Prior to Friday night’s disappointing loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Mavs had won four out of five games. It’s unlikely anyone in that locker room is thinking about a trade. The only defeat in that stretch was the loss on Wednesday night to the defending champion Golden State Warriors thanks to a gut-wrenching shot by Steph Curry in the waning seconds. The Mavericks have undoubtedly played much better in recent weeks. The team might even be beginning to “find their groove.”
When Dallas began the season with a 2-14 record, it looked like the franchise that was annually winning 50+ games not too long ago had hit rock bottom and was destined for a win total in the high teens or early twenties this season. That start wasn’t representative of what this team is really capable of. Their 11-13 record since then is more like what they really are: a borderline .500 team capable of competing and beating, or losing to, any team in the league.
If Dallas began this season playing around .500 basketball and sat at, say, 19-21 through 40 games instead of 13-27, the feelings around this team would be a lot different. A record like that would have them right in the mix for the final playoff spots in the West and there might be an incentive to hold onto a few of their veteran bench pieces and make a run towards a playoff spot for Dirk Nowitzki. That’s not how it played out, however, and Dallas currently finds itself seven and a half games back of the eighth seed in the West. The poor start dug the Mavericks too deep of a hole to realistically dig out of for this season.
The likely scenario for Dallas the rest of the season is they continue playing the .500 basketball they’ve played for over a quarter of the season now and end up with a record around what they had last season: 33-49. Not the most impressive record and it probably would give Dallas a first round pick somewhere around 8th or 9th in the draft again. Not the end of the world, but not what a lot of members of #TeamTank have in mind.
While I will never, ever consider myself a member of #TeamTank, I am a major endorser for moving players via trade if they don’t exactly make sense with your big picture plan. The Mavericks have a few players that they could and should move before the trade deadline. We’re talking the realistic options here, folks. So no fantasy ideas that teams would take on Wesley Matthews’ salary in a mid-season trade.
Players like Devin Harris and Salah Mejri have played very well for Dallas this season, but both are over 30 and in the final year of their respective contracts. For a team that is likely already out of the playoff mix and trying to transition into fully relying on younger players like prized rookie Dennis Smith Jr., these are the perfect players to move before the February 8th trade deadline. Nobody will make these moves expecting something tremendous in return or even packaging the two as part of a package for a bigger name.
The goal should be to stockpile as many draft picks for the near and distant future. The collection of draft picks could be used as assets in a trade or they could be used to find a “diamond in the rough” type player later in a draft. One would expect the return for the likes of Devin Harris to be something like a second round pick this season. Salah Mejri would probably net something like a protected second rounder in a future draft. Better than nothing, right? Who knows if Donnie Nelson has been fielding or making calls with these guys in mind or if the front office is waiting just a couple more weeks to see what this team can do, but the right move is to trade these veterans before something happens to greatly affect (or demolish) their trade value.
With the trade deadline just over a month away, the rumor mill should get rolling on moves pretty soon.