Luka Dončić is Not Interested in Recruiting – and That is a Good Thing

Throughout his young career, Mavericks’ superstar guard Luka Dončić has drawn many comparisons to Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, however, one aspect of Doncic’s career won’t parallel that of the four-time champion.

MacMahon reported on “The Hoop Collective” that Dončić has not “shown the desire to be a recruiter” and that, while the Mavericks’ front office seeks his input, Doncic is not “heavily involved in personnel decisions.”

To many Mavericks fans, this was disappointing news. The Mavericks have tried to land superstar-level talent for years, repeatedly falling short in acquiring the missing piece.

Dallas as a Free Agent Destination

Dallas, on paper, is a great free agency destination. It has had one of the best owners in sports. Dallas is a top media market. It has had a great nose for hiring talented head coaches. It has had two superstar-level talents. Dallas, all things considered, has been one of the most successful NBA franchises in almost all areas over the last two decades.

Except in free agency.

Thus, it is reasonable for many Mavericks fans to be disgruntled over Dončić’s disinterest in recruiting. Many NBA teams have been built on player relationships, and the departure of former Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks this offseason shows the power that close relationships have on players’ free agency decisions. Yet, three reasons exist as to why it is better if Dončić sticks to his on-court responsibilities.

Player-Built Teams Have not Been Successful

One of the notable player-constructed teams, the “Big Three” Miami Heat — built on the relationship between James, superstar guard Dwyane Wade, and all-star center Chris Bosh — won two titles in four years. Miami’s success encouraged the league-wide adoption of player-constructed teams.

This success, however, was not so easily replicated.

The 2012-2013 Lakers utilized Kobe Bryant’s relationships to recruit hall-of-fame guard Steve Nash and all-NBA center Dwight Howard. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs. Howard left in free agency, and Nash retired after the following season.

More recent examples show this same trend.

Before the 2019-2020 season, James utilized his relationship with all-NBA forward Anthony Davis to bring him from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Lakers. While this duo won a title that season, they lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2021 and missed the playoffs entirely this past season (thanks in part to another James recruit, guard Russell Westbrook).

To seemingly match James’ move to acquire Davis, Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Kawhi Leonard leveraged his relationship with then-Thunder guard Paul George to bring him home to Los Angeles in a blockbuster trade in the same season. The Clippers missed the playoffs last season due to injuries and have yet to make it past the Western Conference Finals.

That same season, forward Kevin Durant teamed up with his all-NBA friend Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. All-NBA guard James Harden, a former teammate of Durant, forced a trade to join them. The Nets won one playoff series, James Harden forced his way out of Brooklyn, and the team is currently imploding.

The Mavericks Have not had Success With “Players/Recruiters”

Remember when Chandler Parsons had the reputation of being a master recruiter? Yeah, well, he lost to a chair holding DeAndre Jordan hostage. Dirk Nowitzki also participated in high-profile free agent meetings with the front office, which ultimately never brought an all-star to Dallas.

The Mavericks Have “Relationship Guys”

Hiring general manager Nico Harrison and head coach Jason Kidd began a new era of the Mavericks’ front office strategy. Much has been said about Harrison’s close relationships with NBA players during his time at Nike, and the glowing endorsements that Kidd has received from players like James and Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo show how respected he is around the league.

Who could ask for more well-connected and well-respected people than Harrison and Kidd? Unlike Dončić and other potential player/recruiters, Harrison’s front office and Kidd not only have player connections but actually know how to build a team.

It is great that Dončić is this self-aware. Dončić knows that his job is to play great basketball, not make detrimental demands to acquire players that might not fit the team’s vision. Dončić’s refusal to recruit exhibits how much faith he has in this front office.

Dončić has proven over and over again that in the big moments we should trust him, even when that means deferring to others.

If Dončić trusts this front office, so should we.

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