The Dallas Mavericks held a 2-0 lead on the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs and Luka Doncic looked like a perennial MVP candidate capable of carrying a team deep in the playoffs. Doncic averaged 35.0 points, 9.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds in the first two games while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from deep.
While the Clippers eventually won the series in seven games, Doncic showcased why many around the league see the Mavericks as a contender for years to come. In his third year, Doncic continued to elevate his already excellent play. Here’s his progression so far in the NBA.
Rookie year: 21.2 points, 6.0 assists, 7.8 rebounds, 42.7 FG%, 32.7 3P%
Second year: 28.8 points, 8.8 assists, 9.4 rebounds, 46.3 FG%, 31.6 3P%
Third year: 27.7 points, 8.6 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 47.9 FG%, 35.0 3P%
Even though they lost the series against the Clippers, the Mavericks learned two important lessons. The first is Doncic will be an MVP candidate for years to come and keep the team in contention as long as he is healthy. The second is Kristaps Porziginis is not the second star championship teams typically need.
When Dallas traded for Porzingis, it seemed like he would blossom into a star with Doncic. The timeline for both players is still the same, but the talent level might not be there. Porzingis is still a valuable player to have on the roster. He underperformed against the Clippers, but put up 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in the regular season. Porzingis is also able to stretch the floor and hit 37.6 percent of his triples this year. That’s not a player you get rid of.
However, Porzingis isn’t the second star the Mavericks envisioned. He was in and out of the lineup this year due to injury and isn’t capable of generating offense himself. His defensive chops are okay, but not near the level of elite big men.
Dallas has plenty of cap space this season with Tim Hardaway Jr. and JJ Redick coming off the books, but can still include players for salary filler in any trade. Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal will likely be available this summer as a potential trade candidate and the Mavericks are in a great position to make an offer. A core of Doncic, Beal and Porzingis is more than capable of winning a title. Another candidate is Jimmy Butler. He’s a Texas native and while the Heat will try to bolster the roster around him, there’s a chance they miss completely. Butler could be a possible trade target if the Mavericks aren’t able to swing a deal for Beal. Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum is another option if Portland decides to shake things up.
The Mavericks can also bring everyone back and try this roster again, but Doncic only has two seasons before hitting restricted free agency. Dallas will surely get an extension done before then but that deal with eliminate the Mavs’ excess cap. This is the offseason to strike a big deal with cap room.
Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan and Chris Paul will be free agents, but only Leonard qualifies as a superstar. The idea of him leaving Los Angeles is not realistic given Paul George’s extension. DeRozan would be a solid player, but his style doesn’t exactly mesh well with the Mavericks offense. Paul would offer a lot for Dallas, but his age doesn’t necessarily line up with the team’s long-term vision.
Doncic is going to be a force in Dallas for a long time, but he needs a true second star to take the Mavericks to the Finals. Can the team hit the jackpot this offseason?