It’s the twilight now and the things are getting darker. Reports say the Mavericks are settling in on Mo Bamba, who seems like a very cool and nice man and who may be a good basketball player by the time my brain and body are riddled with old people diseases, or Michael Porter Jr., who already has all of those diseases.
I cover the end of the world for a living, and I can tell you right now: We don’t have that kind of time.
It’s time to do something dramatic, and there is no better time to do something dramatic. Stupid teams are everywhere, but they have fortunately huddled in positions slightly above us in the NBA Draft, like deer having a party in the middle of a higway.
Mortgage the house. Raid the baby’s college fund. Attempt to rob a bank named the “Sacramento Kings.”
Do whatever it takes to draft Luka Doncic, a generational talent who is made for this team.
Among the teams still active in trying to trade higher into lottery: Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland and the Clippers, league sources tell ESPN. Philadelphia’s No. 10 pick is in play, a target for teams pursing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Otherwise, he could go No. 11 to Charlotte.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 21, 2018
I have lived through years of this team “keeping the powder dry,” an expression I have only heard from the Mavericks front office and precisely no one else, so that we can take wild and flailing swings at free agents who wind up flaming out spectacularly like a Tesla on a hot day. This is an ass-backwards blessing for what has been a sad series of summers that to a fan of any other team would be uproariously funny.
But we don’t have to be that. We can, in effect, neuter chances at surefire embarrassment a month from now by swallowing the disastrous contract of Kent Bazemore, Iman Shumpert or Chandler Parsons and, in turn, saving our team.
If we use our cap space to take on these longterm commitments and dispense whatever asset outside of Dennis Smith Jr. these teams want back in exchange for the second, third or fourth pick, we can luck into Doncic, a virtuoso who is exclusively admired by Hall of Fame talent evaluators and loathed by teams run by people who are not entirely clear on how to tie their own shoes.
For once, everyone else is looking stupid both in the moment and in the future. It is time to take advantage of somebody else’s obvious and looming stupidity for once, even if you have to overpay to do it.
This team is fickle, quasi-cursed from 2011, extremely stubborn. Not many people thrive on it.
That’s why we must commit mild treason, if necessary, to draft Luka Doncic. He will thrive on it.
Here’s proof, in the most boring and simple sentence possible: The guy moves very well.
Mavs Moneyball social media coordinator Kirk Henderson tweeted a video about an underrated skill that could allow him to dominate at the next level.
Our Director of Biomechanics provides a breakdown of @luka7doncic as the #NBAdraft approaches. In addition to possessing great positional size and very competitive lateral acceleration, Luka Doncic demonstrates elite physical qualities associated with braking/change of direction. pic.twitter.com/p0R3YoUYYU— P3 (@P3sportscience) June 18, 2018
He decelerates at what appears to be an All-Star level, which allows him to cross people up, break down defenses, and create space for his patented stepback three.
On a team that has a substantial playmaking deficit outside of Dennis Smith Jr., and one whose coach exclusively relies on penetration at all costs, he is a natural fit.
That is, mostly, why I want the guy. After a decade of this, I am now acutely aware of Rick Carlisle’s often severe and dramatic whims. I have seen him drag rookies off the court for getting lost on a pick and roll, only for them to resurface months later in dark gyms on teams that sound like Outkast albums. (Both Rodrigue Beaubois and Shane Larkin went to Baskonia, where they tore it up, but quietly and respectfully, as not to prove Carlisle wrong.)
Luka will not be party to this sort of wack-ass treatment, and it’s in part because of Carlisle’s desperation for penetration from lead guards in his offense, which he will never change, even if his point guard is, say, OJ Mayo, Mike James, Jose Calderon, Delonte West, 47-year-old Devin Harris, or 2016’s most effective penetrator, the Mesozoic rock formation commonly known as “JJ Barea.”
Imagine a 6’8” version of that with better ball skills than any of them, and Harden-like moves.
I am done trying to change the system, even if I have spent the last half-decade begging for someone to burn it to the ground, and simply want something exciting who works within it.
I have seen a lot of people over the last few years trying to find some sort of white heir apparent for Dirk Nowitzki, and that always freaked me out and made me feel itchy under the collar. There were Lauri Markkanen draft rumors last year (“he’d learn so much from Dirk!”), simply because he was a tall white guy who could jack threes with impunity. This is not the same thing as greatness, as you’ll see over the next several years of watching Lauri Markkanen.
I do not believe Luka will be Dirk’s heir apparent. He’s an enormous JJ Barea, a less upright Brandon Roy, a Paul Pierce with better vision and no defense. If you put this man on the block, he will instantly die, and we’ll have to hold a funeral for him.
He will be his own man, which this team needs to move on from Dirk, and give him one last run. He fits in a system that makes bad penetrating guards good and great ones legendary. Nobody else in this draft or the next one projects to do this. Everyone else is stupid for not taking him. You will not look stupid for giving up too much for a guy who makes All-Star teams all the time, which, in this system, he will.
Throw them unprotected future picks. Throw them players you really like and even want on the team. Give them Harrison Barnes for Chandler Parsons and his two-year, $50 million donut and beer fund. (Harrison Barnes, who is a lovely man and a pretty good player, is never too much.) Make other teams future promises you cannot possibly keep. Collude. Blackmail Chris Wallace. Send a dead fish to the desk of Vlade Divac. Become best friends with the Hawks’ new GM, then slowly poke at his deepest insecurities until he has to move to the desert to reckon with his past and figure things out for a while.
But whatever you do, before they hang up, do not leave Thursday night without Luka Doncic on your roster.
We are so attuned to spectacular regret. We don’t have to be.