According to a story from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Luka Doncic wants the Dallas Mavericks to be active in the trade market before the trade deadline. Per MacMahon’s sources within the organization, Doncic “has strongly indicated he wants the Mavs to upgrade” before the NBA’s Feb. 9 trade deadline.
Over the summer when free agency began, Doncic told MARCA, a Spanish sports publication, “Well, the market has but just started and I expect the bosses of Dallas have more options to sign. Let’s see what they do.” It seems that six months later, Doncic is no longer willing to wait and see what happens.
This is fascinating to consider, particularly since the Dallas Mavericks have not had to deal with direct ramifications of the superstar empowerment era, which began around the time Lebron James teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami in the summer of 2010. Previously, they’ve only been on the receiving end of stars changing their minds about wanting to play in Dallas. Instead, they had loyal superstar Dirk Nowitzki, an intense competitor in his own right but one largely content to let the Dallas Mavericks front office do their jobs (the trade for Rajon Rondo being the one main exception we’re aware of).
Upgrading the roster is difficult. As we’ve detailed, in the five years of team building with Luka Doncic, the Mavericks have had a healthy combination of bad luck and poor decisions, which has left them with a roster devoid of assets which could net a reasonable return. If they were to trade, Dorian Finney-Smith for example, that creates as many problems as a returning player may solve. They also cannot trade away a first round pick this year unless the Knicks agree to lift the restrictions on the 2023 pick or they want to send away distant 2027 pick.
It’s worth noting that last season at the trade deadline, the Mavericks front office did make a blockbuster move when none seemed on the horizon, moving Kristaps Porzingis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. That move helped propel the team for the rest of the regular season. There are still three weeks for Dallas to try to find a way to change things up with the roster as it stands.
This push by Doncic in private is echoed by public sentiment most days and the recent Deep Ellum mural (since taken down) can attest to the frustration of a fanbase that just came off a Western Conference finals run. Reconciling these feelings of frustration may seem difficult when Dallas sits at fifth in a packed race in the West, but it’s important to remember that Dallas is 0-6 without Doncic and just 2-8 when he score’s 30 points or less. Dallas is 22-7 in all other contests. Unless Luka Doncic is otherworldly, the Mavericks struggle mightily to win.
The Mavericks have now had their first direct experience with superstar empowerment. And while nabbing the superstar is the hardest part in team building, the fact is that the path forward does not get easier, rather it gets more difficult. Though it remains to be seen whether Doncic would ever request a trade one day, the fact is that he wants to win and win right now. It’s on the Dallas front office to help make that happen.