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Keeping Luka Happy

The Dallas Mavericks are 15-16 currently sitting 10th in the Western Conference. Behind them are Golden State, the Lakers, and OKC who are all feisty teams. At least two of those franchises will add major firepower back in the next few weeks in Curry and AD and are certainly trying to win this year. OKC might have to bench Shai Gilgeous-Alexander if they want to stay in the lottery. It’s a precarious position for the Mavs to be in while trying to prove to Luka Doncic Dallas is the place to be long-term. Doncic is signed for the next 5 seasons but has a player option after year four in 2026. That sounds like a long time but we’ve seen players start requesting out two years in advance and pressuring the organization. That would give the Mavs essentially a two-year window to prove the direction of the franchise.

The Mavs are projected to finish 7th currently in the West this season. Even in that Rosy scenario is Doncic is going to feel the franchise is trending in the right direction when he looks around? Much like the Cleveland Cavalier’s unexpected run into the finals in 2007, Dallas making the Conference Finals unexpectedly has somewhat skewed the expectation. Anytime you do something more quickly than expected it raises the expectation bar. Now anything less than a 2nd round appearance will probably seem like a significant step back. There are a lot of parallels to the young LeBron James Cavs. Those Cavs tried their best to put a decent 2nd option around LeBron but about the best they could muster were Larry Hughes, Antwan Jamison, and Mo Williams.

The Mavs lost a marginal 2nd option last year for nothing in Jalen Brunson. Much has been made about not extending Brunson when they had the opportunity at a much lower price or not matching what New York paid. Honestly, I think it’s a little blown, and they should have certainly met his extension demands, but he’s probably more Mo Williams-like than Kyrie was for LeBron. I do think he would have helped Luka win a few more games, but I don’t think Brunson is keeping him in Dallas long-term. They were already going to need more.

Christian Wood

I thought Christian Wood was a great get from Houston over the summer. The Rockets essentially gave him to Dallas for nothing so it’s obvious he had little value around the league. I get that but stay with me for a minute. There is really nothing else on the entire roster that offers any upside. Every other rotation player other than Josh Green is 29+ years old. At least with Wood he’s a little younger having just turned 27.

Dallas should be starting Christian Wood and playing him a lot more. If for no other reason than to build Wood’s value up, so you can try to trade him would be smart in and of itself. Wood is the closest thing to an actual 2nd option “young” prospect that might command some value the Mavs can even try to sell.

I think Wood has been pretty good this season but if Jason Kidd isn’t going to start him or play him for 27 minutes a game it’s not going to matter. When you don’t play him you tell the rest of the league he has no value even if most might believe that anyway. Dallas confirms it every night they start Dwight Powell or 35-year-old JaVale McGee Wood’s per 36 minutes stats are 23ppg and 11rpg, at least there is some chance someone would bite on that with a 14-million-dollar expiring contract. Hell, it’s exactly what Dallas needs to try to cultivate. A young-ish player with some actual pop. Everyone else on the roster is an aging role player.

What do they honestly have to lose? They start Powell and Wood has a better defensive rating and rebounds at a rate a third better. He should just be playing 9 more of Powell or McGee’s minutes. I get that Wood is pretty poor in the defensive stats, and some of the on-off stuff is around 100+, so what. Powell and McGee are worse. The bottom line is they are going to have to get better, and finding players no one wants like Christian Wood is going to be part of that. I think the Mavs could do a lot worse and are at that position.

So How Do They Move Forward

Christian Wood and Dwight Powell are also pretty much the only significant player that won’t be under contract next season. It’s beyond clear they need to make a trade for someone that can be that 2nd star. A real one, not just a Jalen Brunson-level player. They will have low-end picks after this season, but I’m not really seeing the way they make a deal like that. They are going to be over the cap, so it’s going to have to come from trade. To be honest, I don’t believe there is a great answer or an obvious player that fits their needs that is gettable at this point. The only other option is for one of the couple of young players like Josh Green or Jaden Harden to emerge which is unlikely, certainly in the next 2 years. That really only leaves finding projects like Wood.

Trade Ideas

I think the play is to wait and see who becomes available. Of the realistic names that are reportedly available currently, I would kick the tires on John Collins. Collins isn’t playing well at all, in fact, he’s easily having one of the worst season of his 6 years career. Now is the exact time I think you try to buy low. He’s realistically the best young player a team could get for cheap.

He’s 25 years old, basically only a year older than Doncic. He’s expensive, but that means Atlanta would probably not mind moving him for very little. This is a young player I know is capable of a 23ppg, 10rpg, 24 PER season, because he’s done it before. I think you just have to take the money on and hope he returns to the kind of form.

Ideally, I think it would be great if Dallas could get off of Bertans or Hardaway’s contracts, but that would likely take another pick. I believe if the Mavs were to structure a trade around Powell’s expiring and Reggie Bullocks partially guaranteed 2nd year that those would be much more desirable player parts. That works in the trade machine, and I’d do that trade for the 2025 1st round pick. Atlanta is probably looking for a player that can help them win now we’ll, so the trade is unlikely to work unless they really just believe this is the new Collins and just want off the next 4 years at 25 million a year. I could see a scenario where they trade him for a deal around Christian Wood’s expiring and a smaller contract as well.


That’s kind of what you are looking at ,at this moment. I think this exercise proves it’s going to be hard to get much of anything better than they currently have around Doncic. It would probably take at least 3 of their first to get another real All Star level player with what they have to offer, and there isn’t one of those available right now.

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