin Durant. So when Doncic is of an age where championships are the expectation, his current rotation would have a majority of players between the ages of 34 and 36. That can’t happen.
So the Mavericks need to sell. They need to listen to anyone but Luka and if they can get something (off a contract, get a first round pick, anything) they should move on. Doncic is still very young, but time is ticking. Dallas is still clinging to a roster that’s been together since 2019 and for some of these players, even longer than that. Look at other contenders: they change year after year, in some cases. Dallas needs to prepare for Doncic’s next best years, and that won’t happen if they’re still hanging on to role players who will be nearly out of the league when that time comes.
To buy! To buy! To buy!
The Mavericks are sixth, but still just one game out of fourth. The teams ahead of them (Warriors, Timberwolves, Clippers) have been dealing with just as many injuries and adversity as the Mavericks.
Yeah, it’s not ideal for the Mavericks to need Luka Doncic to be Superman, but guess what? He is superman! Superman can win you playoff games. Before the mass of injuries hit, Dallas, despite some struggles, was still a top-10 team in terms of net rating according to Wipe the Glass.
If the West were the giant most thought it would be, that would be one thing. But the conference is a disaster. The Warriors are inconsistent, the Clippers rely on two stars who can’t stay healthy, the Rudy Gobert trade for the Timberwolves was a disaster, the Suns are in crisis without Devin Booker, and the Pelicans can’t seem to stay healthy either. The only two giants in the conference are the Nuggets and the Grizzlies. And guess what? I’m not afraid of those 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 defeated the Grizzlies under Morant by 40 points. Dallas beat Jokic in Denver on the Mavericks’ second night in a row, one of the toughest games an NBA team can play. Dallas can beat those teams.
So if Dallas can beat those teams, why not go all-in? Or even if he doesn’t go all out, why wouldn’t he try to improve the team in any way he can, even if it’s a smaller move? The West is wide open, the Mavericks match up well against the top two teams, 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 solution is for the Mavericks at this trade deadline. It’s a complicated season, with no easy answers. The Mavericks have two paths ahead — we’ll learn more about which they’re taking in about a week.