The Dallas Mavericks’ Off-Season Fork in the Road
By Ben Zajdel
The Dallas Mavericks will head into this summer facing a fork in the road. They must decide if they’re going to begin a long rebuild around youth, or take a quicker route back to contention by acquiring stars through free agency and trades.
As of now, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson haven’t tipped their hand.
Back in February, Cuban said on the House Call with Dr. J podcast that the Mavericks were “not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me.” That seems to indicate no patience for a long rebuild. But that was part of the same conversation which resulted in Cuban being fined for basically admitting the Mavericks were tanking.
Fans won’t have to wait long to find out, however. Their plan will become apparent soon. Let’s take a look at the two paths Dallas could take this off-season.
The Long Rebuild
The Mavericks could take the long road and begin acquiring young, talented players through the draft and free agency. They would then develop these young players into superstars and quality role players. The best case scenario in this type of rebuild is what’s happening in Philadelphia right now with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The worst case scenario is the Orlando Magic and everything they’ve ever done.
The Mavericks already have the first part of this plan–Dennis Smith Jr. The next step would be to pair him with another lottery pick who, hopefully, would become a star, too. Then Dallas could find some role players among second round picks.
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Finally, they could take a chance on a player coming off their rookie contract who under-performed with their original team, hoping that the change of scenery would allow the player to succeed. Think Jabari Parker, or possibly Aaron Gordon.
A roster like the one above would probably result in another bad record, which would net the Mavericks another high draft pick. This would bring another potential star onto the roster. Then Dallas would spend the next couple years installing an offense and defense to fit their personnel.
This road would likely mean Wesley Matthews would be traded. Harrison Barnes could possibly be gone, too. Yes, Barnes is a young player, but by the time the Mavericks’ young core would be ready to compete, he would be at the end of his prime. It makes sense to deal him now while he still has high value.
With a talented core of young players and the right mix of role players, the Mavericks would have a window to compete for a title for five to seven years. This process would take some time, and I’m curious to see if Mark Cuban has the patience to go through with it.
The Quick Rebuild
This road seems to be more like Cuban. I think it’s the way they’re going to go, because otherwise Matthews would have been dealt at the deadline.
First, the Mavericks would sign a free agent with their cap space this off-season. Maybe, as an example, Avery Bradley. Then Dallas would trade for an elite NBA player using their 2018 draft pick, whomever that may be.
Who would they trade for? It’s hard to say right now. The NBA changes fast. This time last year, I would have never thought Kyrie Irving would be available in a trade. Four months later he was in a Celtics jersey.
Maybe Portland or Washington sours on their back court pairings and C.J. McCollum or Bradley Beal become available. Maybe Milwaukee is such a mess that Giannis Antetokounmpo decides to force his way out. Or perhaps Kawhi Leonard is available for the first round pick and Harrison Barnes.
The larger point is that for the first time in a long while, Dallas has the assets to swing a trade. With a roster featuring a star player, a rising Dennis Smith Jr., and quality role players in their prime, the Mavericks would be remade into competitors over the summer.
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We don’t know which road Dallas will choose right now. It’s still early. But it won’t take long to get an idea about where they’re headed once the off-season starts. Until then, Mavericks fans can only wait.