Coming into the 2022-23 NBA season, hopes were high for the Dallas Mavericks and their fans. The Mavericks were coming off of a season where they unexpectedly made it to the Western Conference Finals (before losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors), and signs were pointing towards an ascension to continue.
A big reason for the hope is having a player like forward Luka Doncic to build around. Doncic is one of the league’s young stars, and already being signed long-term, the team always has a chance to go far in the playoffs.
As the season was coming up on the All-Star Weekend, Dallas was still in the middle of the playoff picture, hovering around the top five spots in the conference. Even with the place in the standings, the thinking around Mavericks headquarters was the season was heading towards disappointment, and the quest to get Doncic a legitimate running mate became paramount.
Enter guard Kyrie Irving, who Dallas acquired via trade with the Brooklyn Nets. In getting Irving, they got one of the most versatile offensive talents in the NBA, but they gave up a lot of their depth to the Nets in the deal.
In total, the trade (due to the desperate state of the franchise) turned out to be an absolute disaster for the Mavericks. They went from being in the conference finals to missing the playoffs altogether, having to answer a whole bunch of questions heading into the offseason.
Now that Dallas has an early start on vacation plans, it’s time to look at the biggest need they must address, and it’s not the decision to re-sign Irving or let him go.
The biggest need the Mavericks must address in the offseason is depth
When Dallas went on their playoff run last season, they had a team capable of going deep into their bench. With the amount of players head coach Jason Kidd could run out at any given time, it enabled Doncic to stay fresh for the fourth quarter of playoff games.
The depth was led by guard Jalen Brunson (among other players lost), who signed with the New York Knicks as a free agent in the 2022 offseason. Brunson’s steady play was key in helping the Mavericks defeat the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, picking up the slack while Doncic was out of the lineup with an injury a huge stretch of that series.
Other players that were crucial in the run Dallas went on include guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who were both sent to the Nets in the Irving trade. Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith were two of the best perimeter defenders the Mavericks had, which also helped Doncic on that end of the floor because he didn’t have to guard the other team’s best offensive players.
Upon getting Irving to pair with Doncic, it was already known teams would have a tough time scoring with the Mavericks, but neither Doncic nor Irving are good defensively. In other words, the points advantage wasn’t going to be much of one because there aren’t too many squads that have trouble scoring. At some point, defense has to step up, and that was something Dallas seriously lacked.
Notice everything is coming back to Doncic. Even with the need for depth, the Slovenian superstar is not without blame. While he is lethal on offense, there are still improvements needed to truly be elite. On top of needing drastic improvement defensively, he can learn how to be a secondary option at times. Doncic is one of those players who needs the ball in his hands to get maximum effectiveness.
Once he gets rid of the ball, he can move without it, cutting off of the team’s other playmakers. Being able to do that would make Doncic multi-dimensional on offense. Coming into camp in better shape would also help. As the leader of the team, he nor Kidd can’t expect the other players to be in shape if the leader isn’t setting the example.
Even if Doncic does those things mentioned above to improve, he can’t win a title alone. The Mavericks have to go back to the drawing board and retool the roster. The problem is the depth they had after the Irving trade isn’t the best, and they have numerous free agents they have to decide whether or not to keep.
Whatever they do, it can’t result in depth remaining supremely low. If that happens, Dallas may have Doncic wanting to be a centerpiece somewhere else.
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