The Dallas Mavericks face an uncertain summer and the possibility of jeopardizing Luka Doncic’s faith in the franchise, almost two months after the team tanked in the final weeks of the 2022-23 season and missed the playoffs a season removed from reaching the Western Conference finals.
Suggesting that Doncic is a player who needs a fresh start, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes offered up a nuclear option that would wipe the slate clean for Dallas: trading Doncic to the San Antonio Spurs for the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft, 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama of France.
“Partly because this would be the most seismic trade in league history, but also because the Dallas Mavericks have given Luka Dončić no reason to believe they’ll surround him with enough talent to contend,” Hughes wrote, justifying the “why” behind such a trade offer.
Doncic, 24, is entering the second season of a five-year contract worth $215 million and is due $178 million of that over the next four years — and a 15% trade kicker would raise his salary cap figure even higher. Wembanyama, on the other hand, would be on a rookie-scale deal making a fraction of that salary.
The Mavericks’ immediate future is unclear because Doncic’s costar, Kyrie Irving, has not signaled his intent to re-sign with Dallas or leave as a free agent.
“I’m a free agent this summer, but I am in no rush to make a decision,” Irving said May 24 in an Instagram Story. “The speculation around my name from all these individuals that get on TV and have these personalities. … When they speak on my name and they’re talking about potential teams that I’m going to … Respectfully, I’m asking you to please stop paying attention to that. I am in no rush to make a decision.”
Dallas has the No. 10 overall pick in the June 22 draft.
‘Too Early’ for Mavericks to Move on From Luka Doncic
Ultimately, Hughes wrote, the deal probably wasn’t viable for either side because Wembanyama “might not be tradeable under any circumstances” but also because it may be too soon for the Mavericks to give up on Doncic as their leader.
“It also seems a little early for Dallas to move on from Dončić if he hasn’t already communicated a desire to leave,” Hughes wrote. “Still if you’re concocting a swap involving one generational talent, the only way to make it plausible is to include another.”
Doncic, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, has led Dallas to a 14-16 postseason record starting with the Disney World bubble in 2020. While the franchise swung for the fences at the 2023 trade deadline in trading for Irving and missed the postseason, there have been bright spots with Doncic leading the charge in recent seasons.
‘Strongest Case’ for Mavs to Trade for Victor Wembanyama
The Smoking Cuban’s Tyler Watts, responding to the May 22 Bleacher Report opinion piece, wrote that there was a case to be made regarding the viability of Dallas dealing away Doncic for Wembanyama. Watts pointed to Doncic’s skills as a defender as justification for replacing him with Wembanyama as the team’s No. 1 option.
“The strongest case for taking the soon-to-be rookie is his defense,” Watts wrote in his May 23 story. “He averaged 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 32.1 minutes per game this season playing in France. Wembanyama could become an elite shot blocker, rim protector and scorer. Doncic struggles on the defensive end of the floor, despite being arguably the best offensive creator in the league.”
Doncic was responsible for 2,138 points for the Mavericks this season, somewhat offsetting his defensive deficiencies. The 24-year-old will never be confused for an All-NBA defender, and he’s even admitted he’s too tired to play defense at times.
Still, Doncic has been a one-man system for the Mavericks since being drafted, making a departure potentially unraveling for the Lone Star franchise.