For the last 20 years, the Mavericks have been everything to Dallas in terms of pro sports. The Cowboys have been wildly inconsistent, which makes it hard for most Dallas fans to put actual faith in them. The Rangers have had a number of good years, but no World Series trophies to show for their success. The Dallas Mavericks, on the other hand, have been consistent, entertaining, and most importantly champions. A lot of the credit goes to Dirk Nowitzki who has become a Dallas sports legend. Except for these last couple years it has been rough. Since the 2000-2001 season, Dallas has missed the playoffs 3 times. 2 of those times just so happened to be the last two seasons. This season looks to be different compared to the past two seasons. In fact, the future of the Dallas Mavericks looks brighter than it has since they won it all in 2011.
Luka Doncic is the biggest reason they have a bright future, but not the only reason. There will probably never be another LeBron, but Luka’s impact on the Mavericks looks a lot like rookie LeBron’s impact on the Cavaliers. As of now, Luka has proved why he is a generational talent and worthy of those two first-round picks Dallas gave up to him. Let’s assume that Luka only gets better from here. Which is not hard to believe. His biggest knock is his athleticism, but it’s much easier developing that than a skill set or basketball IQ. Luka is a very smart and mature basketball player for somebody who is the youngest player on that team. Although Luka is averaging 17.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and a steal a game his consistency is a little bit of a problem as well. Consistency is always a problem for any rookie because there is a learning curve so that shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Once Luka adjusts to the NBA, then he will be making a much bigger impact than he is now. Luka Doncic’s potential alone is something that will look appealing to a lot of free agents.
Think about it. Luka Doncic played in the Euroleague where basketball is much more of a team game that includes a lot of passing. He has not shown any attitude problems so far and has shown that he simply wants to win. Granted he is a rookie, but a great teammate who is willing to share the ball in order to win looks great to a potential free agent. In addition, his rookie contract right now is financially ideal for a free agent wanting to team up. Don’t get me wrong Luka Doncic can be the best player on a championship team, but a little help never hurt anybody. Luka is the guy for the Mavericks right now, and his presence has translated into wins. Even if he doesn’t score a lot, Luka is a great distributor and makes big-time shots when needed.
As of now, they are in the 7th seed, after getting big-time wins in November and December over teams like the Rockets (twice), Celtics, Clippers, and Warriors just to name a few. If they keep it up and make the playoffs, they can be dangerous. As I said, Doncic is not the only reason they’re winning and have a bright future. The addition of Deandre Jordan has made a significant impact on the Mavericks, solidifying the center position for the first time since Tyson Chandler. Jordan is averaging 11.1 points, 13.6 rebounds, and a block a game so far this season. His numbers may not be as high as his Clippers days, but his impact is still significant for Dallas. DJ cleans up a lot of missed shots for the Mavericks, and his dunks can tend to ignite a Dallas offensive run. In addition, his defense and rebounding have helped lock up the paint for the Mavericks which is something they haven’t had for the longest time. He also seems to be a great fit for Luka with their playing styles complimenting each other.
Harrison Barnes is another guy who has been a great role player for the Mavericks so far. Yes, I know he’s not worth his expensive contract but you got to spend money to make money. In this case, Barnes has been one of the few bright spots on the Mavericks the past couple of years. Barnes is a good player, who fits well with Luka so far. Barnes has the athleticism that Luka lacks, which is why they work well with each. Barnes is also versatile like Luka, and he can be moved around to compliment Luka or any other player on this team. Barnes has an above average three-point shot, great driving/post ability, and plays good defense on most players in the NBA. Lastly, Barnes is somebody who can take over a game if needed. He’s somebody that the Mavericks can rely on as a primary scoring option if the situation calls on it. Barnes doesn’t need to be a primary scorer though and has shown that he can be a good second option as he is currently averaging 17 points per game this season.
In addition, the Mavericks have some very interesting players either coming off the bench or in the G- league. Point Guard Jalen Brunson was a player they took in the 2nd round, and he’s been a solid option off the bench for Dallas. He’s shown that he can play alongside Luka, and can step in at the point guard spot giving similar production to Dennis Smith Jr. Brunson is currently the backup point guard, but he has the potential to be a starter for the Mavericks. Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney- Smith have been solid off the bench as well. Currently, they both average 9 points and 4 rebounds game, and are still getting better. Maxi Kleber has also made great strides in his second year coming off the bench. Nobody really knows him, but anybody who watches him knows he has a lot of potential. Kleber is from the same town in Germany Dirk Nowitzki came from, and he has a unique skill set. Kleber is a hard worker who is not only an excellent defender in the post but a solid shooter on offense. Maxi Kleber will probably never be a star, but he has the potential to be a high-level starter, perhaps when Dirk decides to retire. Lastly, there is Kostas Antentokounmpo who showed promise in the preseason games for the Mavericks. Obviously, he’s the younger brother of the Greek freak, and he has a very similar game to him. If properly developed, the 6-10 forward (who’s probably still going to grow) can be turned into a force to be reckoned with. Currently, he’s on a two-way contract and he’s averaging 9 points, 7 rebounds, a steal, and 2 blocks a game in the G- league. It may not be much now, but it’s hard not to imagine what if he reaches even ? the level Giannis has reached.
Somebody I haven’t talked about it as much though is Dennis Smith Jr. In all honesty, he hasn’t exactly fit with Luka Doncic and this team. DSJ is an explosive point guard, who on paper should fit with a forward like Luka who is more skill reliant than physically reliant. Except Luka is somebody who has shown to be much more impactful with the ball in his hands. Doncic can also play off the ball but has made more big plays in the fourth quarter than Dennis Smith Jr. Like I said before, Brunson has had a similar impact on the floor with Luka as DSJ has with Luka. Of course, it’s very early on, but the Mavericks may see them not automatically clicking as a concern. Granted, DSJ just turned 21 and Luka is 19 so there is time, but the Mavericks can definitely deal DSJ for an upgrade at the very least. It may be good to deal him now, while people view his potential and value high. As I said, Dallas could choose to wait and see if they can be a good fit together, but if DSJ continues to struggle then his trade value goes down with time.
Dallas is decent now, but they have an aggressive front office. Yes, they’ve struck out in free agency the past couple offseasons but this offseason can be different. As I said, they have a young star in Luka who can attract free agents to this town. The coming offseason can see the Mavericks be extremely aggressive in order to build a team that can contend right away. This can be entirely impossible too. Wesley Mathews, as good as he has been, will be let go by the Mavericks after this season which will free up almost 18 million dollars. DeAndre Jordan is only on a one year deal which will free up another 22 million dollars. Assuming Dallas doesn’t bring back either, that’s already one max deal they can give up. In addition, Harrison Barnes, Dwight Powell, DSJ, and Luka are the only players who are signed on after this season for more than the minimum. Barnes even has a player contract that he can opt out of which will free up more space, to either restructure his contract or pursue another free agent. That’s another $15 million dollars freed up after losing the rest of those players outside of Barnes. Dallas can potentially restructure more contracts and make moves to free up more space, which will allow them to potentially sign two-star players to maximum contracts.
Potential free agents this offseason include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Demarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmy Butler. Dallas may emerge as a strong contender to sign any of these players if they have a strong season with their young core. Demarcus Cousins is somebody who may be a primary target for Dallas. He’s an immediate upgrade over DeAndre Jordan and Cousins could benefit greatly by having somebody like Luka. Also, he can be the primary scorer on offense. His primary concern is his attitude, which can be problematic. After Cousins, I’d say Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard is the other targets that the Mavericks may have on their radar. Thompson is a dynamic scorer that can improve any team’s offense. He also has the mindset of a champion with all those rings he has in Golden State. He may want to prove he can win without Curry and forge his own legacy. In addition, Golden State may not be able to keep him. Kawhi Leonard is another option that can be intriguing as well. Leonard would make his return to Texas, and be put in a great situation. He could easily become the main guy while having a fantastic supporting cast built around him. As I said, the Mavericks have cap space so they can potentially sign two players to max contracts.
Whether Dallas decides to trade to get better or spend money to get better, the bottom line is that they can become a championship contender. The addition of Luka Doncic has made Dallas a very attractive city to play in. Even if they don’t make any immediate big moves, knowing that at the very least they have a generational talent in Luka, and a potential star in DSJ should be more than promising. Dallas for the first time in years have a lot of choices to make, and all of them lead to a bright future.