The Dallas Mavericks expected Kristaps Porzingis to be a superstar when they acquired him. They wouldn’t have surrendered two first-round picks and re-signed him to a $157 million contract if they didn’t. But after a tumultuous second season with the Mavericks culminated in a playoff loss to the Clippers in which Porzingis averaged only 13.1 points, it has become clear that the Mavericks simply don’t have enough offense around their lone All-Star, Luka Doncic.
One of the goals of the offseason for Dallas has been fixing that. The team just hired Jason Kidd as their head coach and Nico Harrison as their head of basketball operations, but ultimately, Doncic’s ability to carry the Mavericks forward in the playoffs is going to come down to the roster they put around him. Team owner Mark Cuban acknowledged that, according to The Athletic’s Diamond Leung.
“Trust me, nobody wants to get Luka more help than I do,” Cuban said. “What do we need is really the question, and we need a second scorer. There’s no question about it. I think people were unfairly giving KP a hard time. KP is who he is. We didn’t think our need for a secondary scorer would be as great as it was honestly. We thought we needed more defense and that would balance out things…Now Timmy Hardaway did a great job emerging as a catch-and-shoot guy and even improved his off-the-dribble game, but we do have to improve there. And that’s what we’re going to look for this summer. How do you get a star who can create his own shot so the responsibility isn’t completely on Luka?”
The Mavericks can create close to max cap space if they renounce their own free agents. The problem is that there isn’t an obvious target to spend that cap space on. LeBron James, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo all re-signed with their teams last offseason, and top free agents like Chris Paul and Mike Conley are expected to stay put as well. The Mavericks could target Kyle Lowry, but at 35 years old, it’s unclear how many more All-Star-caliber seasons he has left in the tank, or they could pursue DeMar DeRozan, but he would weaken an already struggling defense.
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In other words, there is no perfect solution available to them. For Dallas to build a true championship contender in the short term, they’re probably going to need Porzingis to grow into the player they hoped he would be. That is going to mean reimagining his role on offense under Kidd after he was relegated to spot-up shooting duty against the Clippers. If the Mavericks can figure out how best to deploy Porzingis while also adding another ball-handler, their offense should be in good shape next season.