With the NBA trade deadline just about 48 hours away, it’s still really hard to get a feel for who exactly is available and for what price. One thing that does seem clear: the Mavericks aren’t going to make a major move that steals the headlines before Thursday afternoon.
The Mavericks brass takes every chance it has to emphasize how much it likes this current roster and that’s definitely not just lip service. After Saturday night’s win over the Hawks, coach Rick Carlisle called this a “terrific roster” that’s “very deep” and has “a lot of versatility and flexibility.” It really is the ideal roster for a coach like Carlisle who likes to have a ton fluidity in his rotations and the guys on this team have responded well to slipping in and out of roles this season based on the team’s needs or health on any given night.
In an exclusive interview with DSF’s own Michael Mulford, Donnie Nelson said last week, “I think this year is an interesting one (trade deadline) for us because we really like the young group that we’ve assembled. We want to give it a chance to grow together.”
He ultimately did state that the team is “in the upgrade business” and they’re always at least exploring ways to make the team better. What are the areas the team needs to get better and what role/minutes could be upgraded?
The Mavericks still seek a wing upgrade after the acquisition of big man Willie Cauley-Stein — but league sources say Dallas has maintained its reluctance to join the Andre Iguodala trade chase (as reported here in December) and is also not actively bidding on Robert Covington
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 3, 2020
The most realistic to improve option might be the backup minutes from forward Justin Jackson. In his third season out of North Carolina, Jackson’s minutes per game have gone from 22.1 his rookie year in Sacramento, 19.9 combined between Dallas and Sacramento after he came over in the Harrison Barnes deal last February, now to a career low 16.4 minutes in 46 games this season. A lot of fans and media seemed to pencil him in as the starting 3 for the Mavericks coming into training camp, but that just hasn’t come to fruition as Jackson is shooting just 30% from deep this season and that is what the team needs from him the most.
Jackson will turn 25 at the end of March and has a $5 million team option next season — a salary that is still low in today’s NBA but would pay him more than other more successful role players like Dorian Finney-Smith ($4M) and Jalen Brunson ($1.7M). How much value does he have and how easy is it to upgrade over those 15-20 minutes a night? Here are a few possible options.
Like the NYT’s Marc Stein pointed out in his tweet Monday, Andre Iguodala would be a surprise if he ended up here at this point. A lot of national writers claim that Dallas is just Memphis’ fallback if they can’t find a more pleasing deal to a team Iguodala approves of before Thursday afternoon. I would be more inclined to trust Stein, a writer who is based out of Dallas and I see at several Mavs games a month talking courtside to the most elite of elite figures long before tip-off.
I’ve been pretty vocal on Twitter about my lack of excitement for a “locker room guy” like Iguodala apparently being too good to play in Memphis. I’m very glad that the Twitter drama of Tuesday morning is unfolding like it is. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if several of the younger Mavericks feel the same way as Dillon Brooks or Ja Morant.
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) February 4, 2020
Denzel Valentine is a former lottery pick and has fallen out of the rotation for a bad Chicago Bulls team with a career low 12.2 minutes per game this season. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season so one wouldn’t think the price for him would be too high. The Bulls do have bidders, according to reports. Valentine did shoot 39% from deep last season with 27.2 minutes per game in Chicago last season, so it is interesting that he has just fallen out of favor in Chi-Town this season.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe mentioned in a great trade deadline primer piece this week that sources told him the Pistons should be able to move Markieff Morris for just a second round pick before the deadline. Morris, who has missed the last couple of games for the Pistons due to injury, is shooting 39% from deep in 22.5 minutes per game for a bad Detroit team this season. While the shooting and edge would be an improvement over Jackson, Morris might not be the biggest upgrade on the defensive end. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing option because of the low price for what could be a piece for 2020-2021 as well (Morris has a $3.4M player option). However, another trade for no additional players would mean the Mavericks would have to create a roster spot.
Either Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could conceivably be had for Courtney Lee’s expiring contract plus perhaps a second? Brad Townsend reported last week that Dallas has “kicked the tires” on MKG but not much more has come of it since. With these two, there isn’t really much upside. They have both already “peaked” in their careers as solid perimeter defenders with limited offensive games and not much more. Kidd-Gilchrist is a career 28% three point shooter while virtually being a non-factor for Charlotte this season in just 12 games. Williams is still a part of their rotation at close to 20 minutes per game and shooting 38% from three. Compared to someone like Valentine with a slight chance for it being a long-term contributor, Williams at age 33 and on an expiring deal would seem like a trade the Mavericks would be more inclined to make if they had already made the playoffs the last couple years and were really looking to just shore things up for a for-sure title run.
At the end of the day, I don’t think the Mavericks will just make a trade for the sake of making a trade. I believe them when they say they love this roster and that includes its shortcomings like Jackson’s lack of development this season and Courtney Lee becoming a DNP-CD before Luka’s injuries. Both of those guys are valuable parts of a strong culture and all around good vibe surrounding the team this season.
Ultimately, the Mavs’ realistic trade ammunition for making a move by Thursday is: Justin Jackson ($3.3M possibly expiring salary), Courtney Lee ($12.8M expiring salary), what could potentially be the 31st pick in a down draft class, and other future second round picks. What are you hoping to get for that? Something that will likely amount to a 9th or 10th guy in your rotation? Maybe it all turns out more exciting than I expect, but I’m not holding out hope for anything splashy because it’s apparent that this is a good group with a bit of a ceiling this season. While that ceiling is still pretty high as a playoff team, there just isn’t a realistic mid-season move that seems to be out there that will greatly raise that ceiling.
That’s fine by me. This is a fun team and I’m excited to see the noise they can make perhaps in the buyout market soon and then ultimately however far they make it in the playoffs.
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