Nearly a month after the NBA’s free-agent frenzy began, the Mavericks, like everybody else in the league, are waiting to see what dominos might fall from the Kevin Durant situation.
It could be something major. It could be nothing.
Regardless of what happens with the Brooklyn Nets superstar, it’s unlikely to impact the Mavericks. They at best would be a third or fourth team in a multi-team deal that would help facilitate Durant’s movement to somebody else.
That said, you never know. If you hang around the hoop long enough, you might get an unexpected rebound.
That’s why it’s good that the Mavericks still have a roster spot open – just in case.
But for now, let’s assume the heavy lifting is finished and this, essentially, is the roster they will take into battle in October.
The bottom line, when you look at it objectively, is that the offseason could have been worse.
Yes, the Mavericks lost Jalen Brunson, and that’s a tough hit to take.
But it’s not as debilitating as, say, losing Steve Nash for nothing. Nash was already a two-time all-star before the 2004 departure to Phoenix. As with Brunson, the Mavericks got nothing in return for Nash, although it did open up the window for Jason Terry’s arrival, which turned out OK.
Brunson is a good player and may blossom even more in New York. Time will tell. Where he may be missed more is in the locker room, where he was an emerging leader and a stand-up individual.
But the Mavericks knew when they didn’t sign Brunson to an extension last year that they ran the risk of losing him.
And they prepared accordingly.
The trade for Christian Wood was the centerpiece of their offseason activity. It filled one of the team’s most glaring needs.
While losing Brunson leaves them shy on proven playmakers, they needed to address their rebounding and size problems. Wood, along with the free-agent signing of JaVale McGee, should alleviate some of those concerns.
They’re also hoping for a big leap from players like Josh Green and Spencer Dinwiddie, who will be in his second year back from major knee surgery. If history holds, there usually is a significant upswing in players in their second year back from such injuries.
So what will the Mavericks look like?
While it’s still two months from training camp, here’s one projection of what the lineup and key rotation players might look like.
Frontline: Christian Wood, Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock.
While starting McGee and Wood together has some appeal, it would mean that both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Bullock would be coming off the bench.
In today’s NBA, you probably want at least one of those shooters on the floor all the time.
Wood’s progression the last few seasons makes him an ideal fit in the lineup. His presence means everybody on the front line can knock down a 3-pointer consistently. That’s the way this team is built.
Last season, Dwight Powell started all but 11 games in the regular season and all 18 in the playoffs. His lack of 3-point shooting allowed defenses to hedge the way they played against Luka Dončić.
That shouldn’t be the case with Wood on board.
Backcourt: Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie.
With Brunson’s exit, Dinwiddie will employ the spot he excelled at before his knee injury. He was a 20-point scorer on a .500 Brooklyn team the season before he went down. Now he will be asked to carry a bigger offensive load than when he was acquired last season.
It’s worth noting that Dinwiddie also averaged nearly seven assists in the 64 games in 2019-20 before he was injured three games into 2020-21.
Dinwiddie shot a career-best 40.4 percent from 3-point range after joining the Mavericks. He was fantastic in that regard in the playoffs at nearly 42 percent. The Mavericks are banking on him trending upward this season.
And, of course, they are banking on Luka being Luka, too.
All that means is averaging 28.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists – the numbers he’s produced over the last three seasons. This team remains his team.
Top reserves: Maxi Kleber, JaVale McGee, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, Davis Bertans, Frank Ntilikina.
The bench is deep, which is great. You can live with some players not being thrilled with their playing time. It’s when you don’t have enough solid players to contribute that you have problems.
It’s a fair bet that Kleber, McGee and Powell all could start their share of games this season. Same goes for Hardaway, who should be fully recovered from the foot surgery that ended his season in late January.
That threesome should give Kidd the luxury of keeping fresh big bodies in the game at all times.
Green will get plenty of chances to inherit some of the 30-plus minutes per game that Brunson ate up. Bertāns remains a sniper and Ntilikina will be the third ballhandler behind Dinwiddie and Luka.
Unless . . .
The Mavericks are hopeful that second-round pick Jaden Hardy, Theo Pinson and two-way signee Tyler Dorsey all can fill in capably if injuries or illnesses strike. And never forget that COVID-19 still is out there and the league takes precautions against the virus very seriously.
Pinson and Dorsey have plenty of NBA experience. Hardy has oodles of talent. All should see opportunities as the season progresses.
It’s going to be a good problem for Jason Kidd to have with a lot of capable bodies to plug in for whatever situation arises.