The Mavericks finished the past half-week 2-0 with wins against the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas is now 30-23 in eighth place in the Western Conference, but just one game back of fifth. Dereck Lively and Dante Exum still remain the only players on the injury report. Dallas traded for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline.
The Mavericks have won four games in a row, including a 35-point victory at home over the Thunder. Sometimes all it takes to gain momentum is a layup, and the Mavericks had three easy ones before they beat Oklahoma City. The team is playing exceptionally well, as they are top-five in both offensive and defensive rating during this streak, and second in net rating to the Cavaliers, who have won nine in a row.
Eight players scored at least five points in the first half Saturday while seven finished the game in double figures. It was the definition of a team win and one that felt extra special with the new additions. There isn’t much to how the Mavericks are playing now other than the air feels different and the effort has been present.
Straight A’s: Nico Harrison
If anything, Nico Harrison is aware. He is aware of what kind of player he has in Luka Doncic, what Doncic needs to win, and his mistakes. This was on display again as he traded away Grant Williams, the Mavericks’ prized off-season acquisition, after just half a season in Dallas. Williams was playing poorly, and Dallas now has a young, versatile, bigger forward in P.J. Washington to take his place. Harrison addressed the Mavericks’ hole at the backup center spot as well by trading for Daniel Gafford.
In terms of personnel only, this was a home run for Dallas. Harrison is all in on the “win now” school of thought but made moves that also managed to contribute to the youth that they started building over the last year. Washington and Gafford are perfect fits in Dallas, and move the Mavericks that much closer to being serious contenders.
Set up for failure: the Mavericks’ backup plan
The other side of the coin is the lack of future draft capital Dallas possesses because of these trades. They got two low-value second-round picks back for the first-round pick they gave up for Washington, which was the final first-round pick they had to trade until two more open up this summer. It just seems as if Dallas is still a bit careless with their assets. It could just be the previous regime’s taste still lingering, but trading your last first-rounder for a role player feels irresponsible. It may not matter, Washington may end up being very good (in fact, I think he will), but down the road, if this current construction falls apart, it is hard to see a path where Dallas does not have to completely start over.
Maybe that thinking is too paranoid for a team with Luka Doncic, but it is hard to ignore the overwhelming ease that this front office has with giving up the future in favor of the present. In five years we may look back and say that this deadline was the direct catalyst for deep playoff runs or even a championship. But we also may look back and say “If only we had one more first-round pick to throw into a deal for player X”. Or, in the worst-case scenario, it could be a case of longing for the pick to have been used on a player. Whatever ends up happening, all we can do now is wait and see how good Washington and Gafford are going to be.