The Mavericks are entering arguably the most consequential offseason in years, as this will be the final year before they sign Luka Dončić to an absurdly-high supermax deal. The Mavericks absolutely have to get this summer right, and to best position themselves for the coming season and beyond, they should follow the following blueprint:
Step one: Trade veterans to teams for cap space
The Mavericks are going to have to make two difficult trades in order to free up some cap room to improve this roster. The team was clearly short on shot creators a season ago, and in the playoffs against the Clippers, they were utterly helpless with Dončić off the floor. In order to get some better pieces around him, Dallas needs to make this first trade with the pick-hoarding Oklahoma City Thunder:
Thunder get: Dwight Powell, Tyrell Terry, ’25 first-round pick swap
Mavs get: 2024 2nd-round pick
The Thunder have made it clear they are willing to take on bad salary in order to accumulate all the draft picks the man above has ever created, but Dallas has to be careful with this given their Stepien issues. They traded two firsts to the Knicks as part of the deal for Kristaps Porzingis, and as such are already quite limited when it comes to maneuvering around with picks.
So, instead, Dallas can send a swap the Thunder’s way, and split the difference by throwing in Tyrell Terry, a young prospect for the Thunder to look at. Dallas can get a second rounder out of this deal, and from there, create a significant trade exception that can be used during the season.
Pistons get: Dorian Finney-Smith, Trey Burke, Willie Cauley-Stein
Mavs get: ’23 2nd-round pick, cash considerations
This is the tougher of the two trades to make. Dorian Finney-Smith has come such a long way after joining the team as an undrafted free agent, and has become a serviceable small forward in this league. The problem with the fan favorite, is he simply isn’t good enough on either end. He’s never going to be enough of a scorer to attract any kind of defensive attention, and while he’s made strides as a shooter, he can be a bit of a liability on that end of the floor apart from his offensive rebounding.
For the Pistons, they can simply bring in two experimental players in Cauley-Stein and Finney-Smith, who are both on expiring deals. The Mavericks would have to pick up the center’s option to bring him back under contract first. Dallas can also get off of Trey Burke’s contract, who after a dazzling display in the bubble a season ago, had a nightmarish campaign fresh off signing a three-year deal to remain in Dallas.
Between these two trades, Dallas adds a couple of picks, clears some money from their books, and picks up some dough to play with in the draft. That shouldn’t be entirely ignored, as cash has been used as a chip during draft day trade negotiations in the past in Dallas, which is big for a team still combatting Stepien problems. The Mavericks would also create two decent-sized trade exceptions as they didn’t take back any players in either deal.
Step two: Sign Mitchell Robinson to 4 yr/ $47.3 million deal using cap space
If you have paid any attention to the Mavericks the last couple of seasons, it is overwhelmingly clear that a center is desperately needed, to be Canadian-level polite. Even though Porzingis’s shortcomings defensively on the perimeter were widely discussed, he was equally disappointing protecting the rim for Dallas and finishing off possessions with defensive rebounds. Enter Mitchell Robinson.
Robinson has been completely forgotten about. He is still one of the most exciting young players in his conference, and the Knicks appear to be a bit more married to the idea of bringing Nerlens Noel back rather than Robinson, who will be a free agent as a result. Robinson is still just 23 years old, and averages over two blocks a game for his career.
Dallas would be gambling a bit here, as he has a history of injuries that have without question dampened his value. But in order to pry him away from Madison Square Garden and other size-hungry hunters, Dallas is going to have to cough up some change to poach him. A four-year deal starting at $11 million per year should get it done.
Step three: Sign Lonzo Ball to 4 yr/ $94.6 million deal using cap space
Mark Cuban will have to write his biggest check to Lonzo Ball in this model. The 23-year-old point guard is a restricted free agent this summer, and is far and away the best fit out there in the entire market for the Mavericks. He is a strong defender with a big wingspan, and can shoot surprisingly well. For a player who has what’s known to be a broken shot, most people are shocked to learn he shot just under 38% from three last season, only barely behind Tim Hardaway Jr.
Ball has gotten better each year he’s been in the league, and could make quantum leaps under Jason Kidd. Kidd, Luka Dončić, Jalen Brunson, and a highly-respected player development staff is a match made in heaven for the rapidly ascending Ball, who, because of his tantalizing potential, will be a stiff price for the Mavericks to pay. The Pelicans can match whatever offer he gets, meaning Dallas might also have to throw a player option onto the last year of a deal starting at $22 million.
Step four: Sign Evan Fournier to 3 yr/ $50.4 million deal using cap space
This is the riskiest signing of the bunch. With all this cap space, the Mavericks absolutely had to add a small forward who doesn’t command too much of the ball. The Celtics’ move to offload Kemba Walker could help them re-sign Fournier, but committing a third major contract to a wing seems like bad business for a team without a starting point guard.
Dallas may not love having this one on the books after next season, even if the Frenchman enjoys a solid season. But he’s made every team he’s played for better, and could be penciled in right away as a day-one starter at the small forward position. He’s not the athlete or scorer that Hardaway Jr. is, but he’s a better defender and just as pure a shooter. He’s also a year younger. The deeper into his contract the team gets, the more powerful he could become as a salary-matcher in a future trade. The Mavericks should probably steer clear of anything longer than three years, however.
Step Five: Sign Georges Niang to 3 yr/$16.55 million deal using cap space
The Mavs’ remaining cap space in this model is similar to the room exception, but they cannot be combined, of course. Dallas has just Porzingis and Maxi Kleber at the power forward position, leaving them with just Kleber when Porzingis inevitably misses large chunks of the season. They also have just Robinson at center currently. Georges Niang is an excellent depth option for the Mavericks.
Niang developed into a standout defender under Quin Snyder, and got used to playing with a ball dominant guard like Donovan Mitchell. He carved out plenty of good looks for himself from beyond the three point line, and similarly to Kleber, is very switchable on the perimeter. Dallas would love to have this guy in their stable next to Fournier, who could form a healthy group of switchable wings. It is worth noting that Niang did not play well at all in the playoffs, but the Mavericks are just going to have to stomach that. Torrey Craig, Maurice Harkless and others are simply too pricey to bring in with the remaining cap space the Mavericks have.
Step six: Sign Goran Dragic to 2 yr/ $10 million deal using room exception
With their cap space exhausted from signing Robinson, Ball, Fournier, and Niang, the Mavericks are left with the room and minimum salary exceptions. Goran Dragic is nearing the end, and the Miami Heat are likely going big-game hunting either this year or the next. Phoenix is a spot to watch for the Slovenian provided Cameron Payne finds a big payday elsewhere, but Dragic shouldn’t be nearly as expensive as he was the last few years.
In Dallas, he can come off the bench and reunite with his international teammate, Dončić. He can also rejoin forces with new assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, who coached him in international play. The Mavericks need every offensive piece they can find, and adding a capable point guard to their rotation on the room exception is a win for a team that was starving for offense in the playoffs a year ago. Lonzo Ball, Dragic, and Jalen Brunson is a nasty stable of point guards to ease the ball handling burdens on Dončić.
Step seven: Sign Boban Marjanovic, Nate Hinton, Wayne Ellington, and Tony Snell to minimum contracts
To fill out the rest of the roster, the Mavericks need to bring in a mix of veterans and youth. Nate Hinton should be brought back not just because of his infectious energy and positivity on the bench, but because the Mavericks are not going to be getting much mileage out of the draft anytime soon, and need all the young talent they can find as trade chips and rotation pieces. Boban Marjanovic is a peacekeeper, and can still provide effective minutes in short spurts. To get some depth, Tony Snell can be an emergency wing.
Wayne Ellington is still shooting over 40% from range, and played over 20 minutes a game for the Pistons a year ago. Dallas should reunite with the shooting guard who can replace J.J. Redick in the rotation.
To take stock of the team with this scenario fully unfolded, here’s what the depth chart looks like:
PG: Lonzo Ball–Goran Dragic–Jalen Brunson
SG: Luka Dončić–Wayne Ellington–Nate Hinton
SF: Evan Fournier–Tony Snell–Josh Green–Tyler Bey
PF: Kristaps Porzingis–Maxi Kleber–Georges Niang
C: Mitchell Robinson–Boban Marjanovic
This Mavericks team would have to do some maneuvering to remain below the apron in the future, so they can stay in the sign-and-trade game. But the good news is, this group has lots of room to grow. Ball and Robinson will only continue to get better, and Porzingis simply cannot get much worse than he was at the end of the season. A pair of trade exceptions and a few second rounders tossed in could be a sneaky tool for the Mavericks to add to this team and continue to be a threat in the Western Conference.