Mavericks stuck in neutral around Luka Doncic

Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr. in Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Mavericks planned to aggressively chase Giannis Antetokounmpo. They wanted to pursue Kawhi Leonard. They made an impression on Kyle Lowry, who at least actually explored 2021 free agency.

Dallas’ big outside addition this summer?

Reggie Bullock.

Bullock is a helpful player. The 3-and-D wing should fit nicely. His contract – three years, $30,038,40 ($25 million guaranteed) – is reasonable.

But the 30-year-old doesn’t move the needle enough for a team running out of prime opportunities to add another star around Luka Doncic.

The Mavericks struck out on stars in 2019, and this year’s repeat was a last chance of sorts. Doncic will begin his super-max contract extension next summer, significantly inhibiting cap flexibility.

Many teams would love to face whatever challenges come with building around a young star like Doncic. His extension was a landmark deal, only the second-ever pre-qualified super-max rookie-scale extension. At just 22, Doncic has already established himself as one of the NBA’s top players.

Which is why the stakes are so high.

Dallas’ available cap space largely came with the expiring of Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s contract, which arrived as toxic value in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. The Mavericks’ goal was always to upgrade once Hardaway’s deal ended.

Yet, Dallas re-signed Hardaway to an even bigger contract this summer – a whopping four-year, $75 million deal.

Hardaway played well last season and has built chemistry with other Mavericks. But that’s quite a bit to pay someone who has been so up-and-down in his career. At least Hardaway’s annual salaries decline, a savvy contract structure.

Dallas also exercised Willie Cauley-Stein‘s $4.1 million team option. Again, though maybe a reasonable choice by that point, the goal was to open cap space and find upgrades.

The Mavericks acquired Josh Richardson last offseason expecting him to opt out this summer. He had such a disappointing year, he instead exercised his $11,615,328 player option for next season. So, Dallas dealt him to the Celtics for Moses Brown, a somewhat intriguing – and probably more importantly, cheap – young center.

Dallas re-signed Boban Marjanovic (two years, $7 million) and signed Sterling Brown (two years, $6 million). Nearly every key contributor returns, with Bullock and Brown replacing Richardson.

The biggest change in the Mavericks’ identity comes with Jason Kidd replacing Rick Carlisle, who was one of the NBA’s longest-tenured coaches. Kidd brings upside, baggage and underwhelming record as NBA head coach.

A simple indictment of Kidd: The Bucks became a championship contender as soon as they replaced him with Mike Budenholzer. Of course, Milwaukee’s ascent is more complicated than that. But greater context of Kidd’s Milwaukee tenure isn’t encouraging. He had more downs than ups with the Nets, too.

Dallas also hired Nico Harrison as general manager. His unconventional path to the job leaves little ability to predict his aptitude from afar. Perhaps, the former Nike executive will beat the odds and eventually lure another star to the Mavericks. Though Harrison holds the top title in the front office, he’ll still work under highly involved Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. For better or worse, Harrison won’t have to share power with Haralabos Voulgaris.

The Mavericks might have improved their roster this offseason. But not by enough given their resources and Doncic-related cap-flexibility deadline. Hiring Kidd instills doubt.

Offseason grade: C-