The Mavs never let trade rumors leak beforehand, and they often pull off some real surprises – the Justin Anderson-for-Nerlens Noel swap being the most recent example. So the fact that, so far, it seems like they’re going to be quiet doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But, it would certainly make sense if they were quiet, and it’s hard to imagine what deal would really help them right now.
Of course, if they could get some draft picks from somebody, they should do it. The Mavs have never really put any faith in the draft, so this would be a real turnaround for them, but after the success of Dennis Smith, it’s reasonable to think they might be more enthusiastic. I just don’t think it’s really likely, however.
There was a time when it would be very easy to trade a vet like Wes Matthews or J.J. Barea to a title contender, or wannabe, for a pick and some cap relief, but picks have never been as valuable as they seem to be today. And one of the reasons for that is that there just aren’t that many title contenders around. Take a look at what’s just happened with the Clippers, who seemed to have a title-ready big-three in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. Now Jordan is the last man standing and one of the best teams in the West the last few years is going through a rebuild. That’s a team that needs to get, rather than give, draft picks, and so is almost anyone else.
In addition, for the most part the players the Mavs would be tempted to trade are much more valuable to the Mavs than they are likely to be for anyone else. J. J. Barea has been terrific this year, but there probably isn’t a contender out there interested in taking on a 33-year-old back-up PG, and huge defensive liability, for anything substantial. Devin Harris has been an important steadying influence off the bench, but again, it’s a special situation where his history and his locker room role are big parts of his value.
In fact, one sign of how dire the current state of the franchise is, is that you really have to squint to find any tradable assets at all. No one wants Dwight Powell at his current price, and while Nerlens Noel could have had considerable value, the way they’ve handled him, and his impending unrestricted free agency, ensures he doesn’t. What would someone give up for a player who hasn’t played all year, has now been essentially black-balled by two straight franchises, and has only a few months left on his contract?
Even Wes Matthews, as well as he’s done for the Mavericks, and at a comparatively young 31, has never really bounced back from his injury. His three-point shooting has been quite good for his entire time as a Mav and is finally back to his excellent career average of 38 percent. But, his 41 percent mark from the floor this year is his best shooting percentage since his injury and it’s not impressive for a shooting guard with a big contract. Besides which, he’s likely to significantly gain in value next year, when he opts in to his player option, and his big contract becomes an $18.6 million expiring trade chip. If they were open to trading Harrison Barnes, that might be something, but they probably aren’t, and they probably shouldn’t be.
Again, of course, you can throw this out the window as soon as the Mavs start doing some of the creative things they do. Right now, if I had to bet, I’d bet that they keep this team more or less intact, spend another year rebuilding through the draft, and then see whether they can make some moves at next year’s deadline. But it’s just a bet, and one I may well lose.