The rebuild is on: Mavs get younger at deadline, look toward future

While the moves didn't make national headlines, they have the potential to help the team build toward the future.

Last week, the Dallas Mavericks made two moves that helped the team get younger. They traded Devin Harris, one of the most respected veterans on the roster, to the Denver Nuggets as part of a three-way deal that netted them Doug McDermott from the New York Knicks and a second-round draft pick from Denver that was originally the Portland Trail Blazers’. They also waived veteran big man Josh McRoberts, freeing up a roster spot.

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While the moves didn’t make national headlines, they have the potential to help the team build toward the future.

Trading Harris is the more impactful of the moves given his history with the organization. He was in the fifth season of his second tour of duty with Dallas. In 2004, Harris was drafted fifth overall by the Washington Wizards and was traded to the Mavericks on draft night along with Christian Laettner and Jerry Stackhouse in exchange for Antawn Jamison.

He spent the next three-and-a-half seasons with the Mavs before being traded to the New Jersey Nets in the deal that brought Jason Kidd back to Dallas. After stints in New Jersey, where he was and All-Star, as well as Utah and Atlanta, Harris re-signed with the Mavs in the summer of 2013 where he established himself as a valuable contributor off the bench when healthy. He’s averaged 7.9 points, two rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 19.6 minutes per game. He also shot 41.4 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from behind the arc in his last five seasons in Dallas.

“It’s a really gut wrenching deal to go through and one that we really wrestled with,” Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson told reporters Thursday after trading Harris. “He’s really, in a lot of respects, everything that we want our young guys to be and that’s not lost on us.”

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It’s the young guys, though, that are the future of the team. At age 34, Harris isn’t getting any younger and while the trade came as a surprise to him, he understands why he was moved.

“Sometimes you just got to see the writing on the wall,” Harris told reporters. “You know, we’ve been playing our young guys a little bit more and trying to bring those guys along. And you know, I’m a wily veteran now. Sometimes you just crunch the numbers.”

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While McDermott is no spring chicken, he’s still eight years younger than Harris. In two games with Dallas, he’s already logged 55 minutes and has averages of eight points, three rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He’s also shooting 38.9 percent from the floor. Though McDermott is an immediate beneficiary of the trade, other guys on the roster are seeing an uptick in playing time as well.

Kyle Collinsworth, who is also 26, played 42 minutes in the last two games. Maxi Kleber, who started earlier this season, combined for 34 minutes in both games and Jalen Jones played 23 minutes one night. Johnathan Motley even got in on the action, briefly, playing four minutes. None of these players is older than 26.

It’s hard to consider a gang of players who are mostly 26 as a youth movement but it certainly is for the Mavericks. With an open roster spot, the team can look to add even more youth.

“At this point, we’re kind of loaded up at the big position,” head coach Rick Carlisle said after the team waived McRoberts. “These other guys are going to be playing. So, looking at another young player or perhaps a good waiver pick-up opportunity makes sense for us as a franchise.”

It’s good seeing the Mavericks being proactive and opportunistic about adding younger talent after seasons awash with adding aging veterans. Not all of the young players will work out in Dallas, though. At the very least, it allows the Mavs to have a trial period with them and see what they offer before making a long term commitment. Through this process, and what looks to be a prime draft lottery pick, Dallas’ rebuilding process is fully underway. Trust it.