The playoffs made it abundantly clear that the Dallas Mavericks need to add talent. Fit is important but the Mavericks cannot go forward with such massive talent disadvantages. It is also incredibly important that the Mavericks acquire a player who can create offense. Against the Los Angeles Clippers the offense absolutely imploded every time anyone who was not Luka Doncic attempted to create off the dribble. Dragic would change that.
The Miami Heat actually hold a $19.4 million club option on Dragic and there is a chance that they could exercise it. However, given his advancing age and their goals, it is unlikely that they do so. Unlike Dallas, Miami is a high end free agent destination for NBA players. It makes sense for Miami to maximize cap space when possible.
If he becomes a free agent, Dragic fits the Mavericks like a glove. He is a 6 foot 3 inch point guard with experience playing on and off the ball. Further, he has successfully played with Luka Doncic in the past internationally. Many people have insinuated that Luka’s ball dominance in the playoffs was due to Luka’s unwillingness to play off the ball. I will allow Stephen A. Smith to answer those people for me.
The Mavericks DO need to tone down Luka’s usage a little. In order to do that, they need a player who can run the offense successfully. Jalen Brunson has made fantastic strides as a player. He is a walking bucket against bench units. But due to his size, against locked in playoff defenses with length, he has struggled.
Dragic was the leading scorer and third best player for the Heat during the bubble when they made the finals. He can create offense for himself and others off the dribble. Luka respects him from their time together and would willingly cede at least some ball handling duties to Dragic.
Because of his ball handling abilities, Dragic can create his own shots. He is a competent and willing long range bomber which allows him to space the floor when Luka does have the ball. He is also an effective cutter, having played with a post hub in Bam Adebayo and a passing wing in Jimmy Butler.
The Mavericks want to cut Luka’s usage but he is always going to command a large share of the offensive work load due to how good he is. Luka is an all time level offensive weapon right now. No one else currently on the Mavericks fits that description. So by definition, every possession where Luka gives up the ball, is less than ideal on a possession by possession basis.
Dragic’ ability to toggle between on and off ball roles and be great at both is so important. Some other options can lighten the playmaking role. Some can provide a shooting outlet for Luka to pass to. Few can do both.
Dragic is not currently a free agent. If the Heat truly want him back, he has to go back. He is also aging as he will turn 36 just before the playoffs next year. This is a short term stop-gap, rather than a long term solution.
Dragic is not a glaring defensive liability, but he also isn’t going to be fixing the Mavericks’ defensive issue. The team has been plagued by an inability to stop big wings in the playoffs. He will not be a primary defender on any of those wings.
Fit with the Mavericks
Offensively his fit with the Mavericks is perfect as mentioned above. He can solve many of the problems the Mavericks struggled with during the playoffs. On defense, the fit is less seamless. Dragic is not a liability but as with all smaller guards, he can be hunted on switches in the playoffs. He is not Brunson small, but at 6-3 you do not want him guarding Kawhi Leonard or Lebron James on a key possession.
From a resource allocation standpoint his fit might actually be worse. In the current NBA, most resources should be spent on wings. The Mavericks have a glut of guards(Luka, Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr. if he is resigned) and bigs(Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Willie Cauley-Stein). That leaves Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson as the only wings on the roster outside of Josh Green. This is despite a concerted effort last offseason to load up on wings.
Dragic is a great fit, but him coming would likely require the Mavericks to move on from Tim Hardaway Jr. There is just very little way that it would make sense to pay Hardaway Jr. the premium he is going to command and sign Dragic. If the Hardaway Jr. money is allocated elsewhere, Dragic could represent an upgrade at a cheaper price. There is also a possibility of a sign and trade of the two for each other. Plus it would allow the Mavericks to reunite an incredibly fun duo.