The Mavericks are sitting pretty at 7-4 with a lighter schedule ahead of them. Jason Kidd and his staff have, to this point, done wonders for the team’s defense, even as the offense continues to find itself ever so slowly. Luka Doncic is back to his MVP-level form, and when actually on the court, Kristaps Porzingis has played reasonably well through 11 games. But it remains clear the Mavericks still just don’t have the horses to really compete for a championship. Here are a few ways Dallas can change that.
Trade Dorian Finney-Smith
Dorian Finney-Smith is a good NBA player. Nothing more. He’s gotten better every year he’s been in the league, and remains among the league’s better defensive wings. But the truth of the matter is, he’s just not good enough. The Mavericks need more out of their small forwards, and in back-to-back postseason appearances against the Clippers, he just couldn’t generate any offense against the Clippers’ wing depth.
Plenty of teams would be happy to add Finney-Smith, and Dallas should think long and hard about trying to sell him before deciding on paying him this coming summer. Dallas should probably stay away from any kind of full mid-level type contract for Finney-Smith, so using him as a chip now combined with the contracts of Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Burke could yield something better.
2. Don’t trade for shooting
Much has been made of the Mavericks’ struggles shooting the ball so far this season. The Mavericks are currently 27th in the league in three-point shooting. That’s going to change. Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Finney-Smith will start hitting their outside shots more consistently with time.
Panicking into some sort of deal for Eric Gordon or Buddy Hield isn’t going to move the needle for a team still in need of ball handlers and rim defending. That’s where Dallas should be focusing their scant resources. Parting with more draft picks or the limited salary-matchers already on the team just to add another outside shooter isn’t necessary for this team at the moment.
3. Trade Kristaps Porzingis…maybe
The difficult reality facing the Mavericks right now is almost any trade involving Kristaps Porzingis is going to require large salaries coming back in return, and unless they’re somehow all expiring contracts, moving the Latvian will provide little to no salary relief. Dallas is already well beyond the cap space game, and is even nearing the tax leaving them with likely just the taxpayer mid-level assuming a lucrative contract is given to Jalen Brunson.
If Dallas can find a team with cap space or large expiring contracts like Cleveland or Oklahoma City, a trade for limited salary and a protected-first rounder could do this team plenty of good. A Porzingis for Ricky Rubio type of move would lift a huge, negative value contract off the books and allow Nico Harrison to begin to shape the roster the way he truly sees fit. So far, the only players on the team he’s had anything to do with are Reggie Bullock, Moses Brown, Sterling Brown, Frank Ntilikina, and the two-way players.
4. Use Jalen Brunson if you absolutely have to
Trading Jalen Brunson would be a huge gut punch. He’s an excellent point guard enjoying the best season of his career. But if Dallas is going to truly make deep playoff runs, a roster overhaul is necessary. Dallas would be getting something pretty exciting in return for Brunson, as opposed to Porzingis, Finney-Smith, or Josh Green. Keep in mind, once Dallas gives Brunson a long term deal, the team’s already limited flexibility almost entirely goes out the window. Minimum contracts, limited draft capital, and parts of mid-levels are essentially the only avenues remaining as they are too close to the apron to perform sign-and-trades.