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Dallas Mavericks trade grades: improving the team now, but giving up future flexibility

The Mavericks made some deft moves at the trade deadline, but now have given up most of their draft capital. Is that too much?

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NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Roster building in the Luka Doncic era of the Dallas Mavericks has been a roller coaster. Both iterations of the front office have taken some swings, both in attempts to turn distressed assets into long term star running mates with the star Slovenian. Sprinkled in through those moves are players targeted to provide depth and complimentary play to Doncic’s skillset. In the Nico Harrison era they’ve gotten noticeably younger, and he hasn’t been so committed to keeping pieces around if they aren’t working.

Both trade deadlines have featured moves that cut ties with signings from the previous offseason. And in cutting those ties, the Mavericks have also used up many of the remaining draft assets they currently have at their disposal. That is the conflict that seems evident in the draft grades from some analysts around the media landscape. Does the amount of trade stock given up match the production or potential you’re getting from these players — yesterday’s haul being Washington center Daniel Gafford, and Charlotte forward PJ Washington. I think it’s possible these evaluations overestimate the impact of a pick swap, and perhaps underestimate the depth the Mavericks acquired. But the feedback is interesting to ponder as the Mavericks attempt a return to the playoffs, and have the ever-constant future of Luka Doncic looming.


Bleacher Report

PJ Washington deal: D+

Make no mistake, Washington is an upper-echelon fit in Dallas. He has some downhill and interior craftiness to his game, and he will knock down a higher percentage of his threes while fielding passes from Luka and Kyrie.

But!

Dating back to the sign-and-trade transaction that landed them Williams this past offseason, the Mavericks have now turned a 2027 first-rounder and an unprotected 2030 first-round swap into...P.J. Washington.

Daniel Gafford deal: B-

Dallas’ rim protection will be better off for his arrival. Opponents are shooting under 59 percent against him at the basket, and only three players are contesting more point-blank opportunities per game overall. The $13.4 million he’s owed next season is also just a hair more than Holmes’ $12.9 million player option and reasonable backup-big money. Especially when the backup big actually plays.

Two big questions that will define this deal: Will Gafford do a better job cleaning up the defensive glass on the Mavericks than he did on the Wizards? And did Dallas get a little too reckless by now forfeiting rights to two first-round swaps (2028 and 2030) that postdate Luka’s current contract?

The Athletic

Daniel Gafford deal: A

Adding Gafford just takes pressure away from Lively having to play perfectly during this playoff run, assuming the Mavs end up as a top-eight seed in the West after the Play-In Tournament. (They should, by the way.) They might even make the top six to avoid the Play-In altogether. Gafford is a good shot blocker and rebounder. He’s also a fantastic rim runner who also can be a big-time vertical threat as a rolling big in the pick-and-roll.

PJ Washington deal: B

Washington has really improved his ability to score around the basket and moves pretty well without the ball. The Mavericks get away from the modest (by today’s standards) but long contract of Williams and bring in a declining annual salary structure with Washington. He’s signed through 2025-26, when he’ll make just under $15 million.

This should be an upgrade for the Mavs, but it cost them a first-round pick to correct a questionable summer move.

ESPN

Daniel Gafford deal: C-

The 25-year-old Gafford gives the Mavericks a longer-term backup for Lively than Powell, as well as 48 minutes of rim protection and above-the-rim finishing. Gafford is a 69% shooter, primarily on dunks (his average shot distance is 3.2 feet, per Basketball-Reference.com) who is more involved in the offense than Powell (whose usage rate has dropped to a career-low 9%).

Defensively, Gafford isn’t as strong a presence around the rim as his above-average block rate would suggest. Like Lively, Gafford has seen opponents finish at a fairly average rate for a shot blocker as a primary defender inside five feet. According to NBA Advanced Stats, they’ve shot 58% against Gafford and 59% against Lively — both far better than Powell’s 67% mark.

PJ Washington deal: D

The question here is what problem Washington is solving. Five years into his career, I’m still not sure what Washington is as an NBA player, in part because he’s had so little stability around him with the Hornets.

Washington does a variety of different things, and is clearly an upgrade on Williams as a shot creator. He averaged a career-high 15.7 points per game in 2022-23, and this year’s drop-off is more about playing fewer minutes than being less productive. Yet Williams’ best season came largely as an undersized center in 2021-22, a role he’s unlikely to play in Dallas with rookie Dereck Lively II’s emergence, and after the team also added Daniel Gafford from the Washington Wizards in a separate deal on Thursday.

As a power forward, Washington’s shooting is a limitation, particularly on a team that needs space for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. He’s a career 36% shooter, but trending the wrong direction at 35% last season and 32% thus far this year. And although Washington supplies more rim protection, he’s an overall defensive downgrade from Williams.