Offseason Preview: Southwest Division
Over the last several days, I have been going division-by-division through the league and laying out what decisions need to be made and what’s at stake for each NBA team this offseason. We’ve already completed the Eastern Conference, running through the Atlantic Division, the Central, and the Southeast. Then we moved on to the West. We started start with the Pacific, continued yesterday with the Northwest, and finish things out today with the Southwest.
Without further ado…
Key Potential FA: Kyrie Irving, Christian Wood, Dwight Powell
Big Decisions: Irving contract, Figuring out the center spot, Tim Hardaway Jr. and/or Reggie Bullock trade possibilities, Finding enough quality players to fill out the rotation
The Mavs did some nice work on draft night, mostly to undo what they did at the center position last offseason.
A trade for Christian Wood, followed by signing JaVale McGee to an incomprehensible-in-the-moment three-year deal and immediately naming him the starter (which lasted all of like two weeks) were the big moves then. This time, it was attaching Davis Bertans to the No. 10 pick and moving down two slots, where the Mavs drafted Duke’s Dereck Lively. Whatever you think of Lively as a prospect, moving back two picks and clearing some dead money off the books and still picking the same guy as you would have in your original draft slot is good business. Later, Dallas landed the No. 24 pick from the Kings (used on Olivier Maxence-Prosper) in exchange for taking on Richaun Holmes’ contract. Holmes will make around $5 million less next season than Bertans, so the Mavs basically bought the No. 24 pick and $5 million in exchange for moving down two spots to land their guy anyway, and upgrading one of their backup big man. Again, this is all good work.
It’s confused a bit by the rumors that the Mavs have been in on Deandre Ayton and were potentially looking to sign Andre Drummond if he had declined his player option and hit free agency, though. Drummond makes less than zero sense and Dallas should probably be thankful that he stuck around in Chicago. Ayton is much more intriguing, though less so if it has to come in a Kyrie Irving sign-and-trade scenario. Apparently the Suns balked at Dallas including McGee in an Ayton deal, which makes sense. I’d imagine the Suns would want someone like Reggie Bullock instead, because he’s at least the archetype of player that all good teams need. Still, doing the maneuvering the Mavs did with Lively in the draft and then trading for a young center on a huge, long-term contract would at least be a little confusing. Then again, if you think Ayton is better and has more upside, it’s probably a play you should make regardless and then you can figure it out later.
As for Irving, I have given up trying to guess what he will or won’t do and what he does or doesn’t want. He’ll either re-sign in Dallas or he won’t. The Mavs presumably want him to stick around given all they gave up for him and the fact that bringing in Holmes after sending out Bertans meant they used up a significant chunk of the cap space they could have generated if Irving were to leave outright. Whether or not that’s actually desirable depends on your perspective on having Kyrie on your team in the first place, but the asset-management part of it would hurt a lot if he simply walks out the door. Especially because the Mavs have no readymade way to replace him and there aren’t that many good solutions on the free-agent market. (Unless they can get Khris Middleton to take a lot less money, and he’s actually healthy.)
Dallas wouldn’t do a sign-and-trade to send Jalen Brunson to the Knicks last year, but should do whatever it can to make the Kyrie deal a S&T if he leaves this summer, so the Mavs can at least get something back and keep trying to roll assets over into something else somewhere down the line. There’s still a little bit of runway here to build what looks like a consistent long-term winner before Luka Doncic starts getting agitated, but only a little. How each and every asset is managed is of heightened importance.