Now that the Mavericks’ season has had some time to let the dust settle, it’s important to look back and assess how the team did as a whole. For this series, I will look at the four major sects of the Mavericks organization (the front office, the coaching staff, the role players, and the stars), and grade them each on their performance going back to last summer. For clarity, the grade will only go as far back as Basketball Reference deems the “start” of the 2022-23 season, which is after the 2022 draft. First up is the front office.
It has been a long year for the Mavericks’ front office. From signing Javale McGee, to signing Kemba Walker, to trading for Kyrie Irving, there have been a plethora of strange and confusing transactions this past year. They signed Theo Pinson as their first off-season acquisition, a “vibes” guy who only appeared in 323 total minutes in 40 games. This preceded the avalanche of failed attempts to find diamonds in the rough throughout the year, which included guys like Kemba Walker and Tyler Dorsey.
Their biggest mistake, as has been for years, was not making the obvious choices and instead giving in to their faulty hubris and waiting for the perfect suitor to come knocking. Of course, these suitors never arrive and Dallas is always stuck with the scraps that no one wants. They had a layup in signing Goran Dragic but instead told him that he would only receive a limited role which caused him to sign with Chicago instead. Even if that was going to be his role, why tell him that? Dallas desperately needed someone to hold Luka Doncic and the team accountable this season and they missed on the easiest solution they could have had.
All of the moves around the edges this past season were misses. No backup point guard signing stuck (don’t forget about Frank), the three biggest signings (Javale McGee, Theo Pinson, Justin Holiday) combined for 10 starts, and the Mavericks are left with the same issues they had a year ago. The only redemption for the front office this season was that they finally paired Luka Doncic with another star who, despite what the internet says, works really well with Doncic on offense.
Straight A’s: dealing for Kyrie Irving
After months of failed acquisitions, Dallas got it right with the Kyrie Irving trade. Sure, he has his baggage that should not be ignored, but looking at it from a basketball perspective this was a no-brainer. They gave up two players in Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith that are shooting 40 and 35 percent from the field in Brooklyn, respectively. They gave up two second-rounders and a first-round pick as well, but when you look at the market for a player of Irving’s stature, that pales in comparison to his value.
It was the kind of win-now move that Dallas needed and provided them with a clear pathway forward, something they had not had since they traded for Kristaps Porzingis four years ago. The next step is to re-sign Irving to whatever he wants, and then either move forward with him and Doncic or deal him again for a haul that will recoup assets and round out the roster. With as talent-deprived as Dallas is, Irving was a huge boost. Now let’s hope that he can prove his worth by being available (and sane online) or bringing back a package that will set up the Mavericks for years to come.
Failing Miserably: solving the big man crisis
The number one takeaway from the Western Conference Finals loss last May was that Dallas had to get more physical in the paint. Kevon Looney had Dallas hopefuls drooling over the thought of a center with that skillset playing for the Mavericks. Nico Harrison told us that’s where their priority lay, and responded by signing Javale McGee with the promise that he would start from day one. If you watched Dallas play the Suns last postseason, this could have seemed like a great move based on McGee’s production in limited minutes. But if you knew who Javale McGee was, you knew how terrible a sign-and-promise this was going to be.
I admit, I thought McGee could be a better Dwight Powell. I thought he could give them 15-20 minutes a night, block a few shots, and screen and roll for Doncic. That could not have been farther from the truth and McGee ended up starting just seven games this season, appearing in just 42. Not only did Dallas end up falling back on Powell for 64 starts, but even when Maxi Kleber got hurt McGee found himself mostly out of the rotation.
Now Dallas has just McGee and Kleber under contract going forward as their bigs, and both are aging and deteriorating fast. Dallas was the worst rebounding team in the league this past year (by nearly two rebounds per game) and had the fifth-worst defensive rating. The situation at center is objectively worse and now an entire year without a solution for their big problem (pun intended) leaves them with no margin for error to solve this in the upcoming months.
Extra Credit: Mark Cuban and Nico Harrison’s reality check
Cuban and Harrison get a lot of flak for the way the Mavericks are run (and deservedly so). However, there is something to say for both of them admitting that this season was not good enough and that they need to do better. It might be the obvious thing to say, but it is not required of them. They could have chalked it up to injuries or guys missing shots or even just a learning experience. That they didn’t and actively took the blame and said what a lot of people were thinking means something. Everyone knows they need to do better, now is the time for them to prove that not all of their words are empty.