30 Teams in 30 Days: Mavs banking on potential star duo to guide future

NBA.com Global on Sep 08, 2019 08:20 AM
30 Teams in 30 Days: Mavs banking on potential star duo
FILE - DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 12: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts to a play during the game against the Atlanta Hawks on December 12, 2018 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season.

With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.

* * *

Today's team: Dallas Mavericks

2018-19 Record: 33-49, did not qualify for the playoffs

Key additions: Seth Curry (free agency), Delon Wright (trade), Boban Marjanovic (free agency)

Key departures: Dirk Nowitzki, Trey Burke

The lowdown: The Mavs have been stuck in mediocrity since winning the title in 2011, but that was secondary to a pair of emotional events: The arrival of a projected franchise savior and the departure of another. Nowitzki and Doncic made for a heck of a season and the changing of the guard couldn’t have been more timely or gone smoother.

Nowitzki, the greatest figure in franchise history, made way for Doncic, the Kia Rookie of the Year. Both gave fans a reason to pay attention to the Mavericks because nothing else about the season was compelling. Doncic took the reins right from the jump and displayed unusual poise, guts and skills for a rookie. On one level this was no surprise as he'd been a professional for years in Europe. His dribbling and shooting made him a tough assignment, given his size (6-foot-7) and comfort zone on the floor. His courage under fire gave coach Rick Carlisle every reason to draw plays for Doncic -- who averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists per game -- when games got tight.

The other event that caused tremors in Dallas was the midseason trade that gave Doncic a parter for the future: Kristaps Porzingis. The 7-foot-3 unicorn and the Knicks had a falling out and the Mavs benefitted. Dallas sent a package of players (including first-round pick Dennis Smith Jr., whose game clashed with Doncic’s) and picks and came away with a potential star. Porzingis was on a special arc before suffering a knee injury that cost him the entire season. His type is too rare, and the Mavs took a leap of faith that no one could fault.

Summer summary: The Mavericks came into the offseason with big cash to spend and even bigger dreams, yet couldn’t find anyone special to take their money. Add the fact that Porzingis and Doncic make for a pair of attractive potential teammates, it was mildly surprising the Mavericks struck out.

There was no Kawhi Leonard (a pipe dream, anyway), no Kemba Walker (he might’ve fit well next to Doncic), no Jimmy Butler and not even Danny Green. It’s not a stretch to say the Mavs had to settle, which they did, bringing back Curry for a second stint and adding Wright and Marjanovich, three rotational players on the cheap.

Essentially, the Mavs’ big “offseason” came a few months earlier when they added Porzingis. Curry managed to earn himself decent free agent money by playing well off the bench last season in Portland. Wright is an athletic wing who probably hasn’t reached his full potential just yet. And Marjanovich? Well, he’s big.

Was this a disappointment? A team without any Draft choices (their No. 1 went to the Hawks in the Doncic-Trae Young trade) could’ve used help in free agency and didn’t get anything special. Not only that, they didn’t even get any interviews with the biggest names in free agency (Leonard, Kevin Durant, etc.). Wasn’t Mark Cuban’s team supposed to be a destination spot, given all the charms of Dallas and the reputation of the franchise?

Instead, they used their money to hand out contract extensions, starting with Porzingis. The move was largely expected once the trade happened. Still, giving five years and $158 million to a player who has yet to demonstrate a bounce-back from injury does comes with a degree of risk. Should Porzingis pass all the tests and return to the form he had in New York, he and Doncic should be quite a young tandem. The Mavericks hope that becomes the centerpiece that attracts free agents in the future.

Wright became the Mavs’ top offseason target by default. He's tapping into his potential and is more athletic and defensive-minded than Doncic and therefore could be a proper fit in the backcourt. Dorian Finney-Smith, a quality role player, was extended for three more years at $12 million. With the Mavericks working without any prime Draft picks this summer, retaining young players became a priority.

The Mavs also kept frontcourt youngsters Maxi Kleber (27) and Dwight Powell (28) around via extensions this summer. Again, the Mavs used their surplus to maintain stability without sacrificing much in terms of future cap flexibility.

What the Mavs wanted to do this summer was add a solid young veteran to help for a Big Three. But that star search must be pushed to next summer or, if the Mavs get lucky, a disgruntled star might land on the trade market during the upcoming season. Which means, with the exception of Porzingis, the Mavs have no choice but to run it back this season with essentially the same club as a year ago.

They won’t have Nowitzki for the first time in 21 years, and the shine of that 2011 championship is much dimmer now. The Mavs haven’t advanced beyond the first round since then, and reaching the playoffs in 2019-20 in the stacked West might be too much to ask of a young team.

At least they begin the post-Nowitzki era with Doncic and Porzingis and a clear vision and blueprint. If only Cuban can find another star to take his money.

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. 

Latest News