The Dallas Mavericks are officially on the clock, and the time remaining is 4 years.
After a second consecutive first round exit to the Los Angeles Clippers duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, one thing became apparent: Luka Doncic is missing his “Scottie Pippen.”
Doncic, essentially by himself, pushed the Finals favorites to 7 games averaging 35.7 points (the highest among all postseason players), 10.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 49.0 percent overall and 40.8 percent from three.
The 22-year-old’s 46 points and 14 assists generated 77 total points in the series finale, the most ever in a playoff Game 7.
What more can the kid do?
The overall problem with the Mavericks is the pure averageness of the roster outside of Doncic.
Dallas finished 10th in net rating this season (plus-2.3), although there’s still real defensive concerns (112.3 rating, 21st overall). The Mavs were also near the middle of the pack in three-point shooting (36.2 percent, 18th) and rebounding (49.6 percent, 16th) and despite Doncic’s playmaking skills, fell to 28th in team assist percentage (55.7 percent).
The Mavs had some good role players in Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, and Finney-Smith with the issue lying primarily with the team’s second star.
Dallas officially has a Kristaps Porzingis problem.
Change is needed for growth, and the Mavs already fumbled this past offseason. So unless Kristaps Porzingis can randomly ascend to the heights he was expected to reach in New York, Mark Cuban needs to look elsewhere for a second star.
The raw numbers for the 25-year-old weren’t bad this season. The 7’3″ power forward averaged 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and was an effective floor-spacer with a 37.6 percent mark from three.
The issues with Porzingis lie in both his injury history and recent playoff performance, especially for someone who’s currently dominating the Mavs’ payroll with his max contract.
Knee and ankle injuries limited him to just 43 games this season. Porzingis hasn’t played in more than 66 contests since his rookie season in 2015-16, and missed the Mavs’ final three playoff games last year after tearing his meniscus.
While he played well in two of the three 2020 playoff games for which he was active, Porzingis merely looked like a role player in this latest series against the Clippers.
Averages of 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and a measly 29.6 percent mark from three were a huge disappointment, especially against a small Los Angeles team that got just 18 minutes out of Serge Ibaka all series due to injury. When the Mavs needed Porzingis to impose his will, he continually came up short.
But with Porzingis locked in to a max contract, combined with the injuries and lack of success in the playoffs, it becomes tough to move him at all, let alone for another star.
The Mavs are limited in trade assets because of the deal for Porzingis, with their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks going to the New York Knicks. Due to the Stepien Rule, the Mavs can’t trade another first-round pick until 2025, yet could offer pick swaps of their 2022 and 2024 firsts.
But they can’t panic either.
Dallas needs to avoid the mistakes of another young team trying to fill in the gaps around a phenom, as the Cavaliers did with LeBron James from 2003-2010.
Doncic is arguably the most talented player we’ve seen come into the league since James, and not even the four-time MVP averaged at least 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists over his first three full seasons like only Doncic and Oscar Robertson have.
Like those Cavs, these Mavs got too good, too quick to keep racking up high draft picks with the hopes of selecting another star. Cleveland instead turned to free agency, blowing money on players like Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones following failed pursuits of Ray Allen and Michael Redd.
Poor signings eventually led to poor trades in the Cavs’ quest to find James a sidekick, with the deck chairs on the Titanic shuffled from Hughes to an aging Ben Wallace to a recycled Shaquille O’Neal.
Of course, all of these failures eventually made James’ decision to leave in unrestricted free agency an easy one—a decision Doncic hopefully won’t have to make until 2027.
But who can the Mavericks realistically land?
I’m not sure there is a player on the market that is obtainable that will be both a massive upgrade over Porzinigs, nor a player which the Mavs could add to the already set duo of Doncic and Porzingis.
Pascal Siakam of the Raptors could be available by next offseason and would fit perfectly off ball and as a defender. But does he cost you Porzingis?
Before this offseason I would say go all in on offense and snag Bradley Beal, but he seems content in Washington.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’m not their billionaire owner nor their president of basketball operations.
However I do know they are on the clock and Doncic is dehydrated and will look to quench his thirst of winning before he decides to stay loyal to a franchise that isn’t reaching its max potential.
Dallas you have 4 years to find that co-star and 3 years before Doncic starts thinking about other locations. Better get to work.