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The Mavericks trade case for Andrew Wiggins

He’s been terrible but players of his prototype are hard to come by

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks have been linked to a possible trade for Andrew Wiggins, as various rumors and reports leaked out on Monday from credible NBA insiders and reporters.

The backlash from fans was immediate and almost universal. Fans want no part of Andrew Christian Wiggins. Wiggins has been one of the worst players in the league this season and wasn’t much better last season. The case against the Mavericks acquiring him is simple — at the moment, he stinks out loud. It’s a particularly putrid stench. He has been borderline unplayable, and yet, I think the Mavericks should absolutely do it under the right circumstances. What are those circumstances? I’m glad you asked.

Breaking down a theoretical trade

Dallas Mavericks acquire Andrew Wiggins

Golden State Warriors acquire Richaun Holmes, Seth Curry, Markieff Morris, Jaden Hardy

While it’s fair to think Jaden Hardy is a very valuable young player on the trade market, I respectfully disagree. Ask yourself a couple questions: If you attached Jaden Hardy to expiring contracts, what could you get in return? A good player? A draft pick other than a late second? I’m not sure. If you attached Hardy to toxic long-term money, is he good enough to convince a team to take on long term money? Perhaps not. Compounding the issue is the team he plays on, which features Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and Tim Hardaway Jr., all players that fulfill the same things Hardy brings to the table. Is Hardy ever getting a bigger role on a team that already has Doncic and Irving? Because of that, I wouldn’t hesitate to include him in a deal for Wiggins. If a better trade for a better player were available, of course I’d prefer that deal over a deal for Wiggins. For example, I’d trade Hardy to Charlotte if it meant Dallas could land Gordon Heyward. In this hypothetical, however, the Mavericks have struck out on the trade market and are on the verge of staying pat past the deadline. In this scenario, I think a move for Wiggins makes a ton of sense.

Acquiring Wiggins for that collection of players means the Mavericks would be buying a lottery ticket for free. Sure, his contract is an albatross. It’s probably one of the, if not the, worst contracts out there. His prototype, and what we’ve seen him be, is worth gambling on. Having him on the books wouldn’t prohibit the team from pulling off any subsequent moves. In the summer, the Mavericks have even less salary filler. At that point, Dallas would be including actual rotation players in a move.

Wings of his size that can defend and help rebound are not readily available. Let’s be clear. If Wiggins had any value at all, he would be out of the team’s price range. One of the contending teams (OKC for example) would swoop in and outbid Dallas in an instant. the Mavericks would be buying Wiggins at his worst because that is the only way they could buy him. Take a look at Dorian Finney-Smith. He has clearly taken a step back and is a shell of the player we knew and loved years ago but even he would be a welcome addition to this current iteration of the Mavericks. Their “defense” is built on the back of two minimum salary players (Derrick Jones Jr., Dante Exum) and a rookie (Dereck Lively). With those three players out of the lineup in recent weeks, the defensive metrics have plummeted. The Mavericks league average defense was a house of cards. This team needs defenders in a hurry. If Wiggins never hits another open shot in his career, his defense and rebounding alone would make the team instantly better. With minimal improvement, Wiggins would certainly play playoff minutes. No combination of Richaun Holmes, Markieff Morris, Seth Curry, and Jaden Hardy should or would be part of the team’s playoff rotation.

The Warriors lack playmaking. In non-Curry minutes, every offensive possession feels like a root canal. In Dallas, Wiggins would be always playing next to either Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving. They would make his life easy on offense while allowing him to focus his energy on the defensive side of the ball. The move isn’t a lock to work but the downside for a team in their situation is minimal at worst. Ideally, the team would trade for PJ Washington. Of the players available on the trade market, he projects as the best long term fit. Everyone else has their own warts. The previously mentioned Gordon Heyward is no longer a presence on the defensive end. Jerami Grant has been rotting away on inferior teams and his ability to play solid wing defense is certainly a question mark. Kyle Kuzma has been a looter in a riot. One could argue trading away a first round pick for him is as much of a gamble as trading away Jaden Hardy and salary filler for Andrew Wiggins.

The uncomfortable truth is that there isn’t an obvious trade out there for this team. The players that fit are too pricey and the rest run the risk of using up what little draft capital the Mavericks have left without actually moving the needle forward.