Teams face more pressure than ever to build a competitive team around a franchise cornerstone. That’s especially true of the Dallas Mavericks, who have a transcendent NBA talent in Luka Doncic.
A high-end player might be locked down to a long-term deal, but if they start feeling the franchise has no way to build a winner now, it’s only inevitable that their eyes resemble that of a Too Hot Too Handle contest. That is, to say, those eyes wander.
And according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Mavericks’ time to build a winner around Doncic is quickly running out.
“I think [the Mavericks] have a two-year window,” McMahon said on the Hoop Collective podcast this week. “This season and next season going into that  summer. I think they have a two-year window where, you know, like Milwaukee did with Giannis [Antetokounmpo], I think in that window they really need to convince Luka that he has a chance to contend year in and year out right here in Dallas. If they can’t get it done in that two-year window, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s going to force a trade or ask for a trade. I’m just saying at that point if he’s not happy, he has all the leverage in the world if he would be looking to leave.
The Mavericks’ Have Yet to Find the Right Fit for Doncic
The best way to keep your superstar centerpiece happy? Pair him with another All-Star co-star. Unfortunately, the Mavericks have largely failed in that regard.
Don’t get it twisted, Doncic has played with former All-Stars. There was the grizzled Dirk Nowitzki, who played his final season in Dallas the same year as Doncic’s rookie season. And then there was DeAndre Jordan, who would then play on with five more teams over the next six seasons after joining the Mavericks for 50 games in 2018.
Former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis was fun on paper. Unfortunately, paper is also what the ligaments in his knees and ankles were composed of. After getting shipped off to the Washington Wizards, Porzingis admitted he wasn’t the answer along with Doncic.
“Luka is a generational talent. You have to put the perfect team around him to try to get the maximum out of him, you know?” Porzingis said. “I just wasn’t the right guy.”
The Mavs’ latest foray into the All-Star partnership with Doncic is . . . Kemba Walker! Walker, an All-Star last in 2019, struggles from the same issue as Porzingis: bad injury history. Suffice it to say, he’s not the answer either, in Dallas.
All-Stars don’t grow on trees, but it’s mildly concerning to watch the Mavericks’ front office fail time and time again to build an exciting team around Doncic.
Doncic Won’t ‘Look for Reasons to Leave’
One potential note of promise from MacMahon: everything is in Dallas’ court.
“I don’t think Luka will look for reasons to leave. I think he’d be perfectly happy spending his entire career in Dallas. But if he doesn’t have to look for reasons and they’re slamming him in the face, then that’s a problem.”
If that’s the good news, the bad news was swiftly also conveyed by MacMahon: the Mavs are mightily hamstrung in its options this season.
“I would not hold your breath for them being able to solve their number one concern this year simply because of the pick they still owe on the [Kristaps Porzingis] thing,” added MacMahon. “It’s very hard to do.”