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Why the Mavericks should hold onto Josh Green as the NBA trade deadline nears

Is Good Josh Green back? His last month has been a breath of fresh air as his name has been bandied about as a trade chip.

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers
Josh Green #8 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on February 5, 2024 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

In less than a full calendar year, Josh Green has gone from virtual unknown to untouchable, and even more recently from punching bag to solid piece for the Dallas Mavericks.

His prolonged cold stretch to start this season and the general up-and-down nature of his career arc led to calls from the fanbase to trade Green earlier in the current trade deadline cycle. But just when we thought we were out, Green has pulled us back in with more than solid play in the last month or so.

In his last 11 games dating back to Jan. 11, Green is averaging 14 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He’s scored 18, 20 and 20 in his last three against the Timberwolves, the Bucks and most recently the 76ers, and he’s done it on a combined 10-of-18 shooting from beyond the 3-point line. It’s akin to the impressive stretch fellow Aussie Dante Exum put together in December as he was forced into a more prominent role in the lineup due to injuries. That Green’s impressive stretch has come when Exum has been out for five games with knee bursitis just goes to show that the “next man up mentality” cliche the Mavs have been talking about in their recent quotes does have some merit to it.

Green is averaging 8.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists this year on 47.6% shooting from the field and 40% on 3-point attempts this year.

With the Mavs’ depth at guard and utter lack of size, defense and rebounding, the question has always been which of those next men up really fit in with the whole Luka-Kyrie experiment and which would need to seek their minutes elsewhere. That makes Green’s elevated play lately the first argument for keeping Green past the current trade deadline, which is Thursday at 2 p.m. CST.

One legitimate response to that position may be, “Well all Green’s elevated play in that span is good for is increasing his trade value. The larger picture of his development isn’t remarkable enough to keep him off the market.”

I’d be willing to stop the argument and agree with that position if getting into the trade market with Green meant the possibility of taking a big swing that improves the Mavs’ chances at contending this year. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t. There just aren’t any real big swings available for Dallas to take before the trade deadline.

Why? The ragin’ Cajun James Carville taught us in 1992, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

The market has already dictated to some degree that the Mavs’ available assets are not attractive in this economy. It’s not only that Dallas missed out on coveted power forward Pascal Siakam — it’s the general lack of moves made when everyone knows the Mavs need something additional to be a real threat that speaks the loudest. Nico Harrison and the front office are out there trying to make moves, and no one is buying what the Mavs are selling.

That being the case, it seems the most likely candidates for the Mavs to add at this late juncture in the cycle are Golden State’s embattled forward Andrew Wiggins, Hornets forward PJ Washington or Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma. Those are the names we’re hearing connected with the Mavs most often as trade talks really start to heat up with less than 72 hours before the deadline, and to differing degrees, they’re each a little bit of a distressed asset. Read more about the Mavs’ continued involvement in talks concerning Kuzma, Wiggins, Washington and Brooklyn forward Dorian Finney-Smith over at Yahoo! Sports.

If the end game is adding one of the three — Kuzma, Wiggins or Washington — that would be a move that would move the needle, a little, but not one that would rise to the level of immediately improving Dallas’ chances to get into and out of the first round of the playoffs (the real playoffs, not the play-in). If the move you’re mulling over making is not one that immediately improves your odds in the playoffs this year, then you should be able to make that move without giving up guys like Green, Exum or Tim Hardaway Jr. in the deal. If Green can consistently produce the rest of the year like he has been his last 11 games, he will be outproducing both Wiggins (12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Washington (13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds) on his own according to their season stat lines so far this year.

And honestly, if that’s the case — if the trade really doesn’t improve the Mavs’ chances in the playoffs this year — the front office should examine why they’re even talking themselves into the deal in the first place. Let’s not make a move just because we’re feeling the pressure to make some generic deadline-day move. Let’s be intentional about this.

At the moment, I’m of the mind that the intentional play for the Mavs would be to hang onto Green past the deadline so they can suss out whether there’s another step forward he can take in his current contract extension. The fact that we don’t already have a firmer idea of what Dallas has in Green is frustrating, but that doesn’t mean you throw him in on a deal that may not move the needle.

Or, maybe if he continues to produce like he has been recently for the rest of the season, he’ll have a little more value as a trade chip in the offseason, when things will open up a little for Dallas on the asset front. Mavs fans may have changed opinions on Green three more times by then, but that comes with the territory.