The NBA Trade Deadline is just a few weeks away, and the Mavericks are in an interesting position. They can get to about $13.5 million in salary cap space, the second highest in the League (Chicago has $15.8 million). The Mavs and Bulls are the only two teams in the league with double-digit millions in cap space, making them prime candidates for teams with buyer’s remorse from the 2016 offseason and other bad contracts. Much like the recent trade that sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets, the Mavericks can absorb a bad contract (Mozgov) to add a young piece (Russell) to their core.
However, the Dallas front office is in a tough and ironic situation: they value their players too much, finding reasons up and down the Mavericks roster not to trade players.
Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Smith Jr. are obviously off the trade block for completely different reasons.
It would take a lot for the team to consider Harrison Barnes in trade talks because the entire franchise adores his work ethic and off-the-court actions and defends his play.
It’s hard to imagine the Mavs would part ways with either Yogi Ferrell or Maxi Kleber unless the club receives younger assets in return.
It’s also difficult to trade injured players, especially one in a contract year like Seth Curry. Dorian Finney-Smith may be in a similar situation, having only played in eight games so far this season.
Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, and Devin Harris are all veterans that—on most other lottery teams—would be prime candidates to be shipped off to a contender. But that’s not how this rebuilding Mavericks team has chosen to operate. The Mavericks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson appeared on the most recent Numbers on the Board podcast to discuss the Mavericks’ approach to the trade deadline. He all but admitted that a few more players are unlikely to be traded:
“[Mark Cuban] has always been aggressive and turning over every rock and opportunistic, and options open so we can stay flexible. We have a really good mix right now. Even though we haven’t had a good record year, our record is not what we want it to be—we’ve got some really good supporting players that are helping our young players grow. Devin Harris, JJ Barea, these are guys that are critical really in helping Dennis learn the ropes and what not so we value that very very much.”
That statement leaves little room for doubt that Devin Harris and J.J. Barea will still be Mavericks after the February 8 deadline. If there were any doubt about that fact then Nelson squashed it as he continued.
“That being said we understand that where we are in the standings we are always looking for ways to improve the team we’re talking to everybody like we always do whether that turns into something or not remains to be seen just know that we probably overvalue the experience and integrity of our veterans. We got great relationships with them, their representations and when you make trade one of the hardest parts is—they’re family members, so we don’t take that lightly.”
The Dallas Mavericks are in all likelihood not trading Harris or Barea before this season’s trade deadline. The front office values their leadership too much to just send them off to a contender. Harris recently commented on Smith Jr.’s development, and the more Harris, Barea, and even Matthews connect with Smith Jr. the less likely it appears the Mavericks will trade them.
There’s still a chance that the team would entertain offers for Matthews, but the Mavericks also like the idea of Smith Jr. playing next to Matthews. Smith Jr. has played 83 percent of his minutes next to Matthews so far this season. The only other player that has played more with Smith Jr. is Harrison Barnes (85 percent).
Nelson went on to admit that even with Harris and Barea essentially off the table, the Mavericks still need fundamental rebuilding pieces.
“That being said, we also understand that this is a time with the franchise that we need to add more youth and athleticism and upside and Dirk’s not going to play forever. We need to really take a step like we did this past year in getting some running mates for Dennis and Dodo and Dwight and Harrison and some of the other young building blocks—Yogi—you know who the young guys and the old guys are. You can do the math.”
While admittedly reading into this comment too much, Nelson including Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell is interesting and probably puts them in the same category as Ferrell and Kleber. These are all young players that would need to net a younger or more valuable asset if included in a trade.
So now including Powell and Matthews, the list of players the Mavs would offer in a trade has become incredibly small for a lottery team. That list is basically just Nerlens Noel, Josh McRoberts, Salah Mejri, and maybe Matthews.
Now, any player can be traded for the right price. If Milwaukee called the Mavs and said they have a three-team deal with Phoenix in place to get the 2011 band back together and they need Dirk and Barea in exchange for Giannis Antetokoumpo, then get ready for a Barea, Dirk, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler reunion. But the Mavs do seem hesitant to relinquish any player, young or old, in trades—which might be a problem.