The Dallas Mavericks were thought by many to be a team in the West that would take a leap forward this season, in large part due to the expectation that third-year star Luka Doncic would vault into being an MVP frontrunner.
However, at the midway point of the season, Dallas is at 19-16, good for 8th in the West and a spot in the play-in, but below expectations for a team that had real hopes of hosting a first round series. The bad news is, a slow start put them behind the 8-ball for playoff positioning, but the good news is that the team is on a hot streak of late, going 10-2 in the last 12 games to climb firmly into the playoff picture in the West. Doncic’s shooting is starting to come back around and he’s posting sensational stat lines every night, and the supporting cast around him is finally healthy and starting to play like expected.
Still, there’s a lingering question of what the ceiling is for this team, and whether the Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis pairing is capable of competing with the very best in the West. Porzingis, who didn’t play until January due to recovery from knee surgery, had some early struggles but has recently found a bit better form and is scoring with better efficiency and contributing to winning. Even so, his name continues to swirl in trade rumors, and on Thursday, Mavs owner Mark Cuban addressed those on First Take, preaching patience and also noting that it’s hard to define much of anything about this team off of a very weird first half of the season.
— First Take (@FirstTake) March 11, 2021
This is the correct stance to take publicly, and it should always be noted that any official statements from front office personnel about trade rumors should be taken with a massive grain of salt, because almost never will they speak truthfully about trade talks in progress. Still, Cuban’s point about this season being one that, to this point, you can’t overreact to is salient. The Mavs had a COVID outbreak, Porzingis was returning from a knee injury, and very little about the first 20 games for the Mavs was telling of what they can do at full strength. That isn’t to say questioning the Porzingis-Doncic pairing long term doesn’t have some validity, but Dallas can be patient, as he says, in evaluating that pairing and not rushing to make a deal.
On the other side of the coin, should a tremendous deal come across their desk for Porzingis that would possibly raise their ceiling as a contender, they’ll have to consider it, whether they feel they’ve seen the absolute best of that pairing or not. In any case, don’t expect the Mavs to be pushing for a Kristaps trade no matter what at the deadline, but this also can’t be taken as an absolute that a deal can’t or won’t be made.