After earning a playoff berth for the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Dallas Mavericks have gotten off to a slow start through 29 games. But Luka Doncic has done just about everything possible to put the team on his back.
Unfortunately for the 21-year-old superstar, his diverse skill set has not made up for the Mavericks’ ineptitude on the defensive end of the floor.
But if Dallas has any shot at turning its season around, it may soon have to break its best player’s heart.
Dallas continues to struggle mightily on the defensive end of the floor
Last year, the Mavericks made the postseason after compiling a 43-32 record. Most of their success stemmed from a high-powered offense that averaged 117 points per game.
On the other end of the floor, however, Dallas did not impress.
Rick Carlisle’s team ranked just 16th in points allowed per game (112.1) and got eliminated by the LA Clippers due largely to a porous defense.
While their offense has taken a step back this season, the Mavericks have actually managed to regress on defense, too.
Opponents have averaged 113.8 points against Dallas, which puts them 23rd among the 30 NBA teams. In particular, a lack of a defensive-minded big man has severely inhibited the Mavericks.
So even though Kristaps Porzingis has provided plenty of scoring, his shortcomings on the other end of the floor continue to cause problems for a team that features one of the most dynamic young stars in the game: Luka Doncic.
Luka Doncic could soon experience a case of heartbreak courtesy of his own team
Dallas did well to trade for Kristaps Porzingis in order to pair him with Luka Doncic. After all, the idea of building around the dynamic duo seemed like a sound strategy.
But given his durability concerns and defensive deficiencies, the former New York Knicks star no longer seems like a lock to remain a Maverick.
In fact, Dallas may soon break Doncic’s heart in order to give him what he truly needs. Because according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the two-time NBA All-Star’s close friend and talented teammate could be on the move sooner than later.
The Mavericks reportedly have “quietly gauged the trade market” for Porzingis.
“They’ve kicked the tires on everybody on their roster that’s not named Luka,” one person with knowledge of the team’s thinking told Fischer. “You know [president of basketball operations] Donnie [Nelson]; they’re always tinkering.”
Fischer’s report also contained an interesting take from an assistant general manager.
“They’ve definitely sniffed around on him,” the unnamed executive told Bleacher Report. “They’re taking the temperature, because they know at some point it’s gonna come around.”
Should the Mavericks trade Kristaps Porzingis?
With the Mavericks reportedly considering moving on from Kristaps Porzingis, it’s clear that Dallas understands it cannot win an NBA title with its current roster.
However, trading him would certainly represent a big blow to Luka Doncic, who has grown close with his fellow European-born teammate. Potentially upsetting their biggest star might make the Mavericks a bit uneasy, but if trading Porzingis helps the team improve on defense, that will ultimately give Doncic a better chance at winning an NBA title.
Having a top-flight scorer alongside him definitely helps. However, Doncic would truly benefit from the presence of a bruising big man who can protect the paint and dominate on the glass.
With averages of 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds on 47.3% shooting across 17 games, Porzingis obviously has the skills to contribute on the offensive end of the floor.
Ironically, though, his defensive abilities may lead to his exit from Dallas.
While it might break Doncic’s heart to say goodbye to someone he probably expected to play next to for years to come, the Mavericks will never win a championship unless they drastically improve on defense.
And that mission may begin with trading away a former All-Star who signed a $158 million contract extension less than two years ago.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.