As the trade deadline approaches, teams everywhere are taking stock of their situation. Should they buy or sell? No doubt the Dallas Mavericks front office is doing it. And let’s be honest, we fans are doing the same thing.
So you have to ask yourself right now, as of today—do you really think the Mavericks can win a championship with this roster? If you’re being honest, the answer is a resounding “no.” Yes, the Western Conference is as weird as it’s ever been, but if you watch the Mavericks every game, something just seems missing. They might be able to win a round or two, but there’s no way they’re beating teams like the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks, even if they did advance that far.
If that’s the case, you have to think about seasons beyond this one, and how the Mavericks might go from a team that could make the conference finals if everything breaks right to a team that could win three championships in five years. That might mean taking a step back this year, but again, a step back from what? Not championship contention. So it’s worth the risk.
So while there’s been no rumors of this at all, the Mavericks should absolutely call up the Los Angeles Lakers and offer Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Frank Ntilikina in exchange for Russell Westbrook and two future first-round draft picks.
LeBron James is having yet another spectacular season, and keeps hinting that he doesn’t want that to go to waste. The Lakers are under pressure to give James a team that can actually compete for a championship. They need shooting, which the Mavericks can offer in Dinwiddie and Hardaway. The Lakers actually need the playmaking that Westbrook provides, and Dinwiddie can fill that void.
Westbrook can replace Dinwiddie for the Mavericks, though the fit won’t work as well. Westbrook can handle Dinwiddie’s playmaking, might actually be better, but he can’t shoot the way Dinwiddie can. Dallas will have poor spacing, especially with the added departure of Hardaway, and definitely be a worse team. It doesn’t matter, because they’ll only take a dip this year.
Along with Westbrook would come two future first-round draft picks and salary cap relief. Please don’t confuse this with some sort of Plan Powder 5.0. The idea isn’t to clear a huge chunk of cap space to sign some sort of fantasy free agent (it wouldn’t, anyway). It’s just to add more flexibility to the team’s financials as well as adding two more draft picks to their stash for the future.
After the Mavericks convey the pick they owe to the New York Knicks this summer, they’ll be able to trade their first-round picks in 2024, 2026, 2028, and 2030, as well add pick swaps in the years between. If they can nab what will be two valuable picks from the Lakers, that’s six draft picks they can use to acquire another superstar to put beside Luka Doncic, and probably grab a third borderline all-star as well.
One championship isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Multiple championships. And moves like this, while risky, are how you approach that goal.
Maybe the Lakers wouldn’t move both of their available first-round draft picks for that package. But if they don’t want to waste yet another great LeBron James season and become desperate, they might just say yes.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, would still make the playoffs this year. They might lose in the first round, or pull off a hard-fought win, depending on the matchup. But they’d be set up to dominate what increasingly becoming a wide open Western Conference for years to come.