Certainly, things have not gone as planned in Dallas. The Mavericks entered the NBA season coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals following an upset win over the Suns in the postseason’s second round. They’d won 52 games last year and were primed for a good follow-up season, trading for sixth man Christian Wood and adding former champion big man JaVale McGee in free agency.
The Mavs stood fourth in the Western Conference in early February when the team decided to put all its chips into the middle of the table—the Mavs traded for Nets star Kyrie Irving, sending out key defensive role player Dorian Finney-Smith and well-liked guard Spencer Dinwiddie, plus a 2029 first-round draft pick, for Irving. Second-rounders in 2027 and 2029 were also included.
Dallas was 31-26 on February 11 when, for the first time, Irving and Mavs star Luka Doncic took the floor together. The Mavs lost to the Kings in overtime, and little has gone right since. Dallas has lost 17 of 24 games, and has had just one winning streak of two games in the past two months.
To top it off, the NBA is investigating the Mavericks for needlessly resting players in the midst of a playoff hunt, a blatant attempt by the team to secure a spot in the NBA’s draft lottery and a chance, however slim, at projected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama. The Mavs could be penalized if found guilty, and they have only one second-rounder available (2025) between now and 2029.
“It is a mess,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “The hope there is that it is rock bottom and will only go up from here.”
Don’t Look for Doncic Trade Request (Yet)
The big question for Dallas is what all this will mean for Doncic, the star wing whose time in Dallas has yet to produce much postseason success. The Mavs have two first-round exits, last year’s conference finals and this year’s total flop to show for Doncic’s first four seasons.
Doncic, according to sources, has not been very active in the Mavericks’ decision-making process—and has no desire to change that. But around the league, teams are watching for the moment when Doncic gets fed up with the Mavs.
“It is more just wishing than reality,” one Eastern Conference GM told Heavy Sports. “But there is definitely a thought process of this happening eventually, and it being a matter of when and not if. But the truth is, we were saying that about Giannis, too, and that certainly changed. Bradley Beal, guys like that—there is no reason to think that Luka is bolting for the door. Not yet, at least.”
Doncic’s Contract: Signed Through 2027
There is the reality, too, that Doncic has a contract that will pay him $215 million over five years, and gives him very little leverage in seeking a trade from Dallas.
“The Mavericks are not going there, and everyone knows it,” a Western Conference executive told Heavy. “There is just no way. The only way he can force a trade is to sit out like Ben Simmons did and anyone who knows anything about Luka knows he is not going to do that. There’s just no way.
“Anyone saying they’re going to trade him isn’t looking at the facts, or it is wishful thinking. Why trade him? You have him signed through 2027. This is not an issue until 2025 or 2026. That’s just the reality, the way the CBA is set up. He has not been in town long enough to start asking out.”
But no doubt, the clock is ticking in Dallas. The team will have to make a choice on the tenure of coach Jason Kidd, as well as what to do with Irving, who is a free agent this summer. The expectation around the NBA is that both will be back in Dallas, though on relatively short leashes.
Dallas’ short-term future with Doncic is secure, but the long-term future starts now.
“(The Mavericks) have a few more years and they gotta get their s*** together,” the exec said. “That’s the bottom line.”