Any team that misses the playoffs with two no-doubt hall of famers like Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving has a lot of issues that need fixing over the offseason. The Dallas Mavericks have a serious talent deficiency that needs to be aggressively remedied. But probably the next most glaring weakness for the Mavericks is veteran leadership—on the court and on the bench beside Jason Kidd.
Think about the Mavericks’ core. Doncic has only played in 28 playoff games. Reggie Bullock has only seen 27 games. Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell have only played in 31, despite both being over 30 years old. Tim Hardaway Jr. has only appeared in 28. Only Kyrie Irving has played in a significant amount in the postseason (74 games) and he’s not exactly the model of leadership.
Talent is the biggest driver of winning, but having some quality veteran players in the rotation could make a difference, too. This isn’t a plea for well-known names who can no longer cut it in the postseason. Jae Crowder and Chris Paul, for instance, sound like the perfect candidates, but look extremely washed. No, the Mavericks need players who have multiple deep postseason runs under their belt, but can still contribute on the court. Look at what P.J. Tucker has done for the Philadelphia 76ers this year.
Then there’s the coaching staff. Kidd has only coached a team out of the first round once, in the 2021-22 season, when he took the Mavericks to the conference finals. He was an assistant when the Los Angeles Lakers won the title in 2019-20, but that was in the Bubble, an experience unto itself. The rest of the staff, like Sean Sweeney, Greg St. Jean, Jared Dudley, and Quinton Crawford, followed Kidd to Dallas from the Lakers and Bucks, and none have experience multiple deep runs in the playoffs before coming to Dallas.
Only Darrell Armstrong can be called an experienced assistant, having coached 15 seasons, including the Mavericks’ 2011 championship team. Dallas needs at least one more coach like him, so it’s no surprise they’re rumored to be searching for one this summer. This isn’t to say the entire staff needs to be comprised of grizzled old ball coaches with gray beards. But having a few guys on the bench who have gone on multiple deep playoff runs as coaches would be a huge lift to this team.
Doncic isn’t immune. The constant bickering with referees isn’t just hurting his chances of a friendly whistle. Sometimes he’s so distracted with arguing a no-call on the offensive end that he simply stops playing defense. He can’t do that. Doncic is the best player on the team, and as such sets the tone for the rest of the roster.
But the thing is, Doncic is 24. How mature were you at that age? Very few people know how to lead a team, or an organization at such a young age. The Mavericks need to add someone Doncic respects, someone who has been through numerous playoff battles. One day soon Doncic will be ready to play the role of superstar and locker room leader. Until then, he needs veteran voices to back him up, and say the things he doesn’t know need to be said.
And then there’s Kidd. Think back to the press conferences after the terrible losses last season. Do a quick search on the internet. Was there any point that Kidd said, “this loss is on me”? I don’t remember him saying that, ever, and I can’t find any instances of it when I research.
Kidd has to be willing to take blame for losses instead of spouting inspirational quotes like “I’m watching, just like you guys.” There will be times when it’s actually the players’ fault the Mavericks lost. It doesn’t matter. Kidd has to step up and say the usual coach-speak: “I didn’t have our team prepared.” It’s part of the job.
This offseason is a chance for the Mavericks to add some sorely lacking veteran leadership to a team that’s somehow aging, yet inexperienced in the playoffs. Here’s hoping they’re successful in doing so.