Dallas Mavericks need a ball-handler in the worst way: Why haven’t they added one?

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Why haven’t the Dallas Mavericks added another ball-handler?

The Mavs made re-signing Jalen Brunson their top priority in free agency, and that was clearly Plan A. They thought their run to the conference finals was enough to keep JB in Dallas, but the 25-year-old had other ideas.

The Mavericks are over the luxury tax line, so they only had the taxpayer mid-level exception and minimum contracts to hand out during free agency. They believed Jaden Hardy was a top 20 player in the draft, so when he slipped into the second round, Dallas pounced. The Mavs needed to keep a piece of the mid-level exception open to give the rookie a three-year deal, though.

They were not adding a primary ball-handler in free agency with the money they had to spend. The Mavs traded their 2022 first-round pick to acquire Christian Wood before the Brunson saga was sorted out, and they owe their 2023 first-rounder to the Knicks with a top-ten protection from the original Kristaps Porzingis trade back in 2019.

The front office has not made acquiring another ball-handler a priority. Boston acquired Malcolm Brogdon for their 2023 first-round pick and five role players the Pacers are not excited about. It was a similar deal to the one Dallas made for Christian Wood.

The Mavs prioritized rebounding and rim protection over ball-handling and playmaking after reaching the conference finals by going small. It was a strange pivot that could signal the team is still not done making moves this offseason or they are comfortable with Luka Doncic handling a massive workload every night.