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Mavs Mailbag: Free Agency, NBA Draft, and All-Stars in Dallas

We’re into the final stretch of this season, and with an exciting future in Dallas it’s hard to not already look ahead.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After hibernating for a large chunk of the winter, the Mavs Mailbag is back. Looking back at the previous mailbag (waaay back in early January) I see I was slightly wrong about some trade deadline activity, so there’s a lot to digest since last we met.

I’ll start us off by highlighting one submission, from @aLighth0use, asking that we make “Luka the Magician” happen. I would have loved to hear an argument for why this is better than Wonder Boy or Cool Hand Luka...but honestly, anything is better than The Matador.

Now let’s get this bag!

Trades and Post-trades

@mwei210: If the starting lineup had played up to expectations, and the team was firmly planted in the playoff mix, do the KP and Barnes trades still happen?

Great question — the bad and accurate answer is: maaaybe? The Mavericks have long been after a “big fish” and been enamored with Kristaps Porzingis, so I think they were ready and willing to make that deal no matter what. And even if the Mavericks would have been playing better, I think there were enough advanced stats showing that Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic weren’t a great fit. So finding a solution there would be necessary.

But I’m not sure about the Harrison Barnes deal. They wanted that cap flexibility that his trade provided, but I also think they really liked Barnes. And if the team would have been playing better, I think they would have seen a path to making those players work.

The flip side to all of this is if they were competitive in maybe-Dirk-Nowitzki’s-final-season, it would have been hard for the front office to make a big shake up and risk ruining that for him.

@dirkside41: We have a limited sample size to make this comparison but I tend to believe Brunson will be a better long term player than DSJ in this league. DSJ has more talents but I feel like Brunson will be a great system player. What do you guys think?

It’s early to make any sort of declaration. Unless they are a superstar, so much of a young player’s success is situational: the system they are in, the players around them, the opportunity they have. And I think you need three seasons to fully assess.

Brunson’s game is great for Carlisle’s system (like you suggest), and he’s showing ideal growth since the trade with the Knicks. Dennis Smith Jr. still has loads of potential, a solid coach to work with in David Fizdale, and at this point, opportunity. The Knicks have a big summer ahead of them, and that could determine a lot for Smith. It’s possible Brunson’s role in Dallas is a little more stable for now.

Summer Plans and Next Season

@Nishanth_TA: Do you see us keeping Trey Burke long term? What kind of role does he fit into?

Plainly, no, I don’t think the Mavericks intend to keep Burke. He has played decently, if inconsistently, since joining the Mavs. He actually makes a lot of sense in Rick Carlisle’s system as bench guard, though he isn’t always given consistent playing time. The bottom line is they are investing in rookie Jalen Brunson (who has had some great games since the massive trade), which is what they should be doing. And I think they will likely re-sign J.J. Barea while he rehabs.

Once the starters are determined after free agency, Brunson will move to first guard off the bench. I think the real spot that would remain for Burke would be Devin Harris’ (if they don’t bring him back as well), and I don’t think Burke would have interest in that, and would likely have more opportunity and money elsewhere.

@Christo75028704: What positions will the Mavs target in the offseason, and who are some potential targets?

@mariodelapena23: What’s more important: an off-guard to pair with Luka or a 5 that will force Porzingis over to the 4?

The guard-wing position is more valuable today, and the Mavericks have a need. Ideally it’s someone who can hit threes off the ball and play defense on the opponent’s best perimeter player. The kind of player that the Mavs need to pair with Porzingis is someone who can rebound and bang down low to take that load off KP. But more of that exists, and at affordable prices, so it doesn’t need to be priority.

Outside of the Klay Thompson’s and Khris Middleton’s of the world, my ideal would be Malcolm Brogdon, who is a restricted free agent. He may not be an elite defender, but he can play on the ball or off, and is a high IQ player that Carlisle would love. But prying him from Milwaukee seems difficult. We’re likely to hear names like Goran Dragic, Danny Green, or Patrick Beverley. The Mavs may have to be creative.

@FredThePet: How many all-stars will the mavs have next year? With Porzingis, Doncic and potentially a free agent, Mavs have a serious shot at getting at least one on the all-star roster next year.

It’s hard to say now with all the roster shuffling that will happen in July, but the Mavericks would have two major candidates in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavs rookie nearly forced himself all the way into the conversation as a rookie, and if the fans had more to say about it, would have been playing for the West. And KP already has one All-Star nod under his belt.

But we must remember that the West is stacked. This season one team (Golden State Warriors) in the West had three selections, and one team (Oklahoma City Thunder) had two selections. So it’s most likely they get one in, and without knowing the hypothetical free agent or the real condition KP will be in, that would more than likely be Luka Doncic.

@Cruugz_MFFL: Should we beg Dirk to return for one final year?

I’ve mostly been in the camp that I’m enjoying his not-requested farewell tour that the league has been keen to push. Mostly because I love the love he’s getting. But I’ve gotta say, he’s looked great these last few games, and I’m sure he’s itching to be part of a Luka-Porzingis season. All that said, we should just want whatever Dirk wants and be happy for the time we have.

**Winning Question of the Week:

@JAB_Brittain: Other than Zion what possible top 4 draft picks would you want Mavs to draft?

A) The Mavs are treading water around 8th or 9th. B) The lottery selection only determines picks one through three, so unless the Mavs are in the bottom five by the end of the season, they can only keep the pick if it falls in that top three. C) The Mavs have never moved up on lottery night. It will most likely take an act of the Basketball Gods for the Mavericks to keep their pick, but the holy trinity of Dr. James Naismith, Dr. Julius Erving, and Dr. Senda Berenson (look it up) has rarely bestowed much luck to Dallas.

I think it’s likely Dallas would trade pick two or three if they can get a decent haul of players in return. This summer’s draft is inconsistent and relatively weak, and the Mavericks are determined to be taken seriously next season.

But if they somehow end up with one of those two picks, and somehow decided to hold on to it (which I’d be inclined to do, unless you can get a star), there are two players I’m looking at: Jarret Culver out of Texas Tech and DeAndre Hunter from Virginia. If I’m being honest Hunter is the most interesting of the entire top ten not named Zion. If the Mavericks happen to be picking, that’s the name I hope they’re calling. More on the draft soon!