With Luka Dončić, the Dallas Mavericks’ title window is wide open

With Luka Dončić at the peak of his powers and a Western Conference Finals appearance in the books, the Dallas Mavericks need to take a swing this offseason.

After making the Western Conference Finals, it's clear that Luka Dončić has what it takes to pull a team into title contention, it's now up to the Dallas Mavericks to surround him with the right talent (Sean Carroll illustration)


I need to top-end this article by mentioning the historic trajectory that Luka Dončić is on. I must also request that we detach his name and career from Trae Young’s.

Okay, Luka and Trae got traded for each other on draft night, that’s cool, but by god, there are levels between their basketballing ability. Trae is a perennial All-Star, he will have double-digit appearances by the time his career is over. Luka isn’t defined by All-Star selections.

Do you know how fucking good you have to be at basketball for Michael fucking Jordan to fucking act like that towards you?

Like, MJ, one of the most hardened, competitive, unwilling to give an inch people of all time, focussed his career on making other people lose, maintaining a gulf between the rest of the league and his team through the 90s is running up to a kid on his rookie deal like that.

That’s how good Luka Dončić is, he has MJ looking like he’s hugging his crush for the first time.

Now that all that’s done we can move on to the Mavs’ offseason.

The first decision that needs to be made is if you want to run with two or three point guards. Dončić and Spencer Dinwiddie are under contract and after the playoffs Dinwiddie just had, they would have the best point guard rotation in the league. If they were to move on from Dinwiddie and re-sign (not resign) Jalen Brunson, they would have the best PG rotation in the league by far. If you want all three, then go hell for leather, but do note how far it got you this season.

Outside of your guard rotation, there isn’t much trade value to buff up the roster elsewhere, which is why I suggest going with a PG rotation of Dončić and Dinwiddie and signing and trading Jalen Brunson. Although Brunson isn’t a restricted free agent, they do have bird rights on him.

Before I move on to my trade scenario, I would like to mention that sign-and-trades are usually inequitable.

A double sign-and-trade that sends Brunson to the Phoenix Suns on $22.5 million a year, alongside Maxi Kleber (one year, $9.2m), and Deandre Ayton to the Mavs on roughly $30 million per year fits under salary cap rules.

This would give the Suns the option to play a rim running rim protector in JaVale McGee, or a floor spacer with the incoming Maxi. It also covers up any issues with the backup point guard minutes and then some, and also the Suns never have to pay Ayton, for whatever reason.

In Brunson, the Suns would have the tertiary playmaker they sorely needed in the playoffs, as well as 22.2 points per night in the 2022 playoffs which would nuzzle betwixt Devin Booker and Chris Paul quite comfortably.

The Mavs get a former number one overall pick in a guy so good he got drafted over… WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT, LUKA DONČIĆ. Ayton would fill the centre position much better than Dwight Powell or Kleber and his offensive arsenal isn’t replicated anywhere on the Mavs' current roster. It would give Luka so many more passing options, and as teams would help on a Dončić-Ayton pick-and-roll, those three-point shooters would be even more open. As for his defensive upgrade, I mean, do we even need to talk about that?

This is operating under the assumption that the Suns don’t want to extend Ayton, but the Suns haven’t extended Ayton which would lead one to assume that the Suns don’t want to extend Ayton.

Moving into the 2022-23 season, Dončić, Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock are safe. Retaining those four players keeps the Mavericks' offseason priority simple; bring in a centre for their closing five. If it can’t be Ayton or any other centre they can acquire in a trade, the 2022 free agent market boasts names such as Mitchell Robinson and Jusuf Nurkic. It also has many handy vets that could be great one year rentals in Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez and Tristan Thompson.

As for everyone they don’t retain?

Sell high, buy low baby! That’s what I’ve been saying for years now, wahoo, yeah! Sure, I lost a lot of money, but it’s about the mantra and being a part of the community for me. Yes, I won’t ever be able to send a kid to high school, heck, I won’t even be able to afford the hospital fees associated with pregnancy after how much money I lost, but I sure will be able to give other people advice I wish I was able to apply.

Anyway.

A lot of players have benefitted from playing alongside Mr. Dončić and within a Mavs offensive system that leads to players’ valuations being a little misleading. This is the part of the article where I would like to bring everyone’s attention to Washington Wizards legend; Dāvis Bertāns.

He was the beneficiary of a phenomenal Spurs system and then had a tremendous three-point shooting season in the nation’s capital, but my god, did it go downhill from there. His contract is now unanimously considered an overpay, all from being the beneficiary of a good system that boosted his value. There was a point in time where he was worth that money and now he’s not.

It’s unlikely that the role players the Mavs have will replicate their production in a different system for two reasons. The first sucks; it’s because Jason Kidd is a really good coach, like, really, really good. He’s an absolute scumbag piece of shit, but he’s like so, so good at coaching, both offensively and defensively.

The second is far more palatable and much more important (fuck you Kidd); no other team in the league has Luka Dončić.

Now sure, there are historic playmakers in the league right now, like Nikola Jokic, LeBron James and CP3, but none of them play the game like Luka. The Mavs role players will have to adjust their tendencies and rhythm when catching and shooting from the perimeter if they are to be traded into a new situation and system.

Yes, they have a chemistry that will be a value loss to the Mavs, but it will not be a value add of the same magnitude to their new teams. Chemistry is not transferable; it must be built.

Sorry, didn’t mean to get so romantic, I’m just lonely.

I don’t think it’s too early to swing for a ring in Dallas. Luka has proven that his championship window is open and that thingy you turn to adjust it is jammed so you can’t close it. It will never be a bad idea to put really good basketball players around Luka Dončić, so why wait?

Lukas Petridis

Lukas Petridis is one half of The JVG NBA Tribute Show and long-time contributor to The Deep Two. He can occasionally be found as a guest on episodes of The Deep Two NBA Podcast and putting up shots at the immortal Cheese Bridge in Melbourne.


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