The Dallas Mavericks are looking to make their next leap. After finishing last season as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, the Mavs find themselves in the same position nearly halfway through the 2021-22 campaign. How can Luka Doncic and Co. make the leap from playoff team to NBA title contender?
While the Mavs could try dangling Kristaps Porzingis, the Unicorn is having arguably his best season in Dallas and could even earn consideration as a borderline All-Star. Instead of making a massive play for Ben Simmons or some of the other stars potentially on the market, the Mavs might pursue 1B options or second-tier players.
Here are three moves for Dallas to consider as it hopes to make a push toward the top of the Western Conference standings.
Add bench scoring and playmaking by acquiring Dennis Schroder
Boston Celtics guard Dennis Schroder is almost guaranteed to move before the NBA trade deadline. He’s on a highly affordable $5.9 million contract, and Boston hasn’t found much success in two-guard sets with him and Marcus Smart.
Schroder’s availability gives the Mavericks an opportunity in multiple ways.
Dallas plays Doncic and Jalen Brunson in the backcourt, typically leaving Frank Ntilikina as the reserve point guard. Schroder has far more upside than Ntilikina as a guy who creates off the bounce and makes plays by getting into the restricted area. He’s averaging 15.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.4 rebounds this season.
The other element to acquiring Schroder is that the Mavs can fold him into the $10.8 million trade exception created in the Josh Richardson trade. They’ll have to concede some draft capital, perhaps a pair of second-round picks. But Dallas already has to use the exception before the end of June, and it might as well do so to add bench depth at a position of need.
Bring back Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes spent two-plus years in Dallas, where he promptly became one of the more polarizing wing players in the league. But there’s reason to suggest the Mavericks should try to bring him back before the NBA trade deadline.
The Sacramento Kings swingman has the highest offensive box plus-minus rating (2.0) of his career this season. He’s averaging 16.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while shooting 42.2% from beyond the arc. Barnes has also flashed the occasional upside as a playmaker when breaking defenders down off the dribble.
Adding Barnes could give Dallas a taller starting group with switchable forwards. Dorian Finney-Smith is having an underrated two-way impact for the Mavs as a floor-spacing big. He could slide to small forward, with Barnes playing the undersized 4-man.
Such a move likely means Tim Hardaway Jr. going to the Kings, but that swap makes sense for Dallas. Hardaway is struggling to shoot the ball efficiently, making under 40% of his field-goal attempts and 33.3% of his 3-point efforts. He also impacts the game in fewer ways than Barnes and isn’t exactly a marked defensive upgrade.
It’s unknown whether Sacramento would take on the remaining three years on Hardaway’s deal. But at least it’s a descending contract, and he could be a nice filler if the Kings also trade Buddy Hield. If the Mavs throw in a couple of picks (perhaps a future first and second), they could spark Sacramento’s interest.
Go big for Myles Turner
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Mavericks are “expressing interest” for Turner, and the fit makes sense. The addition of Turner would allow Dallas to move Porzingis to power forward and give the Mavs one of the more imposing frontcourts in the NBA.
Turner is averaging an NBA-high 2.9 blocks. In pairing with Porzingis (1.7 blocks), he’d help give Dallas perhaps the best defensive interior in the sport. That’s not inconsequential, considering the Mavs already rank fifth in defensive rating.
Additionally, Turner’s ability to shoot from the perimeter suits the current roster. He can pop for open triples in pick-and-rolls with Doncic or run to the rim for lobs. His willingness to step out beyond the arc also allows Dallas to keep giving Porzingis post touches, where he’s having more success at a higher frequency of post-ups.
Hardaway likely goes the other way in a deal for Turner, but the Mavs might also have to include talented youngster Josh Green and at least one first-round pick to pry him away from Indiana. It’s worth the cost. Doing so might also allow Dallas to ask for a wing such as Torrey Craig or Justin Holiday.
Size matters in the playoffs, and Turner’s skill set is a strong match for Dallas’ current roster. If the Mavs want to make a splash in advance of the NBA trade deadline, acquiring the Pacers big man is probably the best route.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.