The Dallas Mavericks are desperate to build a championship contender around Luka Doncic. Unfortunately for the Mavs, they only have two first-round exits to show for the first three seasons of Doncic’s historic career.
Near the end of another quiet offseason, Dallas has reportedly emerged as the frontrunner to acquire a disappointing top-10 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft. Even with this new addition, there is still another player Luka would love to see alongside him next season.
The Dallas Mavericks are the frontrunners for Frank Ntilikina
The Mavericks are closing in on Frank Ntilikina, a 23-year-old point guard from France. The 6-foot-4 guard was selected eighth overall by the New York Knicks four years ago, much to the surprise of many basketball insiders.
Despite being a top-10 pick, Ntilikina has never been able to become a regular member of the starting lineup. Frank saw approximately 21.2 minutes per game in his first three seasons in New York, scoring just under six points to go along with three assists.
However, his spot in the rotation disappeared last season under head coach Tom Thibodeau. On a Knicks team good enough to earn the four-seed in the Eastern Conference, Ntilikina played in only 33 games, averaging 2.7 points in 9.8 minutes. After the season, New York declined his $7 million qualifying offer, ending his disappointing four-year tenure in the Big Apple.
If signed, Ntilikina would likely be nothing more than a depth option for Dallas’ backcourt. The Mavericks have Doncic locked in at point guard, with a newly-extended Tim Hardaway Jr. at shooting guard. Jalen Brunson and former Knick Reggie Bullock are also in the fold, leaving Frank on the bench for the majority of the game.
There’s another guard Luka Doncic has wanted
Doncic can only get so excited about a player who averages 5.5 points per game. Instead, there’s another player he wants Dallas to bring in, although it might not be as likely as it seemed a few weeks ago.
Rumors have circulated for weeks about the Mavericks pursuing veteran guard Goran Dragic. The 35-year-old has spent the better part of seven years with the Miami Heat, with an All-Star appearance and trip to the NBA Finals on his resume. This offseason, Dragic was part of a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors that sent Kyle Lowry to South Beach and Dragic up north to a rebuilding Raptors team.
The history between Doncic and Dragic goes way back. Luka has considered Goran, a fellow Slovenian, as one of his biggest mentors. The two guards are very close, and even worked out together earlier this offseason. But the Raptors at the moment don’t have any intentions of trading or buying out Dragic.
Are the Mavericks ready to contend?
Assuming Ntilikina joins Dallas, the Mavericks are still a step behind the rest of the Western Conference. After another great year from Doncic, the Mavs finished 42-30, losing in the first round to the four-seed Los Angeles Clippers. However, they finished with the same record as the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, so they could have easily been the seventh-ranked team in the conference.
For the Mavericks to take the next step, Doncic will need more from his supporting cast. Big man Kristaps Porzingis was brought in from Ntilikina’s Knicks in the 2018-19 season but has missed 18 and 29 games in the last two years. Hardaway Jr. inked a four-year deal worth $75 million at the beginning of the offseason, as he’ll aim to improve on last year’s solid 16.6 points per game. Finally, with Josh Richardson departing for the Boston Celtics, Brunson is the only other Maverick who averaged double-figures in 2020-21.
Adding Dragic would be a sizable addition, but that appears more and more unlikely by the day. Instead, the Mavericks will have to settle for Ntilikina and hope Doncic can carry them past the first round.