Perspective is everything. And sometimes you get so locked into your point of view that you don’t see things clearly anymore. This is especially true in sports, and if you follow a team closely you might lose sight of the big picture. You start to love certain players more than you should, and hate other players more than is rational.
So I wanted to step outside of my Dallas Mavericks bubble and get the perspective of some people who cover other teams in the Southwest Division. Today I’m talking to Oleh Kosel and David Grubb, who cover the New Orleans Pelicans for The Bird Writes.
Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Besides Luka, who is the most intriguing player on the Mavericks’ roster?
Oleh Kosel: Although I’m not high on him, the answer has to be Kristaps Porzingis, right? There’s no other player outside of Luka Doncic that has the ability to elevate the Mavericks roster as much as the tall, floor-spacing Latvian. He doesn’t have to be healthy for the entire season, but if he can find a way to live up to his potential during the next playoff run, Dallas could sneak into the Western Conference finals — Doncic is just that good to do the rest.
David Grubb: It has to be Moses Brown. Brown made a big jump between his rookie and sophomore seasons, almost averaging a double-double in just over 21 minutes for the Thunder. If he can do that for the Mavs and give them some legitimate rim protection, Dallas’ defense should be much better than 20th in the league. He could also potentially be a great pick and roll partner with Luka.
Are you worried about the Mavericks unlocking Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, or do you what we’ve seen out of Porzingis is who he is?
Oleh Kosel: Undoubtedly, one should be worried. Porzingis has missed over 30% of his regular season games since arriving in Dallas, was not effective/out during the team’s last two playoff runs and seems to believe he belongs on Luka’s level. He hasn’t resembled a unicorn for some time. Until he’s truly healthy or simply accepts reality, it’s difficult to envision a happy ending — especially with him making it known he wanted out at the end of last season. Sorry, Jason Kidd appeasing the big man since being named the new head coach isn’t going to help enough. Porzingis needs a fresh start elsewhere and I’ve got to believe Doncic is probably ready for a different sidekick.
David Grubb: I don’t know if I’d use the term lost cause on Porzingis, because he can be a big factor when healthy. But, I don’t think his legs will ever be right. The Knicks had major concerns about his long term health. Managing his minutes is going to be key. But the thing that is lost is Porzingis being an All-Star level performer.
What is the Mavericks’ biggest weakness?
Oleh Kosel: I’m not a fan of the depth in Dallas, but another elite playmaker, preferably one who can also get his shot, tops the list. Doncic is obviously elite — and he’s surrounded by some potent weapons, but there’s good reason why stars look to join forces later in their careers. Luka simply can’t try and do everything all the time, but he almost has to considering the rest of the roster. Let’s not forget that the road gets far more difficult in the playoffs where defenses are extremely focused and eager to key in on Dallas’ only true dynamic threat.
David Grubb: Dallas’ biggest weakness is a lack of players who can create their own shot. The offense is so dependent on Luka, someone has to become a secondary play maker when he is on the court to allow Luka some time off the ball. None of Dallas’ wings is particular adept at putting the ball on the floor.
What’s a realistic trade you’d like to see between the Mavericks and the Pelicans?
Oleh Kosel: Nothing stands out, although Dallas has enviable pieces in Maxi Kleber, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith. I’ve also been fond of Tyrell Terry since his time at Stanford. For the first time in years, the depth on the Pelicans is strong and worth seeing how they fit alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Moreover, there’s nothing but smart contracts. New Orleans is in position to chase stars — especially if their young talent finally shows they can win, so it’s probably best to avoid any smaller deals on the periphery, sit back, and wait to take a big swing once a golden opportunity arises.
David Grubb: Thomas Satoransky for Frank Ntilikina could benefit both teams. Satoransky is a capable passer and shooter with length, and Ntilikina would bolster the Pelicans’ on ball defense, one of their biggest weaknesses. It’s not an earth shattering trade, but it’s realistic.
What’s the best case scenario for the Mavericks this season?
Oleh Kosel: As I wrote earlier, the Mavs could squeeze into the Western Conference finals if everything breaks right. With the Nuggets and Clippers missing Jamal Murray and Kawhi Leonard indefinitely, LeBron needing another candle on his birthday cake, and Klay Thompson perhaps not looking like Klay Thompson, there’s a chance to grab a top 4 seed. After that, all it could take is a favorable situation or two provided Luka is in MVP-like form.
David Grubb: The first step has to be winning a playoff series. That seems possible in a very fluid Western Conference. The key will be staying healthy enough to secure a top 5 seed.