This time of year, every NBA fan is speculating on trades, trades, and more trades. Dallas Mavericks fans are no different. As usual, there’s plenty of speculation about who Nico Harrison and company might be targeting, and armed with the knowledge that the Mavericks have made a trade at the deadline seven straight seasons, fans are expecting some sort of move to be made.
But the question is—should the Mavericks make a trade at all?
You’re probably saying “yes.” After all, they’re sitting in play-in tournament territory, but only a few games back of being a top-six seed. They’ve had terrible injury luck, and with some reinforcements from a trade, could be better than their record shows.
However, consider the assets the Mavericks have to trade. Currently, Dallas is limited to trading just one first-round pick and a handful of second-rounders. They’ve got Jaden Hardy, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, and Josh Green as young players they can move (Dereck Lively II isn’t going anywhere). None of those three players is exactly enticing right now.
As a result, they’re limited to good but not great players who can improve the team this season, but only marginally. They’ve been linked to Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale, P.J. Washington, Bobby Portis, and Kyle Kuzma.
Finney-Smith, O’Neale, and Portis raise the floor for the Mavericks, but not the ceiling. They’re all capable players, but play very specific roles. None of them can create off the dribble, and their best defensive days are behind them. You could talk me into the rumored Portis-Grant Williams swap, simply due to Williams being bad this season, but the report says the Bucks want a pick involved, and that makes it unpalatable.
And that’s part of the issue. Do you really want the Mavericks to use their only draft pick available to acquire one of Finney-Smith, O’Neale, or Portis? Or one of those young players? Maybe there’s some sort of swap available where the Mavericks can ship a second-rounder and Richaun Holmes for one of those players. If so, they should do that deal. But those teams are likely to ask for one of Green, Hardy, or Prosper, and that makes the price too high—not because those players have the potential to become all-stars or anything. They are simply the only young, appealing players the Mavericks have on the roster. And when you’re short on draft picks, like Dallas, having young players to deal helps.
Washington and Kuzma are another story. Washington is a few years younger, with more time to develop into a better player. Kuzma is in his late twenties, and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and score when the defense has focused all their energy on stopping Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Washington and Kuzma might be worth a first-round pick and the matching salary. After all, you don’t know what trades are going to be available this summer. They both might be better than any player Dallas could grab this offseason.
Kuzma would be the better option—he’s averaging 4.3 assists per game this year, a career-high. He’s also a better rebounder than Washington, averaging 6.5 per game as opposed to Washington’s 5.3. But Kuzma is also a finished product. Washington might have a leap in him, and is cheaper, both in terms of acquiring him and his contract.
But do you really believe either can vault the Mavericks into contenders? They would definitely help in the regular season, adding depth and some defense. However, adding Washington or Kuzma isn’t getting Dallas past the Nuggets, Clippers, Timberwolves, or Thunder. It might not even get them past the Suns, who finally look dangerous. The Mavericks are limited in their moves, and Washington/Kuzma just doesn’t plug enough holes to vault Dallas into contender status. And as mentioned above, with their lack of assets, they can’t grab what they need—a reliable backup big, a defensive-minded wing, a backup point guard who can play 10-15 minutes—to become a contender while also bringing in Kuzma or Washington.
If the marginal moves they can make won’t get Dallas to the Western Conference Finals or beyond, then there’s no reason to jump the gun. This summer, the Mavericks will convey the pick they owe to the New York Knicks, and will have three first-round picks to use (2025, 2027, and 2031). In the meantime, maybe Hardy, Green, and Prosper increase their value before the offseason begins. That gives the Mavericks much more ammo to complete a trade this summer, or even multiple trades.
Sure, if some desperate team decides to get weird and gift the Mavericks a borderline all-star or top-level rotation player for the low price of one first-round pick and some salary filler, Dallas should do it. But if a player like that is available, it’s likely the Mavericks would be outbid. It’s better for them to bide their time and come to the table with plenty of assets to move this offseason so they can make some more impactful moves.