The good news for the Dallas Mavericks is they have kept their meal ticket, Luka Dončić. But even with the touching ceremony in Slovenia to announce Dončić’s record $207 million contract extension, there are questions about the Mavericks’ less-than-inspiring offseason.
Please make no mistake; Dallas absolutely had to keep Dončić past the end of his rookie contract. The Mavericks got that done. But each of the last two seasons ended with first-round losses to the LA Clippers. Meanwhile, the roster doesn’t look significantly different from the one that couldn’t win a single home game in a seven-game loss to the Clippers.
2021 isn’t the first offseason where the Mavs have had great expectations in free agency and came up empty. But with a young superstar committed for the next six seasons, Dallas doesn’t want to learn the hard way how fast a window of contention can slam shut.
Luka Dončić was an instant NBA star
The Dallas Mavericks moved up in the 2018 NBA Draft to take 19-year-old Luka Dončić. The Atlanta Hawks took Trae Young, who is also emerging as an elite NBA player. The two will be linked forever, much along the lines of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Dončić already had some impressive hardware before he got to the NBA. Before the draft, he was named the youngest EuroLeague MVP in history. Oh, yeah, and he also led Real Madrid to its 10th EuroLeague championship, also a record. That checks “able to win” off the list.
Dallas missed the playoffs while Dončić was on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. The 2018–19 season was the Dirk Nowitzki Farewell Tour. But Dončić established himself as the heir apparent as the face of the franchise. In the last two seasons, he’s logged LeBron James-like numbers: 28.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game.
But he hasn’t had a lot of help. Kristaps Porziņģis missed the last three games of Dallas’ playoff loss to the Clippers in the 2020 bubble. Last season, he played the entire series. It just felt like he wasn’t there, averaging 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and shooting 29.6% from deep.
The Dallas Mavericks almost landed a star
According to reports, the Dallas Mavericks were close to getting Luka Dončić some help. Point guard Kyle Lowry was in their sights heading into free agency. Alas, Lowry went to the Miami Heat. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported the Mavericks were Lowry’s second choice. That’s the same as being his last choice since Lowry isn’t coming to Dallas.
“We’re told Dallas finished second behind the Heat for Lowry; he was intrigued by the Mavericks, who were willing to meet his price tag, but he preferred playing with (Jimmy) Butler in Miami. New Orleans was willing to go to $90 million over three years or more, according to a source, but Lowry never leaned toward going there, according to the source. Lowry took three years and $85 million from Miami.”Barry Jackson for the Miami Herald
Lowry would have been a perfect complement to Dončić, a veteran playmaker to take some of the creative load off the kid.
Where does that leave the Mavericks? Well, they brought in a Nike guy to run the front office, hired a coach Dončić didn’t want, and they’ve added two free agents who are barely household names in their own houses. That would be Reggie Bullock, a solid veteran role player who shot 41.0% from 3-point land for the Knicks, and Sterling Brown, who hit a career-best 42.3% of his deep tries for the woeful Rockets. They dumped Josh Richardson’s contract on the Boston Celtics to get intriguing but raw big man Moses Brown. And that’s about it.
The Dallas Mavericks went to Luka Dončić to get the deal done
Owner Mark Cuban led a Dallas Mavericks contingent to Ljubljana, Slovenia, for the signing. He took general manager Nico Harrison and coach Jason Kidd with him. Nowitzki, the franchise icon, was also there.
Dončić said all the right things about the deal, per Royce Young of ESPN. That’s not hard to do when you’re signing the largest rookie extension in NBA history.
“It’s a really special moment here. Thank you to Dallas for offering me this. I still kind of don’t know what to say because I never imagined this happening. I was only dreaming to only play in the NBA, but now I can sign an extension with the Dallas Mavericks for five more years, which I never had a doubt about. I always wanted to sign this.”Luka Dončić
Luka Dončić got what he said he wanted. But it looks like the Dallas Mavericks are entering yet another season where they will only go as far as he can drag them.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.