We are in the absolute dregs of the summer. The NBA offseason has produced some truly mind-boggling moments – namely the huge haul Minnesota unloaded for Rudy Gobert. And there’s ever-present electricity in the air as pundits and fans alike await the shoe-drop of a potential Kevin Durant trade. But for Dallas fans? It’s rough.
Things started poorly with breakout guard Jalen Brunson walking out the door for nothing and leaving a glaring hole in the ball handler rotation. Spencer Dinwiddie likely will shoulder the brunt of those minutes, but the assumption that Dallas would look to bolster that spot after Brunson’s exit have so far gone unfulfilled. That empty void on the roster begging to be filled has Maverick faithful truly desperate.
It’s understandable. Necessity is the mother of invention. Beggars can’t be choosers. You can’t always get what you want. Any number of platitudes apply to Dallas’ current roster impasse. But here’s another that I think is likely the most fitting – hurt people hurt people. This Maverick fanbase, perhaps more than any other, bears some of the ugliest free agency scars in the league. It’s made us think we should be happy with whatever we can get. I’m here to tell you that you can ask for more.
Here are three backup ball handlers whose addition to the roster would Joker-ize me entirely.
Stop asking for Patrick Beverley. You do not want Patrick Beverley. No one should want Patrick Beverley. You think he had a pretty good series with Minnesota and liked how emotional he got about claiming the West’s 7th seed. That’s a “you” problem.
Entering his 11th NBA season, the inimitable PBev is more internet meme factory troll than viable NBA point guard. His entire raison d’être, seemingly, isn’t so much to be a good basketball player per se but to simply be as annoying as possible. Having accomplished that, he’s said to have had a good game.
What perhaps was once good-natured gamesmanship and “hard-nosed” defensive edge have aged into petty squabbles and tea-spilling on ESPN after getting booted from the playoffs. This airing of dirty laundry no doubt rubbed some players the wrong way, and at least one - Damian Lillard - said so publicly.
But that’s just the latest example of Patrick Beverley’s grating behavior. In many ways, this PBev is still who we thought he was. And that’s a guy who was constantly antagonizing Luka Doncic from the bench for two straight years as a Clipper when the two teams faced off in the postseason. Sure, Beverley has since gone on to give Luka his flowers, calling him the toughest player to guard in the NBA, yadda yadda yadda.
I’m sure if you asked Luka, he would say there’s no bad blood, but look at the context. Dallas has moved on from Luka-friendly players like Salah Mejri, Boban Marjanovic, and Jalen Brunson. They let his national Team coach escape to Brooklyn. They’ve seemingly REFUSED on MULTIPLE OCCASIONS to bring in his Slovenian teammate and mentor Goran Dragic despite him being one of the only players in recent history to outright say he’d like to play in Dallas. Now you want to bring in one of the players Luka has shown an outward distaste for? And you want them to go to work together every day? How much is too much? Patrick Beverley, as a 31-year-old, 6’1” point guard, simply doesn’t justify the baggage he brings to a roster.
Walker is certainly a player who carries some cachet. He was a former All-Star and had some truly great years in Charlotte. The question is how much of that All-Star caliber player still exists?
Over the past three seasons, Walker has played fewer and fewer games, bottoming out last season with just 37 games played as a Knick; a career low. And it’s not like the Knicks didn’t need the help at point guard. Walker simply fell out of head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.
Now, if you, like me, don’t think much of Thibs as a head coach, there is certainly an argument to be made that sidelining Kemba was simply poor coaching. Walker made that case himself when, after being benched as a healthy scratch, team injuries and covid forced him back into a starting role.
Likely running on a supercharged sense of spite and pride, he proceeded to go out and hang 44 points on the Washington Wizards. Certainly eyebrow-raising from a guy whose coach didn’t think he could play anymore. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before Walker returned to the bench, and that was where he remained for the final two months of the season.
The obvious knock against Walker would be his defense. He was never particularly stout on that side of the ball at the best of times, and things haven’t gotten better as the 6-foot point guard just celebrated his 32nd birthday. The defensive liability of a Doncic/Walker backcourt is just too much to bear. Not to mention, after failing in their pursuit of Walker in 2019, adding yet another player years after their initial interest (a la Derrick Williams and DeAndre Jordan) just reeks of a pre-Nico front office move, and that is an era I think we should rightfully be putting in the rearview.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Speaking of things in the rearview.
Look. Did I like Dennis Smith Jr as a Maverick? Yes. Did he get criminally robbed TWICE in the NBA Dunk Contest? No question. Did he have an uphill path to success with Rick Carlise as his coach and Luka Doncic as his teammate? Sure. Does that constitute returning to this particular well? Unlikely.
With Smith Jr struggling to catch on after his stop with the Knicks ended unceremoniously and an unfortunate injury cutting short his time in Portland, he spent his offseason working to prove he still belongs in the league. I’m pulling for him. I really am. I even understand the romantic ideal of bringing the prodigal son home to “make good” on all the potential DSJ showed in his time in Dallas. Jason Kidd is a different coach than Rick Carlise. Dennis Smith Jr is a different player than his status as a top-10 draft pick afforded him. And, purely on a personal note, having both Dennis Smith Jr AND Frank Ntilikina on the roster – two players I loved for Dallas in that 2017 draft – seems like some kind of alternate universe that would have made the Mavs fan I was 5 years ago ecstatic.
Unfortunately, the NBA doesn’t function based on how head-canonically utopian your roster is. It’s a brutal league that demands talent. The painful truth may well be that there isn’t a feasible trade target or free agent Dallas could add who would replace Jalen Brunson. That doesn’t mean they should simply throw an important roster spot this important to just any project player. After all, they already have Christian Wood for that.