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Lonzo Ball would’ve been a perfect Dallas Maverick

Lonzo Ball has found a home, and it’s (sadly) not in Dallas.

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Chicago Bulls landed point guard Lonzo Ball in August, it was a sad moment for the Dallas Mavericks.

Ball went to Chicago via a sign-and-trade deal between the Bulls and the Pelicans after he agreed to a 4-year, $85 million contract with Chicago. This was the end of the where would Lonzo go sweepstakes, and after an impressive start to the season, it looks like Chicago will be Ball’s home for a long time.

Who knows if the Mavs actually had a chance of getting Ball. It looks like there might have been some tampering involved in the Bulls-Lonzo deal (Chicago might pay for that later), so it’s quite likely that no other team really had a shot at getting the lengthy point guard once free agency started. But could the Mavs have traded for Lonzo while he was still on the Pelicans and then matched any deal Lonzo was offered in restricted free agency? Absolutely they could’ve — and it would’ve been a wonderful move.

Lonzo would’ve been the perfect fit next to Luka Doncic. He’s a shot-creator that doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands. When he gets the ball, he moves it quickly. Of all guards who get more than 70 touches per game, Ball averages the fewest seconds per touch and the fewest dribbles per touch. He’s the exact opposite of a black hole on offense.

Luka, on the other hand, averages the most seconds per touch and the most dribbles per touch of all guards who get more than 70 touches per game. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily — it’s just how Luka plays. But because of that, a guy like Lonzo would help balance out what Luka does.

Not only does Lonzo move the ball quickly, but he can also knock down spot-up threes — something that’s essential for guys playing with Luka. Last season, Ball shot 37.8 percent from deep on 8.3 attempts per game. This season, he’s shooting 40.9 percent on 6.6 attempts per game. Those are really good shooting numbers. Forget what Lonzo’s shot looked like in college and in his Lakers days. He’s reworked his mechanics, and the numbers are right there to back up those new mechanics.

Lonzo also embodies everything a “two-way player” should. Not only does he add unique skill on offense, but he’s an elite defender that pairs his physical gifts with his basketball IQ.

Check out this play:

The highlight of the play is the off-the-backboard pass from Lonzo, but the magic happens before that. Lonzo recognizes the high-post look Joel Embiid is going to get at the elbow, and perfectly times the double team so that Embiid has no choice but to turn it over.

That’s a clever play that led to an opportunity for the Bulls to get the crowd involved early.

The Mavs have put a heavy focus on defense to start this season, and it’s working! Their defense is solid. But Lonzo is a guy that could’ve made the defense even better, while also improving the offense.

Dallas has a problem in the backcourt right now. Either they start Jalen Brunson, leaving the Mavs’ bench powerless, or they bring Brunson off the bench, leaving the starting unit without a true secondary creator. Being able to start the game with a guy like Lonzo playing next to Luka would’ve allowed the Mavs to use Brunson effortlessly off the bench — the role that’s best suited for him. But alas.

Again, it’s nearly impossible to know if trading for Ball was ever even a thought the Mavs seriously entertained. But if they didn’t, then shame on them. And if they did, but never made headway on a deal, then why not? What happened?

Given what the Pelicans got in return in the sign-and-trade with Chicago (Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky, a second-round pick and cash), it’s hard to imagine the Mavs couldn’t have beaten that offer prior to last season’s trade deadline, or any time before free agency officially begun.

Regardless, it’s a bummer that we now have to watch what would’ve been Luka’s perfect sidekick, now flourishing in Chicago. Lonzo is and always will be the one that got away.