Considering your intrepid reporter wrote off the Mavs in December, it might seem a little disingenuous to complain that their season didn’t quite make it to June. Don’t let anyone else sell the effort short, either. Especially when you consider the local market.
Think Jerry Jones would like to get a 26-year-old monkey off his back?
Would Rick Bowness be retired now if he’d made a nice, long run?
What would Jon Daniels give for even a peek at the playoffs?
The Mavs may not have come back to town on a parade float, but it was still fun, particularly if you’ve weathered the paragraphs above. Just the same, it’s not hard to miss the grousing.
According to our favorite studio panelists, the Mavs’ run was just a “fluke.” They won’t have a path as easy next year. Not only are the Warriors back, baby, both LA teams are coming. Memphis, too. The Suns get more love these days than the Mavs, and they’ve yet to clear Luka Doncic’s dust from their throats.
Get this: Even the Pels, riding the Z-Train, should make a conference finals runback problematic for the little team from Dallas.
If the “lightning-in-a-bottle” characterization of the Mavs’ run sounds familiar, it should. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson said the same after they won the title. Next thing you knew, Tyson Chandler was balling for the Knicks and the Mavs were found guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The current Mavs deserve more respect than they’re getting if only because they beat two teams that were more talented and had a third on their heels in Game 2 before the visitors lost their nerve. Maybe that sounds like a concession. Teams with multiple superstars win titles. The Mavs have had a heck of a time just rustling up one.
No question, the Mavs need more talent. The biggest thing they need is someone big. Someone – think Mitchell Robinson — who could give his teammates an occasional second chance. Someone – think Mo Bamba — who could erase mistakes. Someone who shoots enough 3s – Mo, again – for the Mavs to continue their missionary work with the five-out offense.
Someone who won’t cost too much – think Mo or Robinson or any of several reasonable options – in a deal this summer or before next seasons’ trade deadline.
The question isn’t whether the Mavs should re-sign Jalen Brunson. Of course they should. They made a mistake not re-signing him when they could have had him for four years and $55 million. Now he’ll cost $80-90 million. He’s still worth it, as he proved in the playoffs, because he’s willing to subjugate his ego to playing second fiddle to Luka. Let me tell you, it’s an acquired taste for 20-point-a-night point guards. Also, behind Luka, he’s the Mavs’ second-best creator. One of only three, the other being Spencer Dinwiddie.
Even after the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. next season, the Mavs’ offense won’t look all that different as is. Hardaway can at least finish on occasion, which is more than you can say for most of his teammates, but he’s not a guy who can create his own shots at will.
One obvious move for the Mavs would be to work Hardaway into the rotation and see how he fits. Gold doesn’t. Then trade the odd-man out for a center or more versatile wing.
The ideal scenario: Trade Davis Bertans and the $33 million left on his deal over the next two years. Such a move would be the other shoe to drop after the Kristaps Porzingis trade brought the Mavs a third ball-handler in Dinwiddie. Swapping Porzingis’ huge contract for two easier-to-trade versions was the acknowledged bonus of the deal.
Now it’s up to Nico Harrison to make it happen, and good luck with that. Getting anything for Bertans, that is. Still, trades are the way to go, because they won’t have enough money to sign anyone after retaining Brunson.
For that matter, just about anyone not named Luka should be made available for the right return. But there’s no need to panic, either. The Mavs’ chemistry this season was a rare and wondrous thing to behold. One of the reasons Brunson wants to come back. Listen, it’s nothing to sniff at. We bark about athletes’ attitudes constantly. Selfish prima donnas who force their way out the first ill wind that blows. Then along comes a gritty, team-first bunch of role players revolving around a single superstar that gets all the way to the Western Conference Finals, and suddenly it’s a fluke and not worth trying again.
The Mavs have flaws, but they’re more fixable than they’ve been in a decade. The five-out offense also seems like more than a fad. Let’s see what it looks like with an upgrade or two. Otherwise, it’s too soon to give up on these Mavs. Believe me, been there, done that.
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