How Luka Doncic and the Mavericks can become championship contenders in 2022

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MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - APRIL 14: Team owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks hugs Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on April 14, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Despite their efforts, the Dallas Mavericks had their season ended in game seven to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a most unusual series, with the road team winning each of the first six games. In the end, Luka Doncic and the Mavs failed to assert themselves as contenders, losing in round one yet again.

It’s not all bad, though. Doncic further proved himself as an NBA superstar in this series, averaging 35.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 10.3 assists. With a player at that level on the team, the Mavericks should feel confident moving forward. However, because of Doncic’s dominance, Dallas must improve their roster for next season. Aside from a valiant performance from Tim Hardaway Jr., Luka was essentially a one-man show against the Los Angeles Clippers. If they seek to advance to the second round and beyond, they’re going to need more.

For this article, we’re going to examine the outlook of Dallas’s team going into the offseason. The goal is to highlight how the Mavs can best situate Luka Doncic and make themselves legitimate championship contenders in 2022.

The Kristaps Porzingis situation

May 30, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis (6) warms up before game four against the LA Clippers in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In their short playoff run, it became abundantly clear that something was off about Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks acquired the towering Latvian in a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks back in 2019. He was supposed to be the co-star to compliment Luka Doncic for the long-term future. Instead, the former all-star has at times looked and played like a complete afterthought as a Maverick. The 7’3 forward has reportedly echoed this very sentiment, citing dissatisfaction with his current role.

The former fourth overall pick in 2015 averaged a mere 13 points and five rebounds a game this postseason. Needless to say, but that isn’t exactly co-star production.

Many have suggested trading Porzingis for a true second star this Summer. In theory, it’s a sound idea, but it isn’t that easy. As the Mavs are without most of their first-round picks for years to come, KP would have to be the driving asset in any deal. That said, few teams will be willing to give up a star they know is good in exchange for one that may no longer be. To this point, the Washington Wizards are the sole team rumored to have an interest in KP.

I think it would be best for there to be a meeting of the minds between Porzingis and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. A few years ago, LaMarcus Aldridge was unhappy in San Antonio. He had complaints about his use in Gregg Popovich’s system. He even asked to be traded at one point. However, after coming to an understanding, Aldridge returned to form and became an all-star again. It may be a different type of situation, but maybe the two in Dallas could do the same thing.

Offseason priorities: Doncic & Hardaway

Feb 22, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) and forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) celebrate during the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from the Porzingis situation, the Mavs have other pressing issues to tend to this offseason. Luka Doncic is eligible to sign a supermax contract extension this offseason. The resident superstar has already hinted that he will, indeed, sign the deal. In doing this, Doncic will make up to $200M over five years starting in 2022. Deserving as the deal is for Doncic, the Mavericks won’t have much, if any, cap space to use after doling it out. That said, this offseason is huge for their long-term future.

Another point of emphasis for them is bringing back Tim Hardaway Jr., an unrestricted free agent. Coming off a standout performance in the playoffs, THJ has earned himself a payday. While he has expressed interest in returning to Dallas, the second-generation star may still consider offers from potentially higher bidders.

Who the Mavericks should target

Feb 14, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) hugs Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) after the game at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Regarding the bigger names across the NBA, Dallas should definitely inquire about Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard. As their names have come up in recent trade rumors, the Mavs would do themselves a disservice by not calling about these players.

On another note, the biggest needs for Dallas’s current core are consistent complimentary scoring, playmaking, and team defense. A lot of this can be helped by figuring things out with Kristaps Porzingis. Beyond that, the team doesn’t have a long-term solution at Center. They also don’t seem to have another playmaker to lead the offense in relief of their superstar. Filling these holes on the roster around Luka Doncic will go a long way in making the Mavs contenders.

At the five-spot, one option they could look at is Pacers big man Myles Turner. Indiana is rumored to be willing to listen to offers for him this offseason. He would be a big help on the defensive end. Another player they could look at is Timberwolves PG Ricky Rubio. His numbers went under a decline in 2021. However, a lot of that can be attributed to the decreased role in his return to Minnesota. As a starter, Rubio has proven his worth. He’s a dependable playmaker�someone who puts a second ball-handler next to Luka and can run the second unit on offense.

For me, the name of the game isn’t to overhaul the roster in Dallas. Instead, they’d be better off making minor adjustments in hopes of a massive gain. The Mavs have shown that they’re close enough to where these minor changes can make all the difference in making themselves title contenders.

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