The Dallas Mavericks Must-Haves For Summer 2019
Writer: Caleb Akpan
At this year’s traded deadline, the Dallas Mavericks put themselves in a position to one day return to the top of the Western Conference, a place they have not been close to since winning the 2011 Finals.
First, they dealt for 2018 All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, hoping to pair him with rookie sensation Luka Doncic for decades to come. Then on Wednesday, in the middle of their game against the Charlotte Hornets, news came out that Dallas had traded Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph, a move that gave the team max salary cap space for Summer 2019.
Those two trades were a great start for a legitimate future in Dallas, but they’ll mean nothing if the Mavericks can’t get these things done in the coming months:
The biggest thing the Mavericks have to do this summer will also probably be the easiest. Initially, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Porzingis intended to sign the qualifying offer over a five-year max contract from Dallas, but both sides confirmed that hope for a long-term relationship is mutual on Monday through this Cuban-fueled exchange:
Reporter: “Kristaps, do you plan on signing a contract this summer with the Mavericks long-term?”
Mark Cuban: “I can answer that for you. Yeah, he does.”
Reporter: “Kristaps, is that true?”
Mark Cuban: “I can answer that one, too.”
Kristaps Porzingis: “Listen, we’re on the same page. Don’t even ask.”
So there you have it. One check on the list and Dallas didn’t have to do much about it. Understandable, as no player in NBA history has turned down the max extension from their rookie contract and a 7-3, 240lb big coming off a torn ACL should not be the first.
Hit a Small Jackpot in Free Agency
Dallas pursued Dwight Howard and Deron Williams in their primes and failed to acquire either player. We all know what happened with DeAndre Jordan the first time around. The Mavs couldn’t even get Nicolas Batum to sign here in the summer of 2016, and he’s currently averaging nine and a half points on a salary that will earn him over $24 million dollars this season.
There just hasn’t been success in free agency during the Dirk Nowitzki era, but with Dirk likely retiring after this season and a free agent pool full of All-Star talents, the Mavericks don’t need to chase after players at the top of the market to succeed.
All of the money could be thrown at one guy, like Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic, who will be looking for a big payday after his best pro season. Some may be concerned with Vucevic’s fit next to another shooting big like Porzingis, and according to NBA.com, their shot selection is similar, but Porzingis is far from the post-up, back to the basket threat that Vucevic currently is in Orlando. The Mavericks shouldn’t be looking at an Anthony Davis/DeMarcus Cousins situation if they chose to pair the two foreign-born bigs together, their play styles are just distant enough that Rick Carlisle of all coaches should be trusted to make it work.
For an alternative plan, the team could split their money between a role player and someone like Goran Dragic. The current Miami Heat point guard has missed most of this season following knee surgery but would surely have chemistry on the court with Doncic. The two dominated Eurobasket 2017 together, leading Slovenia to the championship where Dragic was named MVP. If there's ever a time to spend money on a soon to be 33-year-old point guard with a bad knee, Summer 2019 would be it.
No matter what they do, finding a third key player will be huge or Dallas. In a Western Conference that sees no good team short of at least two All-Star caliber players, the Mavericks having three could help to soon vault them over playoff mainstays like the Portland Trail Blazers, carried by their dominant and the Houston Rockets, set to pay an aging Chris Paul almost $45 million dollars in the upcoming years.
Get Healthy And Conditioned
Kristaps Porzingis will play in fall 2019 coming off of a torn ACL. No player of his size and stature has ever endured such an injury, and that’s a big part of why it will take Dallas fans so long to see “The Unicorn” in action. The team will make sure that Porzingis’ knee is fully healed while also making the Latvian big stronger on all fronts and they should be better for it. You can’t have your combo big man be the same size as Kevin Durant if you want him banging on the boards and playing in the post without risking a major injury, especially if one has already occurred.
The conditioning should not stop with Porzingis though. If there’s any flaw in Luka Doncic’s game, it’s that sometimes it can flame out. Take the February 2nd game against Cleveland for example, where Doncic came out to 28-point first half, led by an 18-point first quarter of stepback threes, only to score seven the rest of the game.
Playing Houston on the second night of a back-to-back on February 11th, Doncic started the game four for four, only to shoot 3-13 the rest of the game, including multiple airballed threes. He’s certainly slimmed down and improved his conditioning as his rookie season goes along, but another offseason to truly get in shape should do wonders for Wonderboy.
Then there are the old guys. If Dirk Nowitzki chooses to come back next season, keeping him on the court would as always be a top priority. JJ Barea has been critical to franchise success over the last decade and his torn Achilles was a tough blow to both his future and the Mavericks season. If the Mavericks are going to bring him, they need to first make sure that he can be the Barea of old.
That’s it, that’s all the Mavericks have to do this summer in order to compete for the next 10-15 years. Resign a franchise cornerstone, convince another really good player to sign as a free agent, and make sure everybody’s ready to play opening night and beyond even after major, sometimes career-ending injuries. Shouldn’t be hard at all…