If the Dallas Mavericks are going to “win” the 2018 NBA trade deadline, which ends at 2 p.m. CT on Thursday, owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson need to grasp two simple truths.
First, you aren’t finding that “star” acquisition the franchise so desperately needs. Not in the next 48 hours.
It’s no secret that the Mavericks want to add skilled big men to their front-court. Other than 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, no, not Nowitkzi, there isn’t a single player over 6-foot-8 that plays more than 20 minutes a game or that is able to produce a double-digit scoring or rebounding average. Essentially, head coach Rick Carlisle rotates Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Salah Mejri on a nightly basis with the hope that something sticks against the glass.
Nikola Mirotic (traded to the Pelicans) and Blake Griffin (traded to the Pistons) are off the market. Former Suns center Greg Monroe could soon be.
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The other team in LA has a local product from Plano’s Prestonwood Christian Academy in Julius Randle, who is only 23 and could provide scoring offense down low. But he struggles to defend athletic big men and is reportedly a bit of a headcase. So proceed with caution there.
The Mavericks made moves at last year’s deadline and almost snuck into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But they missed the postseason and ended up drafting Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth overall pick in the draft. Thus far, Smith Jr. is a legitimate rookie of the year candidate and could be a perennial All-Star as long as his knees hold up.
That brings us to the second inarguable truth, one that should be obvious to even a casual NBA fan: the Mavericks really need to commit to tanking by shipping out as many quality role players as possible before the deadline. And everyone involved in running the team needs to accept minimal returns.
Rick Carlisle has his reasons for giving up on Nerlens Noel, but teams in need of interior defenders, such as the Cavaliers, Wizards, or Raptors might find use for an underachieving post. If you can find a cap friendly team like the 76ers or Bucks to shoulder Wesley Matthews’ mammoth contract, he could serve as a valuable wing scorer for the playoffs. Veteran guards J.J. Barea and Devin Harris could also solidify backcourt rotations for contending teams.
This year, the Mavericks’ marketing strategies have been great, Rick Carlisle has coached well, and the team’s roster usually plays hard. Despite all that, this group is still at the bottom of the standings, and for the sixth consecutive season won’t get out of the first round of the playoffs.
What’s worse, the Mavericks are currently the least successful organization in a 4-team town that’s full of fringe playoff hopefuls at best and clown shows at worst.
If the Mavericks don’t exercise some restraint in the next two days (and this summer), then it’s possible the Mavericks might continue down a path toward joining the list of mediocre NBA teams that are stuck in a perpetual state of irrelevancy.