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James Harden trade opens door for possible thrilling playoff matchup for the Dallas Mavericks

A potential trilogy matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers would have had enough storylines as is, but the Harden addition adds a twist to the rivalry.

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Late Monday night, after the Dallas Mavericks’ victory over the Memphis Grizzlies to improve to 3-0 on the season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announced the trade NBA fans had been waiting on all summer.

James Harden is now a member of Los Angeles Clippers.

With the move, the Clippers add a prominent playmaker and (albeit past his prime) one of the greatest scorers of this era. It arguably pushes the team to another tier, with Los Angeles now having — possibly — more star power on the floor when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard miss games.

It’s a seismic trade that throws a wrench into the NBA’s landscape, but it also presents the possibility of a thrilling playoff series.

Clippers-Mavericks Round 3?

The storylines write themselves. Luka Dončić would have the chance to finally get his Michael Jordan moment and takes out his version of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. Dončić has started the season on fire, averaging 39.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists on 56/49 shooting splits with improved defense.

He’s playing his best basketball while the Clippers are looking to make one last push with the core they have before the 2024 offseason brings uncomfortable questions with Leonard and George both having player options after this season.

The series would also give Mavericks fans the answer to the question it seemed everyone was asking in the first two matchups in 2020 and 2021.

“What if Luka had a second star?”

That star is now in Dallas, in the form of Kyrie Irving. Love him or hate him, Irving is one of this generation’s most talented postseason performers and his offensive firepower will prove challenging for a Clippers team that lost a key piece of its defense — Nicolas Batum — in the Harden trade.

The Mavericks have also added depth since Dallas and Los Angeles last played in the playoffs. Boban won’t be starting a Game 7 between these teams if they meet again (sorry Bobi, it’s all love).

Rookie center Dereck Lively II looked promising in the team’s first two games, shooting an utterly ridiculous 91.7% from the field while playing solid defense. Grant Williams, the team’s newest addition, shined in the team’s win over the Grizzlies Monday when he scored nine points in the first quarter to help aid a slow Mavericks start.

More depth should mean less Dončić touches in a potential Clippers rematch. After all, his usage rate this season is the lowest it’s been since his rookie campaign.

Finally, the rematch would give NBA fans the natural conclusion to a debate that’s been happening since 2018. The Dončić-Harden comparisons have been impossible to ignore over social media. Heliocentric guards who shoot step-back threes and average a lot of assists have left fans to compare the two’s playstyles and put their names in conversations next to each other.

Though Harden is past his prime, one could argue Dončić still hasn’t entered his prime either. The series would give the stars one chance to battle and finally put the outdated, exhausted narrative talks to bed.

Also, fans need it so they can finally stop having nightmares of Game 6 Kawhi Leonard. Mavericks fans deserve this closure and this group — though we have just a three-game sample size — seems they could have what it takes to give the fans that closure.