On Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, Luka Doni scored an even 30 points. He has achieved that milestone 31 times this season, which means he had done it in just over 75% of his outings.
The Dallas Mavericks’ record when Luka doesn’t play or scores 30 or fewer points is 3-15 (they are 21-7 in all other games). The issue is that those 30 points came in a defeat.
Dallas largely served as a reminder that the Mavs’ squad isn’t strong enough around Luka in a showcase game against Trae Young, the man Doni was traded for on draft night in 2018.
On a personal level, the discussion could already be ended. Doni almost overtakes second-place finisher to lead his draft class in lifetime victories over a replacement player (who is, unsurprisingly, Trae).
But Young teams up with Dejounte Murray, another All-Star (who had 30 points on Wednesday). John Collins is having a bad year, although he recently had a 20-and-10 season. This season, De’Andre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovi both average over 15 points each game.
The departure of Jalen Brunson, who is averaging 22.6 points per game this season, may still be the most important recent story involving a Luka teammate, with all due respect to Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie, both of whom have had their moments.
Luka is incredible, as seen by averages of 33.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists that in previous times would have looked unattainable, but he needs some assistance.
There is a case to go acquire that aid in the upcoming weeks given the amount of parity in the NBA this season (FiveThirtyEight’s projection method presently gives 12 teams a two percent-or-better chance to win the title), especially if Luka himself is advocating for it (something Dallas owner Mark Cuban has denied).
“Sources claimed Doni, who hasn’t previously demonstrated a desire to be engaged in personnel decisions, has forcefully suggested he wants the Mavs to upgrade before the Feb. 9 trade deadline,” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported on Wednesday.
Dallas thought it acquired Kristaps Porziis, Luka’s longstanding No. 2, and that assistance four years ago, but he has since left. There is now only one remaining outbound choice from that transaction. In the unlikely event that Dallas suffers a severe setback and ends up in the top 10 in the 2023 draft, it will probably be communicated to the New York Knicks this summer. The Mavs will then have a significant amount of draft money at their disposal.
That plus salary filler, which Dallas has enough of, may be enough to close a deal for clubs wanting to offload players and head towards a rebuild.
The rumor mill has been providing us with information on over the past few months.
The primary members of the Chicago Bulls, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vuevi; Bradley Beal; Myles Turner and Buddy Hield of the Indiana Pacers; D’Angelo Russell; Bojan Bogdanovi; O.G. Anunoby; Jordan Clarkson; and Alec Burks.
Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report reports that there is even some talk of the player Luka was originally traded for perhaps asking for a transfer.
When it comes to the NBA’s annual G League Winter Showcase, “Rival executives in attendance are of the notion that Atlanta Hawks star point guard Trae Young might be the next player on a rookie max deal to request a trade,” Haynes reported.
Although the last name looks strange, Young’s time in Atlanta has been filled with drama. Would the new front management heed a request for a trade, welcome a new beginning, and deal Trae for salary filler (like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dvis Bertins), an intriguing young player (Jaden Hardy), three first-round selections, and maybe a pick or two in exchange?
Could such a combination convince the Portland Trail Blazers or Los Angeles Clippers to blow it up and trade Paul George or Damian Lillard?
Dallas need to at least inquire, even if the businesspeople on the other end of the telephone only chuckle and disconnect.
The number of NBA championship teams without at least two stars is quite few. Just consider recent events. Better than the Mavs’ current No. 2 was the second-best player on each of the previous winners (the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, and Cleveland Cavaliers).
The Miami Heat’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shaq and Kobe, the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Big Three of the San Antonio Spurs, the star-studded Lakers and Boston Celtics of the 1980s, and more may be found further back.
The list might continue.
The Mavericks are not good enough to win the league championship, according to league history. at least not in its current form.
An all-in deal for a superstar might not be feasible, but many of the players listed in the bullet points above can still contribute (to varied degrees, of course), and most of them would be less expensive.
When Luka was off the court last season, the Mavericks were plus-4.3 points per 100 possessions, when Brunson was still playing. They are minus-8.6 this year sans their All-NBA point guard.
Dallas has an opportunity to aid Doni because of trade season and how much time has passed since the previous blockbuster.