NBA Trade Deadline: The Dallas Mavericks Must Act Quickly to Replace Tim Hardaway Jr. To Keep Superstar Luka Doncic Happy

Last summer, Mark Cuban hired long-time Nike executive Nico Harrison to improve the Dallas Mavericks’ roster as the franchise’s President of Basketball Operations and GM. However, the outspoken owner might be wise to jump into action now after the Mavs lost another critical piece on Tuesday. The NBA’s Trade Deadline hits on Feb. 10, so Cuban and Harrison have little time to waste repairing a Dallas roster in need of fortification.

When Tim Hardaway Jr. planted wrongly and broke a bone in his left foot on Tuesday, it meant the Mavs would likely be without a key rotational piece for the rest of the season. That’s a big blow to a Dallas team that is already offensively challenged and perilously in need of points.

However, if left unaddressed over the next two weeks, the loss of Hardaway Jr.’s scoring and shooting could snowball into a far greater problem for the Mavericks.

For as great as Luka Doncic has been, he still hasn’t won a playoff series with the Mavs 

Dallas Mavericks superstar forward Luka Doncic disputes a call in a recent game against the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Center. | Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Luka Doncic has lived up to every bit of the hype that preceded his arrival in the NBA. In a short time, he’s become one of the league’s preeminent players and a superstar in every sense of the word.

However, in two previous trips to the postseason, Doncic and the Mavs have yet to win a playoff series. History says that superstar players tend to get a wandering eye when they continue to exit the playoffs early. By no means is it too soon for the Mavericks to worry about Doncic’s future if they can’t put more talent around him and make the franchise a contender as quickly as possible.

Sure, Doncic had to be impressed with the recent royal treatment the Mavericks gave to legendary big man Dirk Nowitzki. Not only is Nowitzki arguably the most impactful European to play in the NBA, but he was the player who finally brought a championship to Dallas. Accordingly, his No. 41 will hang in the rafters at American Airlines Arena.

While there are many parallels between Nowitzki and Doncic, there is no guarantee that the latter will be as loyal to Dallas as the future Hall of Famer was. That’s why owner Mark Cuban might be under the gun now to act to try and add premier talent around Doncic before his frustration level grows.

The Mavericks have thrived this season with a rugged defense under new coach Jason Kidd

The Dallas Mavericks made their move of late, winning six in a row and 10 of 11 at one point. Until recent losses to the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors — the top two teams in the West — Dallas was the hottest team in basketball.

The Mavs have had to survive all season on the strength of their defense. They came into Tuesday’s game against the Warriors, having held 24 consecutive opponents to less than 50% shooting and 10 of the last 14 foes to fewer than 100 points. Even after Tuesday’s beatdown by the Warriors, the Maps rank third in the NBA in points allowed (103.1), second in 3-point makes surrendered (10.8), and sixth in 3-point percentage allowed (33.7%).

One might assume the Mavericks would be better defensively with new coach Jason Kidd at the helm. However, those same people would likely be surprised a Luka Doncic-led team is struggling offensively. Dallas is 26th in scoring, 26th in 3-point accuracy, 20th in overall shooting, and 16th in 3-point makes a game.

Kristaps Porzingis, who had just nine points on Tuesday before being ejected, has been inconsistent. Bright spots Jalen Brunson (33.1%) and Dorian Finney-Smith (36.4%) and Doncic (29.9%), Porzingis (28.4%), and Hardaway Jr. (33.6%) have not shot the ball nearly well enough from distance. 

Losing Tim Hardaway Jr. is a blow that the offensively challenged Mavs might not survive

When Tim Hardaway Jr. needed help getting off the Chase Center floor on Tuesday, it was a bad sign for a Dallas offense that has already struggled mightily. Now, with Hardaway likely out 10 weeks, the Mavs’ offense will be missing another 14.2 points a night.

Nico Harrison, who came to the Mavs following a successful stint at Nike, must fortify the roster following Hardaway Jr’s loss. The Mavericks haven’t paid the NBA’s luxury tax in more than a decade, and it might require Harrison to push owner Mark Cuban in that direction to make Dallas a more potent team offensively.

Can Harrison and Mavs legend Michael Finley flip Porzingis into someone who will provide better support for Doncic? Is he willing to deal up-and-coming players Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith for proven veterans who will take some of the load off Doncic come playoff time? Will Cuban be agreeable to inherit some onerous contracts to make the Mavs better? Could they work with former Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle in Indiana to land Domantas Sabonis?

Losing Hardaway Jr. was undoubtedly a jarring blow for Dallas. The only thing worse now would be doing nothing in the two weeks before the NBA trade deadline. Such action would likely result in the Mavs looking on helplessly in the spring when Doncic has to stomach another early exit from the playoffs.   

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