Mavericks' dominance of Thunder could force them into blockbuster trade

Dallas Mavericks, Daniel Gafford
Dallas Mavericks, Daniel Gafford / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The Dallas Mavericks have had an impressive playoffs so far. They defeated two of the top-three seeds in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves, on their way to the Finals, where they are tasked with slaying a Boston Celtics-sized giant.

Regardless of how the championship round shapes up, the Mavs may have shifted the Western Conference landscape. Starting next season, West contenders will have to go through Dallas, which will be easier said than done.

The organization appears to have found the right mix of stars and role players after a productive trade deadline. With Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving expected to continue playing at a high level, the likes of P.J. Washington, Dereck Lively II, Derrick Jones Jr., and Daniel Gafford fulfilling their roles to a tee, and Jason Kidd guiding them from the sidelines, opponents will need to account for the Mavs when planning their offseason.

Mavericks' dominance of Thunder could force them to trade up for Donovan Clingan

Oklahoma City is one of the teams that has to retool its roster a bit in the wake of an early playoff elimination. The Mavs exposed its weaknesses in the conference semifinals, particularly its lack of quality depth and size.

Consequently, the Thunder might be looking to shore up their frontcourt in the summer. ESPN's Jonathan Givony identified them as one of the franchises that could explore trading up (subscription required) in the 2024 NBA Draft to select Donovan Clingan out of the University of Connecticut.

Clingan has drawn plenty of interest in the NBA because of his outstanding rim protection, ability to guard the pick-and-roll, and imposing physique.

The promising big man is projected to be a high-end lottery pick. So, Oklahoma City would likely have to give up a significant number of assets, which would be no problem given the team's treasure trove of draft picks, and find a willing trade partner to draft him.

The Thunder could have used someone like Clingan against Dallas because having Chet Holmgren as their lone interior presence allowed Doncic to wreak havoc in the teams' playoff showdown by attacking the paint and looking for mismatches. There was a good reason Oklahoma City was the second-round opponent the fans wanted for the Mavs.

Interestingly, the Thunder could have traded for a dependable big man at the 2024 trade deadline but instead chose to bring in veteran swingman Gordon Hayward, who made just seven appearances in the postseason. Funnily enough, Oklahoma City helped facilitate the Gafford-to-Mavs deal.

The former Washington Wizards center has been a catalyst to Dallas' transformation into a Western Conference juggernaut. He also made the Thunder pay in the second round, averaging 11.0 points (on 61.0 percent shooting), 7.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game in the series.

Maybe the Thunder should take a page from the Mavs' book on constructing a roster rather than just stockpiling future draft picks. The Mavs' domination on the glass, inside, and their excess in size could cause the Thunder to make a move to get bigger, and Clingan may be the perfect option for them to retool.

Stay tuned to read more about the Dallas Mavericks.