The Dallas Mavericks are coming off their best season in over a decade, reaching the Western Conference finals and establishing themselves as a true force in the Western Conference. Fresh off their trade with the Houston Rockets netting them Christian Wood, here are the next steps for Dallas to take.
Step one: Don’t fool around with Brunson
——Mavericks and Jalen Brunson agree to 4 yr/103,040,000 deal fully guaranteed with fourth-year player option
2023-2024: $24,840,000 (8%)
2024-2025: $26,680,000 (8%)
2025-2026: $28,520,000 (8%)
There have been understandable questions about how much headroom Dallas realistically has if they run back this exact roster, only more expensive. But in this instance, Dallas doesn’t really have a better course of action. Jalen Brunson has enjoyed his finest season as a pro, and a scorching-hot playoff run that included a 41-point masterpiece in game two of the Utah series.
Brunson has proven he can be the second ball handler next to Luka Doncic they’ve been searching for since he came into the league. The arrival of Spencer Dinwiddie hasn’t seemed to slow Brunson down for one second, and as such, it just makes sense for Dallas to bring back an excellent player entering the prime of his career rather than pursue any other option. Furthermore, any sign-and-trade possibilities are pretty much off the table for Dallas as they are barely under the apron to begin with, and wouldn’t be able to sign Brunson under the hard cap upon the completion of a trade that doesn’t involve him either.
Step two: Get bigger and deeper
—-Wizards get: Dwight Powell, Josh Green, future second-round pick
—-Mavericks get: Daniel Gafford, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
On the surface, this is going to look like a one-sided trade in favor of the Mavericks but Daniel Gafford doesn’t fit next to Kristaps Porzingis. Also, next season will see his lucrative 3 yr/$40+ million extension kick in. Gafford gives the Mavericks the size and length they still don’t really have even after the deal for Christian Wood. His 1.4 blocks per game are everything the Mavericks need on the interior.
While Gafford would help, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is about as good a fit on this Mavs team as you can possibly find. He’s a long wing, who is an excellent three-point shooter and can put the ball on the floor better than both Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock. While parting ways with yet another draft choice and the only young asset on the team is mortgaging even more of the future, Dallas is getting awfully close to a championship roster at the conclusion of this trade.
Step three: Add more scoring
—-Mavericks and T.J. Warren agree to one yr/$6,339,000 deal fully guaranteed using TP-MLE
The Mavericks rode their two best wing defenders, Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock into the ground in the playoffs, as Nico Harrison put it. Even if T.J. Warren’s best value doesn’t come on the defensive end, Dallas simply needs the scoring help. Between Doncic, Brunson, and Spencer Dinwiddie, Dallas has an abundance of ball handlers to play with, but what they have absolutely no part of is a wing scorer. Warren has to prove he can stay healthy, hence the one-year commitment here. Warren can be the Vince Carter-type safety valve from years ago the Mavericks just didn’t have last year. Much has been made, correctly, about the team’s need for rebounding help. But Dallas has to be thinking long and hard about improving from 24th in the league in points per game.
Step four: Fill out roster
—-Mavericks and Hassan Whiteside agree to one yr/$1,796,668 deal using veteran’s minimum exception
—-Guarantee Frank Ntilikina’s contract
—-Mavericks and Goran Dragic agree to one yr/$1,796,668 deal using veteran’s minimum exception
Even after adding Wood and Gafford, the Mavericks still need a center who can simply park himself in the paint and block shots. Hassan Whiteside, if nothing else, can still provide that for this team. Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber aren’t going to provide this off the bench. Dallas has to find a way to be able to match up with whoever they need to in a playoff series. Dallas now has switchable bigs between Kleber and Wood, and shot blockers in Gafford and Whiteside.
Frank Ntilikina also gave Dallas some really good minutes last year. He’s always been known as an excellent defensive player, but looked pretty comfortable offensively as well. Albeit in limited attempts, he shot 34 percent from range this past year, and a just-good enough 30 percent in the playoffs. He should get some more playing time next year as a reserve guard who can be serviceable at both ends.
Finally, the Mavericks actually now have a reason to sign Goran Dragic. While it’s always felt like he should be a Maverick, there just hasn’t been much of a basketball reason to do this until now. With Trey Burke gone and Luka’s best buddy(Boban) also being traded to Houston, Dallas can replace both of those losses with Dragic. He’s a longtime-Luka mentor and can actually contribute on the floor in ways Burke hasn’t since the bubble. The main concern from here, is the absolutely astronomic tax bill after these moves that comes out to over $147 million.
One way Dallas can shed that is by trading Maxi Kleber at the deadline. Tax bills aren’t due until after the season, so trading Kleber into a trade exception would save over $45 million. Dallas could get a desperately needed second-round pick or two and create another trade exception in the process. Of course, this move is only made with the assumption Mark Cuban does not want to pay a tax bill that reaches nearly $150 million. This would also open up a buyout spot on the roster, whether it be for a veteran free agent, or for converting a second-round buyout player into a standard contract.
Current depth chart
PG: Luka Doncic–Spencer Dinwiddie–Goran Dragic–Frank Ntilikina
SG: Jalen Brunson–Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope–Reggie Bullock–T.J. Warren
PF: Dorian Finney-Smith–Maxi Kleber–Davis Bertans
C: Christian Wood–Daniel Gafford–Hassan Whiteside