Most fans would say that the Mavericks’ biggest need is a secondary playmaker to pair with Luka Doncic. I disagree. Dallas’ biggest need is a defensive-minded big man to start next to Kristaps Porzingis.
Acquiring a rim-rolling, defensive minded big would take a significant amount of pressure off Porzingis while also lessening the pain on the nights when he is unavailable. Jalen Brunson is making a strong case that he can be that situational secondary playmaker as he continues to play significant minutes and close games. Tim Hardaway Jr. has even shown improvement as a playmaker, taking even more of an initiative with the ball in his hands when Doncic is off the floor.
Let’s use Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks as an example. He has significantly raised the floor of that team due to how well he compliments John Collins and hides his defensive shortcomings.
As a key starter on a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, he had a strong presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, catching lob after lob from Trae Young while averaging 11.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. To put his offensive impact into numbers, he recorded 108 alley-oop attempts compared to Dwight Powell’s 46 last year.
Now let’s take a trip down memory lane to see what the Houston Rockets got in return for Capela. While it was a crazy four-team trade, all Houston got in return was Robert Covington, Jordan Bell, and two-second round picks. In the season before he was traded, Capela averaged 13.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, so there was no confusion as to what he would bring to the table. What it came down to was timing and execution, and Atlanta did what they needed to do to get Trae his missing piece. Capela was exactly what the Hawks needed, and he’s completely changed the overall functionality of that team.
Making a trade like this is what would propel Dallas into a different category, and they have the assets to pull off a similar trade. It’s going to come down to timing and execution. Let’s look at who some of this year’s targets could be if Dallas is looking to put their money where their mouth is.
This is the most obvious name. He’s been connected to Dallas for a while now and would be a dream fit. With Rick Carlisle as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, this could be a difficult trade to pull off and one that might have to wait until another season.
In past seasons when Indiana has struggled, Turner has been the first name mentioned on the chopping block. While the Pacers are currently without TJ Warren, they are already off to a rocky start at 3-7. If they can’t start to put things together, perhaps Dallas could slide in and make the right offer to bring the big man back to Texas.
This is another move that would have to be executed perfectly. The Knicks are off to a strong start this season after an impressive playoff run last year and Robinson has been a big part of that. He currently starts next to All-Star forward Julius Randle and compliments him well.
However, Nerlens Noel is currently playing 21 minutes per game and is putting up similar numbers to Robinson. If the Knicks’ early success plateaus, Dallas could look to strike a deal and Noel could become Robinson’s replacement. If New York believes that they’re next in line to acquire a big star, accumulating more picks could be in their best interest.
In 15 minutes per game last season, Gafford had a defensive rating of 106.6 compared to Capela’s 106.1 in 30 minutes per game. Gafford plays with lots of energy and would be significantly cheaper than Turner and Robinson. He is a huge lob-threat, averaged just under two blocks per game last year (off the bench), and is still only 23. Washington acquired him at last year’s deadline but didn’t give up much in doing so. The Wizards like what he’s done playing next to recently acquired forward Montrezl Harrell, who has exceeded expectations this season as the Wizards have gotten off to a hot start.
That being said, they are also preparing for the return of Thomas Bryant who’s been the primary starting big man for the Wizards over the last three seasons. As Washington looks to prove to Bradley Beal that they are a competitive team in the East, Gafford could be the one who’s expected to take a back seat given that he’s the youngest and has the least amount of experience. Dallas would be wise to monitor how Washington balances the big man rotation between Bryant, Harrell, and Gafford once he returns.
This one is complicated. The Celtics just extended him and he is currently a big part of their rotation. He’s struggled with availability throughout the course of his career, but they did just bring back Al Horford. One of Boston’s biggest issues has been shot creation. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are fantastic, but outside of that, they’ve struggled to get other guys to showcase any sort of playmaking or shot creation. If Boston continues to trend in the wrong direction, they could look to shake things up. The question is: would the Mavericks be willing to make a move for another big who has significant injury history?
When looking at Dallas’ big man rotation, they need to make some changes. I love our guys, but if the Mavericks are looking to go deep in the playoffs, they need to be looking at quality over quantity. There are other cheaper, less flashy moves that could be made which we’ll talk about later. The names mentioned above aren’t going to be easy to pull off, but this is why they brought in Nico Harrison. It’s time to be aggressive.