2020 will be remembered in the basketball world as the year that gave us three seasons in one.
Almost eight months to the day that the league was originally shut down, and less than forty days since Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers celebrated winning the Larry O’Brien trophy sans fans, the wildest year in NBA history will continue.
After much discussion, the league has confirmed that the 2020–21 season, and L.A’s championship defense, will begin on Dec. 22, just after the winter solstice.
That’s in just over a month which will make for a quick turnaround for a league known to have a breakneck pace in the offseason. Think of all that still needs to happen in a normal offseason before we even get to a training camp.
With everyone’s engines revving, let’s try and help make sense of what this week will mean for the Dallas Mavericks.
Monday mornings, the weekend’s cruel enemy and bane of the working world’s existence, are usually for coffee and contemplation, and possibly lasagna. Not this week, friend. The league officially lifted the moratorium on transactions at 11 a.m. Dallas time, providing a short window for massive player movement and trade agreements before the league draft on Wednesday.
The Mavericks, former longtime members of the sad boys club when it comes to landing stars, now have two, and they have made it known that they would very much like to add a third.
While the team hasn’t officially made an announcement, it appears highly likely that Tim Hardaway Jr. will be opting-in for next season. Looking at the team’s payroll situation and the open secret that anyone not named Luka Doncic or Kristaps Porzingis is available, Hardaway remaining on the team as the third scoring option in December or being traded away will likely be decided this week. Hardaway had a career year in 2020 while feasting on open shots with the attention Doncic demands.
Hardaway – once considered an afterthought from the Porsingis trade from New York – finished 2020 at a near 40% clip from beyond the arc.
Watching the son of a former NBA All-Star blossom was a welcome surprise, but getting fed by Doncic instead of whatever the point guard situation on the Knicks is like can have that effect. The Mavericks finished with the highest offensive rating in NBA history, and they are looking for shooters for Doncic’s elite court vision to exploit.
Established names like Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Chicago’s Zach Lavine, and Sacramento’s Buddy Hield are making the rounds, and any of them would require THJ being sent out to make the money work in the salary cap. Each comes with their faults, (the latter two having passive defensive presences), but it’s safe to say that if you put any of those players in the Dallas backcourt with MVP candidate Doncic, they would be looking at a career year in shooting percentage.
Former San Antonio Spur and perennial Mavs flirt Danny Green looks to be on his way to Oklahoma City but could be added via a three-team trade since the Thunder are going into a full rebuild as signaled by Monday’s trade of Chris Paul to Phoenix.
The league will host draft night (7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN) virtually this year, and while we won’t get to watch players shake the commissioner’s hand as they start their NBA careers, we should still see the draft night staples of setting up rosters for the free-agent additions to follow.
Dallas has the 18th pick and 31st picks in the first round and will be looking to target defensive specialists and perimeter shooting if they actually end up keeping their picks.
Doncic really is the gift that keeps on giving. Dallas gets to be quite selective in how they proceed since they already have an ace up their sleeves.
Free agency starts at 5 p.m. Friday. That will no doubt fuel a weekend full of refreshing Twitter for news on who is going where, questionable photoshop jersey edits, and 2K roster updates.
The NBA and the player’s association agreed to have the salary cap set artificially at the 2019 league year level of $109,140,000. The cap could have actually decreased further this year since it’s based on revenue and the league took a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic that suspended play for several months.
Depending on the Hardaway situation, or if the team can offload Delon Wright’s contract, the Mavs will only have the $9,258,000 mid-level exception to offer prospective free agents. That amount can be given to one player or divided between two.
Offering up the mid-level takes new meaning after Doncic’s ascension to all-NBA status. Will the Mavs run it back with Hardaway Jr. or will they find a new backcourt mate for Luka? Maybe that mid-level gets taken up by a player worth more but sees the Mavericks as a team on the rise in the West and wants in.
There is also the specter of the Giannis Antetokounmpo arms race that will almost certainly dominate the rumor mill for the foreseeable future but that shouldn’t prohibit the Mavs from doing all they can to maximize the current roster. Waiting for a superstar to sign on the dotted line for them is why plan powder never worked. The Heat created cap space out of nowhere when Jimmy Butler said he wanted to go to South Beach. Contracts can always be moved.
Nevertheless, with the San Antonio Spurs still waiting for their young guys to develop, and the ongoing delicious implosion of the Houston Rockets, the state of Texas and the Southwest Division looks to be there for the Mavericks’ taking.
Do you think the Dallas Mavericks will be able to bolster the team around Luka Doncic for a longer run in the postseason in 2021? Share your thoughts with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.