The 2023 NBA Finals matchup is set as the first-seeded Denver Nuggets face the eighth-seeded Miami Heat. As the Dallas Mavericks continue to watch the postseason from afar, let’s talk about important takeaways from these two teams that the Mavericks should consider heading into the NBA Draft and Free Agency.
Team building matters
It goes without saying that roster construction is a critical component of winning a championship. Having players on a team that fit in the system, do their job consistently, and enjoy playing with one another is vital in team success. It is evident the Mavericks need to up their game this summer. Missing the postseason entirely just a year after making the Western Conference Finals brought them a significant step backward in building a true contending team.
Prior to the Mavericks’ last game of the season, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported that “fear exists” within the organization that star Luka Dončić could consider requesting a trade as early as the 2024 offseason if the team doesn’t make significant progress by then.
The front office has many decisions to make on how they want to move forward for the future. The Mavericks have seven free agents heading into the summer. It’s time to make significant changes to the team in order to turn things back around if they want Dončić to remain in a Maverick uniform for the long haul.
The Miami Heat
The Heat have had a fairytale playoff run that has been a surprise to most of the NBA world. As the first team to make the Finals coming out of the Play-In Tournament, Miami upset two favorites to win the championship in the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. Many discounted the team after former Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo suffered significant injuries during the first round. Through the heart, grit, and a lot of Jimmy Butler, they now find themselves on the biggest stage of them all.
The unique aspect of the Heat is the fact that their roster is composed of four undrafted players that have been critical in their postseason success — Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent. They continuously take risks on guys they see potential in, and it has panned out for them.
What the Mavericks can take from the Heat is that the draft matters. The Heat are consistently taking fliers on guys they believe in, and this is something Dallas can learn from. As a team that has been trying to push its way into contention over the past several years, the Mavericks haven’t felt the need to utilize the draft. As a team that is stretched thin on cap space, the Mavericks need to change their perspective on the draft for the future. With the Mavericks in possession of the 10th pick in this year, it is necessary for them to make a selection on a young prospect later this month.
The Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets sailed through the regular season as the first seed and have had a dominant performance thus far in the postseason, losing only three games up until this point. Led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets are a prime example of how to build around Dončić.
Players like Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are the glue that holds Denver together. Each of them knows their role and can execute it on a consistent basis. They are perfect fits around Jokić’s style of play. They are all gritty defenders that can cover his defensive lapses and are reliable three-point shooters that are readily available behind the arc for kick-outs by Jokić. Not only do they have great role players that excel in their duties, but they also have veteran leadership in Jeff Green. Having veteran voices with extensive playoff experience goes a long way in a team’s locker room.
It is important that the Mavericks acquire guys this summer that are perfect fits around Dončić’s style of play and in the defensive system. Once they decide which free agents to bring back to the team, it is imperative that they use the remaining roster spots on consistent players that fill the voids that the Mavericks have.
After the letdown that was the 2022-2023 season, it’s time to welcome in some new faces. The Mavericks need to fix what is broken if they want to get back on the path of building a championship-contending team. Not all of the Mavericks’ issues can be resolved overnight, but it is key to make significant progress in doing so to keep Dončić happy in Dallas.