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The Mavericks have two paths available this trade deadline

You can make a case for Dallas to be buyers or sellers.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This is a very complicated trade deadline for the Dallas Mavericks. Why? Let me spin you two different stories.

Sell! Sell! Sell!

The Mavericks are in sixth place, and things don’t look good. Luka Doncic returned from an ankle sprain and the Mavericks have lost six of their last 10. The schedule only gets harder, with a five game road trip upcoming against West teams that are clumped up in the standings. Another bad week of basketball and the Mavericks could be outside the play-in tournament.

Defensively, the team has fallen apart without Maxi Kleber, out with a torn hamstring. Luka Doncic is putting up a historic season, yet the Mavericks still need him to score 60 or 50 points to beat the Knicks or the Rockets. Or, mos recently, the Pistons. To make matters worse, the Mavericks are the seventh oldest team in the league.

Most of the core around Doncic isn’t young, especially after Jalen Brunson left last summer. If you look at the top 10 in minutes played for the Mavericks this season, only three players are under the age of 25 and one of those three is Frank Ntilikina. That wouldn’t be so bad if the Mavericks were near first place, but they’re only a few games from being out of the play-in entirely. Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie, and Reggie Bullock are all either 30 or about to turn 30.

Think of it this way — Doncic is 23. In about five years, he’ll be 28. When looking at history, when a great player is about 27-28 years old, the expectation is for that player to complete for championships. Look at how old Michael Jordan was when he won, or LeBron James. Or Kevin Durant. So when Doncic is at an age where championships are the expectation, his current rotation would feature a majority of players anywhere from age 34 to 36. That cannot happen.

So the Mavericks need to sell. They need to listen to anyone that’s not Luka and if they can get anything — dump a contract, get a first round pick, something — they should move on. Doncic is still very young, but the clock is ticking. Dallas is still hanging on to a roster that has been together since 2019 and for some of these players, even longer than that. Look at other contenders — they change year-over-year, in some cases. Dallas needs to get ready for Doncic’s upcoming prime years, and that won’t happen if they’re still hanging on to role players that will be almost aged out of the league when that moment arrives.

Buy! Buy! Buy!

The Mavericks are in sixth, but they’re still only one game back of fourth place. The teams ahead of them (Warriors, Timberwolves, Clippers) have all been dealing with just as much injuries and adversity as the Mavericks have.

Yes, it’s not ideal the Mavericks need Luka Doncic to be superman, but guess what? He’s superman! Superman can win you playoff games. Before the mass of injuries hit, Dallas, despite some struggles, was still a top-10 team in terms in net rating according to Cleaning the Glass.

If the West was the juggernaut most thought it’d be, that’d be one thing. But the conference is a mess. The Warriors are inconsistent, the Clippers rely on two stars that can’t stay healthy, the Rudy Gobert trade for the Timberwolves was a disaster, the Suns are in turmoil without Devin Booker, and the Pelicans also can’t seem to stay healthy. The only two juggernauts in the conference are the Nuggets and the Grizzlies. And guess what? I’m not scared of those teams!

Luka Doncic is 8-3 in his career against the Grizzlies. In games Ja Morant plays, it’s 6-1. Luka Doncic is 8-6 in his career against the Nuggets, 7-5 in games against Nikola Jokic. Just this season, the Mavericks walloped the Grizzlies with Morant by 40 points. Dallas beat Jokic in Denver on the Mavericks second night of a back-to-back, one of the hardest games an NBA team can play. Dallas can beat those teams.

So if Dallas can beat those teams, why not go all in? Or even if you don’t go all in, why wouldn’t you try to improve the team any shape you can, even if it’s a smaller move. The West is wide open, the Mavericks matchup well against the two best teams, and Luka Doncic is playing like an MVP. The Mavericks can make another run.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s the best solution for the Mavericks this trade deadline. It’s a complicated season, with no easy answers. The Mavericks have two paths ahead of them — we’ll learn more about which they’re taking in about a week.