For all of the Dallas Mavericks‘ highs this season (and there have been many), there’s one low that’s persisted for much of the season: playmaking. Though Luka Doncic has been in MVP form all season, his teammates have largely existed between streaky and completely unreliable.
As a result, Doncic’s usage rate is reaching Westbrookian levels. Put simply, the Mavericks’ chances rise and fall on the health of its superstar.
But in a trade proposed by Dan Favale of Bleacher Report, the Mavericks land some playmaking help for Doncic in the form of Minnesota Timberwolves point guard D’Angelo Russell. Here’s what Favale worked out for Dallas:
Dallas Mavericks Receive: D’Angelo Russell
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Powell, 2027 second-round pick
Per Favale, Hardaway, Jr. is the most likely Maverick to be traded ahead of the deadline in a week and a half. But by replacing Hardaway, Jr. for the former No. 2 pick in Russell, the Mavericks land another playmaking force.
“Russell’s shot-making and pick-and-roll orchestration exponentially alleviates the pressure on Luke Dončić and Spencer Dinwiddie,” Favale wrote.
Mavericks Starved for Playmaking Help
It’s hard to believe the Mavericks need more playmaking, given Doncic’s individual greatness. After all, the Slovenian superstar’s 8.3 assists per game ranks fourth-best in the league this season.
As a result, if Doncic received any help from his teammates, the Mavericks would be cooking.
Unfortunately, the next-closest assist-leader in Dallas is Spencer Dinwiddie, whose 5.3 assists per game is certainly helpful. And after that? A massive dropoff — Christian Wood, a center, is logging the next-highest tally at 1.7 assists per game.
In short, the Mavericks rank dead-last in the league in assists per game at 22.0.
Maybe the argument is that Doncic’s playmaking is soaking up opportunities for other players. Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold muster. Nikola Jokic and Tyrese Haliburton, both of whom rank ahead of Doncic in assists per game, belong to teams that rank in the top-ten in assists per game.
At the very least, Russell can operate as a creator in Dallas. He averaged 6.7 assists per game over the last two seasons, which would immediately be the second-best in Dallas. He wouldn’t do much to improve Dallas’ defense, which also needs significant work, but if Dallas does indeed value additional playmaking, they could do worse than Russell.
Mavericks Eyeing All-Star Marriage With Doncic?
Russell is one of the myriad roster upgrades linked to the Mavericks ahead of the trade deadline. Another of those upgrades Dallas is interested in is Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, per Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.
“Either the Raptors and VanVleet will extend their marriage, or the team will look to get value for him in a trade before the deadline. If it’s the latter, several playoff contenders (at least teams that consider themselves playoff contenders) would have interest, such as the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. So, too, would the Orlando Magic, per multiple NBA sources,” Pincus wrote.
In VanVleet, the Mavericks would be getting a legitimate All-Star running mate for Luka Doncic. His shooting is down this season (53% true shooting rate), but he’s just a season removed from connecting on 37% of his nearly 10 threes per game.