The NBA is in no-man’s land, the one week period between the NBA Draft and the start to free agency. While many deals are agreed upon in a loud whisper prior to the free agency bell ringing on June 30, player movement won’t be fully realized until days later.
There has already been a shake-up with the Dallas Mavericks, after they traded the back end of their bench from last season, plus the 26th pick in the 2022 draft, to acquire big man Christian Wood. So before Adam Silver says “go” it’s time to assess who the Mavericks have, what they need, and what questions might pop up in each position group.
Projected Dallas Mavericks Depth Chart 2022-2023
Going into the signing period the Mavericks have Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Frank Ntilikina under contract. Jaden Hardy (shaded red as a draft acquisition) was selected with the 37th pick after the Mavericks traded two future seconds to the Sacramento Kings. Guards Jalen Brunson and Theo Pinson are shaded grey because while both are free agents, they each have been reported as points of focus for the front office once the signing period begins. But nothing is given.
While Pinson had a major impact with the Mavericks last season, one could argue his leadership on the bench is more valuable than his play on the floor. He was a proven leader on last year’s team, and worthy of being brought back. But the question of his return is less weighty.
The biggest question though for the Mavericks’ entire offseason is that of Brunson’s signing. Most intel from national media initially indicated that the four-year pro back with the Mavericks was a done deal. But as the New York Knicks made extreme moves to free up cap space, the future for Brunson in Dallas is slightly murkier and very bad time.
This is a move that the Mavericks need to make. Full stop. His chemistry with Doncic is solid, and his play in Luka’s absence gives assurances that the ballhandler is the real deal.
After locking Brunson in Nico Harrison must assess if the trio of Doncic, Brunson, and Dinwiddie is enough ballhandling and playmaking for next season. Hardaway Jr. is returning from injury, but isn’t a creator. And Ntilikina can’t be expected to play that role either. Hardy has isolation-scoring skill, and when he’s hot he can shoot the lights out. But after a season with G-league Ignite he still has a lot to prove and likely plays a small role this season.
It would be nice to pick up one more playmaker, and don’t be surprised to hear Luka’s friend Goran Dragic talked about a lot (as it seems he is every offseason Doncic has been in Dallas). Though the likelihood of him playing in Dallas is unclear.
Head coach Jason Kidd nearly drove Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock into the ground during the playoff run. They averaged 38 minutes and 39 minutes respectively in the 18 games played, and were tasked with covering each opponent’s best players. Both were fantastic defensively, while also shooting 40-percent or better from deep.
But after them the rotation fell off a cliff. The Mavericks made clear after the season that shoring up their big man and wing rotations were priority. They’ve addressed one with the acquisition of Wood, but now need to focus on wing support.
Will Tim Hardaway Jr. see time at small forward in multi-guard lineups? Yes. Is it possible Josh Green makes progress in his development? Sure. But that won’t get it done in today’s NBA. Green growing into an actual rotation piece on a playoff team would go a long way, and is the biggest question mark on this part of the roster. Either way expect this to be the focus of the MLE, or even a trade target.
On paper, the fit of Christian Wood in the Mavericks offense is obvious. His skillset should blend nicely with Doncic. The questions there center on his defensive focus and the reported attitude issues that have followed him from a few teams.
But just because the Mavericks have found their starting center doesn’t mean this rotation is complete. Rotations will shrink in the playoffs, so it is possible they make a grouping of Wood, Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell work — with Davis Bertans playing spot minutes. Marcus Bingham (shaded red above) was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent to an Exhibit-10 contract on Thursday night, but there shouldn’t be expectation that he sees regular time for the Mavericks. Given the length of the season, and the wear and tear on big men, it would be wise to find one more bench big to take the roster spot left by Boban Marjanovic.
The Mavericks have made a few moves already this offseason to address needs, and they’ve done so without giving up any of their top-eight rotation players. Nico Harrison’s task next week is locking in Brunson then finding support players on friendly deals to provide the needed depth for another deep playoff run.