Assessing the Dallas Mavericks – Five Trades That Could Turn Them into Title Contenders
Before the 2018-19 NBA regular season began, nobody really thought much of the Dallas Mavericks.
They’d probably be enjoying one final tour with the legendary Dirk Nowitzki, and rookie phenom Luka Doncic gave the franchise reason for optimism in regards to the future.
Few really expected that future to arrive so quickly.
While an early-season injury slowed any potential positive impact from the 40-year-old Nowitzki, the Mavs still have been flirting with a playoff spot thanks to the stellar play of Luka Doncic.
Doncic has been so good that he feels like a lock for NBA Rookie of the Year at this point. With the first-year star blossoming before our very eyes, it’s arguable he’ll only be better by the end of the season, and that may end up playing a hand in a trip back to the playoffs.
That’s saying something in the loaded Western Conference. Doncic’s impact can be felt in virtually every facet of the game, while his strong play has lifted the rest of the roster.
Betting on the Mavericks
As things stand, however, Dallas can probably hope for a playoff spot and little else. The Mavs have hopeless +15000 odds to win a title this year, and they’re not great bets to compete for a division run by the Houston Rockets.
Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t been consistent, Wesley Matthews isn’t always reliable, Harrison Barnes isn’t the star Dallas thought he’d be, and DeAndre Jordan hurts the team’s shooting and efficiency from the charity stripe.
Dallas remains very competitive as a whole, and Doncic keeps them in contention for postseason play, but if they really want to go anywhere in the near future, they might want to get creative.
Five Big Moves Dallas Can Make
I know it’s not realistic for the Mavericks to turn into NBA Finals favorites this year or probably even next season. However, they could get markedly better with the right moves, and a solid playoff run could then translate into an expedited rebuild.
With that in mind, here are five big moves Dallas could consider if they want to improve their roster in a hurry.
Trade for Bradley Beal
The Washington Wizards have been dangerously close to completely blowing up their roster for going on two years now. With franchise point guard John Wall being shut down for the year due to injury, they need to either stay the course and hope to turn things around next year or finally begin dismantling this thing.
If the Wiz decide to do that, they could look to move their best asset, which is clearly stud shooting guard Bradley Beal. Their clear desire to start rebuilding could devalue Beal a bit, but they could still get decent value in a deal with the Mavs.
Here is one proposed trade that would work from a financial perspective.
- Dallas Gets: Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Dwight Howard
- Washington Gets: Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Matthews
It’s a perfect swap across the board, but Dallas wins the trade, in my opinion. They get a legit star perimeter scorer to pair next to Doncic in Beal, Porter gives them even more outside shooting, and a hopefully healthy Howard does all of the good things in the paint DJ does for them.
Washington should be fine with this package as well. Losing Beal will sting no matter what, but DJ is an upgrade over Howard, Barnes is a far steadier version of Porter, and Matthews is a solid two-way option that can play more within the offense than Beal.
With this deal alone, the Mavs hold onto their solid balance in the starting five but increase their star power.
Dallas Lands Ricky Rubio
I understand if you’re a bit on the fence with this one, but I’m a fan of late-season Ricky Rubio. He historically starts almost every season with his jumper completely broken, but right before mid-season, he starts heating up, and he ends up turning into a viable offensive asset.
The future appears to be murky for Rubio in Utah, largely because the Jazz are moving laterally as a franchise and seem intent on handing Donovan Mitchell more and more of the offensive responsibilities.
Rubio could benefit from a change of scenery. He is not efficient, but he can effectively run an offense, he knows how to score, and he is as good as anyone at setting his teammates up. He’s also a willing defender, so Dallas should view him as a solid upgrade at the lead guard spot.
Dennis Smith Jr., on the other hand, has not been good in his second season. He’s flashed upside, though, which is why some teams will surely come calling. There were even some Dennis Smith Jr. trade rumors that popped up, and where there is smoke, there is usually fire.
If I’m Dallas, I consider my avenues to improve rapidly, and if I like where it gets me, Smith has to be a guy you dangle. Here’s a trade that could work out for both sides.
- Dallas Gets: Ricky Rubio and Royce O’Neale
- Utah Gets: Dennis Smith Jr. and Dwight Powell
This is a move all about the present and the not-too-distant future. The Mavs are improving at a quicker pace than they anticipated, so waiting for DSJ to figure it out may not be something they’re willing to do.
Rubio isn’t a top-ten point guard or anything, but he can hold his own, and he’d make the Mavs better at both ends of the floor. O’Neale is a decent bench body to throw in to sweeten the deal, while Dallas losing a solid utility guy like Powell isn’t ideal but would be necessary to make the cash align.
Assuming Dallas also pulls off the aforementioned deal with Washington, losing Powell is less of a concern.
Kemba to Big D
You can opt to kick these previous two moves to the curb and start fresh if you are trying to dream a little bigger. It all depends on who or what you value more as you try to build Dallas into a title contender as quickly as possible.
I think combining the first two trades would greatly enhance the roster in Dallas, especially with some expiring deals on the horizon. However, they might be even better if they can make a move for a more offensively polished lead guard like Kemba Walker.
Walker’s nightly impact is far greater than Rubio’s, and considering the position he plays, I would have to value him over Beal as well. The best part is getting him wouldn’t be that difficult, and the package that gets it done keeps most of the Mavs’ roster intact.
- Dallas Gets: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, and Frank Kaminsky
- Charlotte Gets: Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and Dorian Finney-Smith
I think this actually might help the Mavs more than the previous two moves (which together I am still a fan of), as Dallas gets a massive point guard upgrade, a very good perimeter scorer, and a solid rotational big in Frank the Tank.
DSJ is a necessary casualty to make the Mavs instant playoff threats, while DJ’s lack of offensive prowess is something this roster wouldn’t mind trying to replace. I don’t know who really steps up in light of that, but that may bring me to my next big move.
Mavs Nab Vucevic
This one is out there, but let’s consider the fact that Orlando is about to lose star center Nikola Vucevic for nothing. The scoring big man is having a monster year and is about to get paid, but it’s incredibly unlikely the Magic are the ones forking over top dollar when they have a talented youngster in Mohamed Bamba waiting behind him.
One way or another, Orlando is moving on from a fan favorite, and my guess is they do so via trade.
There is a very real possibility numerous teams will toss much more appealing trade packages at Orlando, but perhaps their initial asking price will be too high, or they’ll go the classic Magic route and simply do a terrible deal because that’s what they do.
This isn’t the best deal, but it’s not completely atrocious, all things considered.
- Dallas Gets: Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross
- Orlando Gets: Harrison Barnes, Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, and a second-round pick
I’m aware Orlando gets the short end of the stick here, but Barnes is still a foundational piece in the right setting, and Kleber and Brunson are both solid bench bodies. Brunson might even be an answer at the lead guard spot, especially for a team like the Magic that simply doesn’t have much to hang their hat on at the point.
If you team this up with the Kemba Walker trade, the Mavs keep most of their workable core intact and suddenly have some serious star power. Walker, Vucevic, and Doncic create a very nice trio to power the Mavs into the playoffs, while they still have shooters in the starting lineup and coming off the bench.
Dallas Goes All in on Dame
There is one other major trade Dallas could swing to set themselves up nicely for this year and beyond. That’s a deal for none other than Damian Lillard, who has constantly been involved in trade rumors.
It’s fair to question the validity of those rumors, but Lillard’s name has been bouncing around the rumor mill for a while now, and some have even tied him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Who knows what the future may bring, but for now, the Mavericks are trying to get better, and he may be one of the best ways for them to do that.
Portland actually has a good roster in place and is winning as I write this, but there is an argument out there that they could be better if they let C.J. McCollum run their offense and put shooters around him.
If Portland believes that, they could consider shipping the man known as Thrillard out of town for a package like this.
- Dallas Gets: Damian Lillard
- Portland Gets: Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, and a second-round pick
Whatever else Portland wants in terms of scraps, they’ll get. The Mavs win this trade in a big way, but Portland does get another talented young guard to work with in DSJ, and Barnes should slide in as a reliable starter right away.
Barnes and Smith solidify Portland’s starting five on paper, while the Mavericks get a true gamer at the lead guard spot. Lillard would be making a lateral move personally, but Dallas would inject some superstar ability into their roster and give Luka Doncic a legit running mate for the next few seasons.
Losing Barnes hurts Dallas in terms of balance, but they have enough perimeter scoring to make up for him in the long run.
The point here isn’t necessarily that any one deal can save the Mavs; it’s that they actually have a few interesting pieces they can flip for some upgrades.
Dallas lacks assets in terms of picks or elite young talent, but DSJ is a nice trade chip, they have some expiring contracts, and a handful of teams will hold guys like Jordan and Barnes in high regard. Powell, Matthews, and perhaps even J.J. Barea would also be valuable in potential trade talks.
The Mavs are in a good spot as they stand, but if they wait too long, they’ll be forced to hit it big in the draft (they won’t be doing that in 2019), or they’ll be at risk of striking out in free agency.
Instead of crossing their fingers that they can make some magic happen during the offseason, they may want to consider cashing in on the assets they do have and see if they can’t take advantage of other teams’ struggles.
Chasing guys like Bradley Beal, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Vucevic, and/or Kemba Walker could be a good way to do that. Lillard is admittedly the pipedream of this crop, but if you’re going to dream up Dallas Mavericks trade scenarios that could launch them into the NBA Finals conversation, you might as well dream big.
For now, bettors should keep things light on Dallas. If you find a wager at any of the online sportsbooks on whether or not the Mavericks make the playoffs, tossing some money on them cracking the top eight teams isn’t the worst try.
Anything else, however, may need to wait until they make some big moves.
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