It’s no secret one of the Mavericks offseason goals was to upgrade their center position, as it’s been reported by multiple people close to the Mavericks. You can see that desire through the moves they made this summer, drafting duke center Dereck Lively with the 12th overall pick, which (knock on wood), should be the highest pick the Mavericks have in the Luka Doncic era. So clearly it’s important to the organization.
Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela has been one of the most rumored names for a Mavericks trade, first starting around the draft last month and continuing past free agency. NBA reporter Marc Stein reiterated that desire on his radio show on 97.1 “The Freak” on Saturday.
“The Mavericks don’t want to be done. Maybe they are done with this roster because further moves are not available to them,” Stein said. “They would love if the chance to make another trade run at Clint Capela from the Atlanta Hawks materializes to this point.”
Stein makes sure to emphasize that nothing is on the immediate horizon in terms of trade talks, just that the Mavericks remain interested if there is a chance Capela is available, whether that is directly through the Hawks or in a larger three-team trade scenario. Stein also noted that Dallas rebuffed the Hawks before the draft on trading pick 10 and Josh Green for Capela.
A few thoughts on this: First, good on the Mavericks for holding strong in their trade talks. While the ghost of Kevon Looney seemingly still haunts this organization after what happened in the Western Conference Finals in 2022, it’s clear the team has a hard line on how much to give up to boost the starting center spot. When you draft a player like Lively at 12, clearly that means the team is confident in that player becoming a starter at some point. No sense in mortgaging any part of your future like Green, Hardy, or future picks to acquire a player that in reality would just be a “nice to have.” Capela would fit well in Dallas and you could argue his expiring contract next season could be valuable in a trade, but the Mavericks roster still has gaping holes elsewhere, particularly at the wing. Capela is owed $22 million in 2024-25, presumably when Lively is ready to be a starter. It just doesn’t feel smart to unload good assets for that.
A second thought: it is a little strange the Mavericks are (seemingly) as obsessed with finding a starting center to close out their summer considering the state of the roster. Lively might not be ready day one, but he could be ready on day 30, or day 60, or day 90. In the meantime, the Mavericks have been able to play winning basketball in the past with Dwight Powell and others platooning the position — it’s been the flat, and at times uninspiring wing depth that has doomed the Mavericks lately. Grant Williams and first round pick Olivier-Maxence Prosper will help, along with continued development of Josh Green, but it’s clear the Mavericks likely lack one more starter on the wing, next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. It’s also clear the Mavericks felt at least somewhat similarly, as they gave an offer sheet to Matisse Thybulle. Since Portland matched, there hasn’t been much in regards to rumors of who the Mavericks would pivot too — only more talks about their continued interest in trading for a starting center. To be fair to the team, the remaining free agency options on the wing (Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr.), are uninspiring to say the least. Wing is also the most in demand position in the NBA, which makes the trade market competitive.
I would offer just that while a lot of the fan base has been ready to move on from Tim Hardaway Jr. for a while, moving him for a short term center fix doesn’t seem as automatic as it might on paper. Hardaway has been one of the best shooters in the NBA since Luka Doncic was drafted, a high-volume and accurate shooter that is still very valuable. Despite the additions of Williams and Seth Curry, Hardaway still remains the Mavericks most potent three-point threat, a very valuable skill next to a three-point generating machine in Doncic. Obviously Dallas has a guard logjam it needs to solve, but hopefully moving Hardaway would result in a wing starter or more bigger perimeter depth, as opposed to a center that has a shelf-life of only a season or two.
Who knows how the Mavericks offseason will end, but at the very least it’s good that Dallas is holding strong on any potential trades for a center. The Mavericks accomplished a lot this summer — they addressed multiple positions of weakness, got younger, increased their trade ammo. You can’t ask for much more in one offseason, considering the limited assets the Mavericks were working with. Dallas doesn’t need Capela or any other stopgap center, especially when the team is more than one move away from title contention. The Mavericks should remain patient and keep their cards close to the chest, it should only lead to a potentially bigger and better deal down the road.