With the Mavericks exiting the first round in a loss to the Clippers for the second year in a row, there are ample questions about how they will approach this offseason to put a roster around Luka Doncic that can compete with the best teams in the West. Doncic was sensational in the series, as he was a year ago, but the Mavs were almost entirely reliant on the others hitting threes to win games. That’s part of life in the NBA in 2021, but the lack of secondary creation or a real pick-and-roll partner for Doncic reared its ugly head late in the series as the Clippers adjusted and went small against the Mavs.
The player getting the brunt of the frustration from Mavs fans is Kristaps Porzingis, who averaged a rather pedestrian 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in the series, often looking lost and disengaged offensively. For the player who is the only max player on the roster and the supposed second star, it simply wasn’t good enough and the questions about his fit with Doncic are now reaching a loud crescendo. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon dove into that relationship, one that is not particularly good on or off the court, and how Dallas is going to approach this offseason.
Among the nuggets of info MacMahon offers is the unsurprising report that many around the NBA view Porzingis’ contract as an “albatross,” one that isn’t likely to fetch much on the trade market.
Those injuries — and the resulting diminished mobility — made him a defensive liability, and they are among the reasons it would be difficult for Dallas to get value for Porzingis in a trade. He is owed $101.5 million over the next three seasons, a contract that executives and scouts around the league view as an albatross.
An albatross is not an untradeable contract, because we’ve learned in recent years no such thing exists — see: Westbrook-Wall. However, what it does mean is you aren’t going to be able to deal Porzingis for much in the way of an upgrade, and the best bet for Dallas is to find a team with a fellow disgruntled former star who’s hit a rough patch on a big contract that they think just needs a fresh start somewhere new. It’s not an impossible task, but it will be a difficult one for the Mavs front office as it seems clear that they need to shuffle the deck around Doncic.
Looking around the NBA, it’s hard to imagine a playoff contender jumping at the opportunity to add Porzingis to the mix, but if there were one it’s probably Boston, who might be looking to move Kemba Walker for frontcourt help and neither player has a particularly robust trade value at the moment due to their injury histories. It’s the kind of trade I’m not sure either fan base would be thrilled about, but sometimes that’s the only option in these situations.
If that’s not there, the Mavs will likely need to look at rebuilding teams for trade partners. Kevin Love in Cleveland and Al Horford in OKC each have two years remaining on big deals in situations where they are clearly not on the timeline of the rest of the team, and while it moves Porzingis to a non-winning situation, it also could be a chance for him to rehabilitate his value as a scorer and more leading offensive option compared to in Dallas where he finds himself lost as a secondary piece. Both the Thunder and Cavs would surely want some draft compensation, but Love and Horford, while likely overpaid at this point, would provide some of what the Mavs want without the belief they should be centerpieces with Doncic as seems to be an issue with Porzingis.