Another day, another triple-double. For Luka Doncic, Wednesday’s 35-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound performance in a win over the Warriors was not only his seventh triple-double this season, but his second in a row. He scored 22 of those points in the first quarter and his final tally of 35 came on just 18 field-goal attempts.
The Year 2 version of Doncic is already well ahead of projections. He’s up to 29.9 points per game, 10.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists, numbers that should have him in the Top 5 for the season’s MVP race with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and LeBron James.
But if Doncic has arrived at an elite level ahead of schedule, it’s a concern that the rest of the Mavs are still a long way off. That includes Doncic’s co-star, Kristaps Porzingis, who is struggling to get his rhythm back after he returned from ACL surgery. Porzingis is averaging 18.6 points but shooting only 39.9 percent from the field.
As of now, the Mavs’ third offensive option is Tim Hardaway Jr., and that’s bothersome, too. Hardaway is averaging 10.2 points but shooting 34.4 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from the 3-point line. No other Mav is averaging double-figure scoring. They’re also a poor 3-point team, shooting 33.6 percent from the arc, 23rd in the NBA.
The Mavs need help. Dallas would like to bring in a third star, even an aging one like Chris Paul. That will prove tricky.
A First-Round Pick is the Price
In any scenario dealing for a player remotely close to star material, the Mavs would have to cough up a first-round pick in addition to players whose salaries match. But Dallas dipped deep into its store of picks last year and gave two of them, in 2021 and 2023, to the Knicks in the Porzingis deal. Because teams can’t trade future first-rounders in consecutive years, the Mavs can’t trade another first-round pick until 2025.
Any team seeking to dump even a quasi-star player will want a first-rounder in the deal. The Mavs simply can’t give it to them.
Still, they’re on the prowl. Around the league, it’s been acknowledged that the Mavericks are aggressively trying to unload some second-round picks and/or salary-clearing pieces—the $11.8 million trade exception the team has from the Harrison Barnes deal or the expiring contract of Courtney Lee—to fortify the team and its bench.
Two areas of particular need stand out, besides overall depth—guard and center. Doncic has mostly been the Mavs’ point guard, though Dallas would prefer to play him off the ball more. They’ve had options both undersize (Seth Curry, Jalen Brunson) and mediocre (Delon Wright) in that role.
The center spot has shifted between two guys better suited to be backups, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber.
There could be a market for players at either position. Brandon Knight would be a low-risk bargain if he continues to shoot well for the Cavaliers. Or the Mavs could think bigger, pushing a Jeff Teague trade from Minnesota or bigger yet: building a package around Lee’s contract for Toronto star Kyle Lowry.
Big guys, too, should be available. The Mavs could seek to plunder the Knicks yet again, with players like Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis or Taj Gibson in their sights. Another potential fit is Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, but Cleveland is certain to ask for a first-round pick in return. He has an expiring contract, so it would be a risk for the Mavs to give a first-round pick for just a few months of Thompson.
Rumors around the league, too, suggest that two big men who signed with new teams last summer, Derrick Favors of the Pelicans and Thaddeus Young of the Bulls, could be made available if their teams continue their early-season floundering. Young would be easy to pluck from Chicago because he is signed for next season and has only a partial guarantee the following year.
The Bulls are still holding out hope for a turnaround, as are the Pelicans for that matter. So both Favors and Young might not make it to the market. But they’re the kind of steady players Dallas needs to give ballast to the Mavs’ lineups around Doncic.
The Mavs might like to land a star player this season. That’s a longshot, though, with their draft-pick situation. The question is not getting a top name, it’s getting the right role player or two to thrive around Doncic.
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