The Mavericks were well ahead of schedule this season. Luka Doncic wasn’t supposed to be an MVP candidate this soon in his career, guys like Finney-Smith and Seth Curry weren’t supposed to be premium role players, and Coach Carlisle could only lead veteran squads to victories.
These are only a few falsifies disproven 67 games into the season, where they were about to match their Vegas win total projection of 41. Unfortunately, Covid-19 halted their Cinderella run.
While a highly entertaining squad, anyone who watches them knows they have some problem areas. Defense on the perimeter, clutch execution, and depth at certain spots all come to mind.
So, we’ve outlined a 4-step plan for this, or future offseasons that can elevate the Mavericks from plucky underdogs, to legit title contender.
1. Add depth on the wings
The Mavericks have two consistent rotation players that fall between 6’7 and 6’9 (Luka Doncic & Dorian Finney-Smith).
Luka is obviously Luka, he’s going to carry a massive burden offensively, but defense isn’t a “strength” by any stretch. And Finney-Smith is a solid defender and rebounder positionally, but there is no doubt they just need more.
Look at the top teams across the league: Clippers, Lakers, Celtics, etc… Most of them contain a stash of versatile, two-way wings.
You don’t have to drain your asset pool to get a big name or anything, but being resourceful in Free Agency and the trade market can help.
It’s obvious, painful at times, that the Mavericks need to shore up their perimeter defense. Against the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, etc… they’ll need an abundance of it.
Here are a couple noteworthy names slated to hit FA during the next offseason: Otto Porter Jr., Marcus Morris, Maurice Harkless, Jerami Grant, etc…
All of these guys would make excellent targets for the Mavs.
2. Make use of pick no. 18
The Mavericks history with the draft is well documented amongst fans. Sure, they’ve hit on franchise-altering stars when up high enough to nab one. That’s good.
But anytime they’re picking outside the lottery? They haven’t been so lucky. In fact, the majority of their late-round choices have flopped miserably. They’ve had more success with second round and undrafted guys like Brunson, Crowder, Finney-Smith, etc…
However, now is the time to rectify that. The team’s future calls for it.
The 2020 Draft class isn’t a particular star-laden one, but many experts view it as a deep group where role players can be found.
Players like Tyrese Maxey, Devin Vassell, and Saddiq Bey all could be available at pick no. 18 and all can fill areas of need.
Obviously, drafting isn’t an exact science, but it’s critical to restocking your talent pool for cheap.
It’s time the Mavericks start to view it as such.
3. Resign Tim Hardaway Jr.
Coming into the 2019 season we knew there would be two pillars of the Mavericks offense: Luka Doncic’s playmaking & Kristaps Porzingis’ shotmaking.
However what we didn’t see, was a third pillar emerging: Tim Hardaway Jr’s. elite marksmanship.
This isn’t just one of those things where he shot a good percentage so we all feel better about it either. Hardaway shot a high-volume 7.2 3-point attempts per game and made a scorching 41% of them.
Pair that quick trigger release with his ability to knock in jumpers off the dribble and you’ve got an explosive offensive weapon. His 16 point per game average is reflective of that.
Hardaway was considered a lock to pick up his nearly $20 million player option coming into the year, but his strong play might put that logic in jeopardy.
Whatever the case may be, the objective for the Mavericks is clear: Get him back in your building.
This team’s identity is their historically explosive offensive attack and Hardaway has emerged as a critical third prong within that. He must be retained.
4. Allow Luka Doncic & Kristaps Porzingis room to grow
This step is a tad vague, so let’s break it down as best we can: We know the Mavericks love to chase stars. They practically did it again last offseason.
But it’s clear they already have those guys in the building. They should make a point to let them grow into the players they can become, not get too aggressive too soon and potentially stunt development.
That undoubtedly comes with growing pains. We’ve certainly seen those in late-game situations this year.
But these guys will be better for having learned the hard way. The franchise should embrace that and instead of holding out hope for a true third star, they should put a firm support system in place to help them reach that level.
Teams go years without landing a franchise player, while the Mavs currently have two. The hard part is already done and it’s time to use the tools at their disposal like the draft, bargain-bin free agency shopping, and trades.
Luka & KP will be better for having taken their lumps. Seemingly every young star has to do it at some point, and these two are no different.
And besides, the opportunity to land the third star might come later. But for the time being, the focus should be on giving Luka & KP some solid ground.
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