We’ve reached a point in this Dallas Mavericks season where playoff hope seems to be lost. Injuries, the Nerlens Noel situation and the Western Conference being the Pit of Misery (Dilly, Dilly!) have all contributed to the Mavs’ 9-23 record, neck and neck with the Atlanta Hawks for the worst in the NBA.
But the season could still be salvaged (assuming the front office wants to salvage it... not a given, considering the top-five prospects in next year’s draft) if the team can make an opportunistic move between now and the trade deadline on February 8.
Despite their bad record, some of the Mavs’ vets have been playing good basketball this season. Players like J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Wesley Matthews and Sarah Mejri could all potentially be difference-makers for some contender out there. And Nerlens Noel? Well, at this point, all we can do is hope some other team thinks taking a risk on him is worth losing an asset.
Disclaimer: most of these trades assume that the Mavericks would be interested in taking on salary dumps. Dallas is currently projected to have the second-most available cap space in the 2018 Free Agency period, so I’m not sure if they’re willing to sacrifice some of that flexibility just yet. However, anything can happen around the trade deadline.
Mavericks swap Nerlens Noel for Julius Randle
Mavericks receive: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle
Lakers receive: Nerlens Noel, Devin Harris, Josh McRoberts and a future second-round pick
Hear me out on this one. It’s no secret that the Lakers have high hopes for 2018 Free Agency, but if they want to maximize their available cap space, they’ll need to move some pieces around. With Lonzo Ball looking like their future point guard, Jordan Clarkson’s $11 million per year salary seems unnecessary. Also, with the emergence of Kyle Kuzma, it doesn’t make much sense for L.A. to give Randle a big raise this summer.
This is a trade that could potentially help both teams. The Mavs get two young players with upside, and the Lakers get three players on expiring contracts. Not only would L.A. add to their cap space this summer, Devin Harris would actually help the Lakers on the court this season. And if you believe any of the rumors about LeBron James maybe wanting to team up with Noel (I know, I’m laughing too), then it might make sense for the Lakers to take a low-risk chance on Noel for the rest of this season.
Mavericks squeeze the Cleveland Cavaliers for a first-round pick
Mavericks receive: Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick
Cavs receive: Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris, Salah Mejri and two future second-round picks
Let’s be honest, a decent first-round draft pick isn’t going to move to needle much when it comes to LeBron’s decision to stay in Cleveland. What would move the needle is a move that helps the Cavs win another title. Now, I’m not out here saying Matthews, Harris and Mejri would be enough for the Cavs to top the Warriors in the Finals, but it surely would increase their depth. Matthews makes almost double what Shumpert makes, but he’s also twice as productive. And Harris and Mejri are valuable, high-energy vets on cheap, expiring deals.
The Cavs are currently 23-9 and have won nine of their last 10 games, but they're still trailing the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. This move could bolster their bench heading into the second half of the season. The Mavs would get a young, talented center in Thompson, but the big prize for them would be the first-round draft pick. The Brooklyn Nets are a lot better than they were last year, and the more games they win, the more likely Cleveland is to include it in a trade, especially since they’re in “win-now” mode.
Mavericks make a big move for Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker
Mavericks receive: Jabari Parker, Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry
Bucks receive: Nerlens Noel, Devin Harris, Dwight Powell and the Mavericks’ 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected) - OR - two future second-round picks
The Bucks are in a weird place with Jabari Parker. He’s tremendously talented, a 20-point-per-night scorer when healthy. But he just can’t stay healthy. The 22-year-old has already undergone two ACL surgeries, and he’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer. The Bucks currently have the NBA’s eighth highest payroll, so if Parker receives an offer anywhere near a max contract, Milwaukee would need to think hard about committing to a guy who can’t stay on the court.
Parker’s value is tough to gauge since he isn’t expected back on the court before the trade deadline. Do I think the Bucks are clamoring to take back Dwight Powell in this deal? Nope, but Dellavedova is on an equally bad contract for Milwaukee, and I think all the players listed above (well, depending on Noel’s thumb) would help the Bucks going into the playoffs. That said, chances are Milwaukee will have a better offer from another team out there. I just hope Dallas at least makes the call.
Mavericks get wild with the Pelicans and Lakers
Mavericks receive: DeMarcus Cousins, Corey Brewer
Pelicans receive: Wesley Matthews, Julius Randle and the Lakers’ 2019 first-round pick (top-three protected)
Lakers receive: Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Josh McRoberts and the Mavs’ 2018 first-round pick (top-five protected)
We’re stretching our imaginations a little with this one. A whole lot would need to go just right for this trade to happen: the Pelicans would have to believe Cousins isn’t signing with them this summer (before trading him for whatever they can instead of losing him for nothing), and the Mavericks would have to take Cousins’ word that he would re-sign with them (before giving up Curry and a first-round pick). The Lakers could retain their cap flexibility this upcoming summer, while also finding a new home for Randle and getting a head start on that LeBron/Noel pairing (still laughing).
If this trade were to happen, not only would the Mavericks finally have the franchise center they’ve so desperately wanted the past six years, but it would nicely set up their team-building efforts going forward.