The Mavericks were a fun team to watch last year, but at no point did people think they would contend for a championship.
They surrounded Luka Doncic with shooters and as a result, the offense was explosive, but the defense, on the other hand, was below-average.
They lacked length on the perimeter and as a result, were not able to cause many problems for opposing offenses.
On a team with Luka Doncic, the offense will find itself, as he seems to make players around him better, but the defense needs to be a priority.
The Mavs may not have been super exciting this offseason but they made some moves that could transform them from an exciting team to watch, to a real threat in the loaded Western Conference.
With a few exceptions, all of those moves were made to make the defense stronger.
The biggest move they made was on draft night when they traded Seth Curry to Philadelphia for Josh Richardson and a second-round pick which turned into Tyrell Terry. Seth Curry was a massive part of Dallas’ offensive success. But at one point in the playoffs, he had to guard Paul George because the Mavs literally had nobody else to do it. Josh Richardson is the PERFECT player to play alongside Luka Doncic. He is 6’6, has an OK three-point shot, and is a dog on defense. He will not provide the same scoring as Seth Curry but he makes this team longer and stronger.
The other part of this trade was Tyrell Terry who has a very similar game to Seth Curry’s. Again, he will not provide the same scoring as Curry next season, but down the line, he could become a big piece of the offense. Jalen Brunson will be healthy again and the Mavs brought back Trey Burke, so between those two and Terry, the absence of Curry in the offense will not be profound.
The Mavs also drafted Josh Green with their first-round pick. He is a 6’6 Australian who played one year of college ball at Arizona. He is a smart young player who understands defense. His offense last year consisted mostly of points in transition or buckets at the rim, but his three-point shot looked solid. Like I said earlier, Luka will surely make Richardson and Green better on offense. Green is another long, big-bodied guy who can guard 1-4 on-ball pretty well. Even if he does not turn out on offense, his defense will have an impact, and that is exactly what Dallas needs.
The defensive trend would continue throughout the offseason.
They traded Justin Jackson and Delon Wright for James Johnson. Johnson is a black belt in karate and has fought in 27 professional MMA and kickboxing fights. Of the 27 he fought in seven of them ended with a James Johnson KO. This signing seems more like it was for Luka’s bodyguard more than anything.
The Mavericks only signed one new player in free agency, Wes Iwundu. Iwundu is my pick for the underrated transaction of the year for Dallas. He is a young 6’5 wing who played rotational minutes for the Magic due to his high motor on defense. On offense, he is great at running the floor in transition and his jump shot looks good. His percentages were not super impressive but again, the Luka effect is real. Assuming he makes the Mavs final roster, he could get some opportunities to contribute on either end.
So, the Mavs got better defensively without getting significantly worse on offense. These guys are not just defenders. They all have the ability to score. Trey Burke showed in the bubble that he can be a spark plug off the bench. James Johnson shot 37% from three last season. Jalen Brunson is a crafty offensive player. Kleber will continue to grow his offense. Tim Hardaway Jr. has only improved his percentages since arriving in Dallas so look for that trend to continue.
And oh, by the way, all of these new guys are giant. When KP is healthy, this is what a starting lineup could look like for Dallas:
- Luka Doncic- 6’7
- Tim Hardaway Jr. – 6’6
- Josh Richardson- 6’6
- Dorian Finney-Smith- 6’7
- Kristaps Porzingis- 7’2
Those are just the starters. The bench has some large men too…
- Maxi Kleber- 6’11
- Dwight Powell- 6’10
- James Johnson- 6’8
- Josh Green- 6’6
- Wes Iwundu- 6’6
- and of course… Boban Marjanovic- 7’4
That is a giant team. Dallas seems to be following the Lakers championship blueprint.
Los Angeles’ starting lineup had nobody shorter than 6’5. Obviously, Luka and KP will never be what AD and Lebron are defensively, but that is exactly why Dallas drafted Josh Green and traded for Josh Richardson and James Johson. Luka can apply most of his focus and energy to the offense and get his teammates easy, open shots, and his teammates can pick up some of the slack defensively.
Luka is not a horrible on-ball defender. In fact, in the bubble, there were a couple of plays I remember where I was pleasantly surprised with his effort on that end. But he is also not a great defender. He is a bad off-ball and below-average on-ball. Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban brought in guys who specialize in what Luka is not super strong in. It is a perfect plan.
The Mavs did not go out and spend a ton of money on a third star, but instead, kept all of their assets while still managing to construct a deep team that is built for success on both ends of the floor.
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