The Dallas Mavericks have gotten an unexpected surge from role players Dante Exum and Derrick Jones Jr., and the insertion of 19-year-old Dereck Lively II as Dallas' starting center has taken this Mavericks team to new heights.
Luka Doncic is having an MVP-level season after coming off an intense summer workout regimen to get in improved shape but unfortunately, the new father has had to carry a much larger load after Kyrie Irving went down with a heel contusion against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 8.
Irving's return to Dallas' lineup is currently indefinite and Dallas' Josh Green, Maxi Kleber, and Dereck Lively II are all out due to injury as well. It doesn't seem like any of the four injured players on Dallas' roster will be returning to the court before the new year at this rate given the severity of their respective injuries.
Rumors: Spurs' star potentially on the move, could Mavericks make a trade for him?
Dallas has a myriad of defensive woes to address, so it'll be intriguing to see if they opt to address any of them via trade ahead of this year's deadline. Nonetheless, perhaps getting a third option offensively could be part of the solution toward improving Dallas' defense some, especially with as shaky as Irving's health has been through the first 25 games of the season
NBA insider Marc J. Spears recently listed some intriguing players who may be available on the trade market this season on the Hoop Collective podcast, and San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson happened to be one of them.
"You know who I got my eye on with the Spurs? Keldon Johnson, I keep hearing this buzz about. Not sure if he fits in well with this group going forward and should he be coming off the bench?"- Marc J. Spears
Johnson is an extremely dynamic young wing at only 24-years-old, and as Spears said, he may be slightly misplaced on the San Antonio Spurs' timeline compared to the rest of some of the young pieces they've recently drafted. Johnson has certainly evolved as a playmaker this season though as he's averaging a career-high 4.2 assists per game with less turnover than last year.
Johnson can make some tough passes with his frame and strength, but becoming a more savvy playmaker will come with time. He's taking almost four field goals less per game this season with the insertion of Wembanyama in the lineup, so consequentially his scoring average has dipped from 22 points per game last season to 17 points per game this season.
Don't let that fool you though, as Johnson would be involved in a lot of actions on offense if he was in Dallas with his skill set
Johnson is a great post-up player for his size, a smooth operator in the mid-range area, as well as an extremely tough finisher in traffic. For Johnson to take the next step in his game he'll need to evolve as a 3-point shooter, as he's shooting better than last year at 36 percent this season, but is still adjusting to the degree of difficulty of shots that he's taking ever since San Antonio thrust him into a more prominent role offensively a few seasons ago.
Johnson is also averaging a career-high in rebounds and steals this year despite not being touted as a defensive stopper. Playing in a more structured role in Dallas as the third option behind Irving and Doncic could help Johnson use his 6-foot-9 wingspan and 220-pound frame to his advantage on that side of the ball more often.
Johnson may not fit San Antonio's timeline, but he certainly fits Dallas' timeline given he is the same age as Luka Doncic and Grant Williams. Johnson has immense potential and may be able to ascend into a number two option on offense once Irving leaves or passes the torch, so Dallas should certainly do whatever they can to try and finesse Johnson from San Antonio if the asking price isn't too much.
For more on what the Dallas Mavericks will do ahead of this upcoming trade deadline, stay tuned with us as we'll have you covered.