The Dallas Mavericks have had a fantastic 2023 off-season. It’s worth saying and it’s worth repeating, loudly, if necessary.
I still remember that feeling on June 21, 2018, the night of the NBA Draft when the Dallas Mavericks drafted Luka Doncic. I’d just gotten out of a workout in the early evening and I’d left my phone in the car and coming back to Marc Stein alerts that Dallas was trading up with intentions to select Doncic was one of the most cathartic moments in my sports fandom. The Mavericks had fallen in the draft lottery, then they go their guy anyway. I had a feeling he was going to be a star one day soon.
Fast forward to the next five years, which included three playoff runs (one to the Western Conference Finals) and most recently a trip to the NBA Lottery after a maddeningly disappointing 2022-23 campaign. During those seasons, I’ve been consistently critical of the decisions made by two different front offices. Despite their success in the 2021-22 season, most off-seasons have left much to be desired. In 2019, Dallas looked too far down the road, eventually hoping to pair Giannis Antetokounmpo with Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The 2020 off-season and trade for Josh Richardson didn’t pan out as intended. The 2022 off-season saw the loss of Jalen Brunson for nothing and the signing of JaVale McGee.
After a painful 2022-23 season, the Mavericks needed things to work out. The problem was they just didn’t have many avenues to success. They were there, yes, but when starting with just the 10th pick in the draft, it felt like the Mavericks were boxed in by their own history. I wanted Dallas to draft the best player available and see what happened from there.
We all know what happened next, but it’s worth revisiting all of these moves.
- Dallas traded from 10th to 12th, selecting Cason Wallace for the Oklahoma City Thunder and having them select Dereck Lively II. They also moved Davis Bertans to the Thunder and picked up a TPE along the way. Lively fills a long-term need at the center position for Dallas.
- The Mavericks traded into the first round, absorbing center Richaun Holmes from the Sacramento Kings at the cost of their first-round pick. Dallas then had Sacramento select Olivier-Maxence Prosper, taking him out from under the Boston Celtics. The wing player fills an absolute need for the team, giving them flexibility in multiple positions.
- At the start of free agency, the Mavericks came to terms with All-Star guard Kyrie Irving on a three-year, $120 million deal (player option in year three, plus incentives based on wins and games played). The contract took some criticism nationally (and I noted my confusion on the deal), but by and large it makes sense relative to what Dallas gave up to secure Irving in the trade in February.
- Seth Curry agreed to his third contract with the Dallas Mavericks, a two year deal worth about $4 million each season.
- Dwight Powell agreed to yet another contract with the Dallas Mavericks, this one a three year deal worth around $12 million.
- Former first-round pick Dante Exum agreed to terms with Dallas, a bit of a flyer of a deal, but he’s played well overseas, improving his shot, putting on some weight, and generally looking like a different player than his first term in the NBA.
- Dallas participated in a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs, eventually netting Grant Williams on a new four-year deal worth $54 million as well as two second-round picks at the cost of Reggie Bullock and a 2030 pick swap, each going to San Antonio. Williams is a fantastic connecting piece and helps Dallas in a variety of ways on both sides of the ball.
That’s a long list, far exceeding my best-case scenario when looking at the team when the season ended in April. It’s even more remarkable when you consider that as recently as February, the Mavericks were still playing five rotation pieces that were also getting regular minutes in the 2018-19 season. As Josh wrote last week, the team is moving finally moving forward. And I have a strong feeling that they aren’t done yet, given that Dallas still has all of the mid-level exception to use and there are some logjams in the roster, particularly in the guard slots.
It’s hard to predict if these moves pan out and improve the team’s outcomes this season. But considering the alternatives and, frankly, some of the dire forecasts that we did in the later half of the season, this off-season is a rousing success. It gives me confidence and hope that the 2023-24 season will be a good one and as a fan, that’s a really fantastic set of feelings.
The Dallas Mavericks front office, that combination of Nico Harrison, Michael Finley, Mark Cuban, Jason Kidd, and all the other members have done a fantastic job and I can’t wait for the season to start.