NBA teams are always on the hunt for a franchise point guard, unless they already have one. But the Dallas Mavericks are a team who shouldn’t be in the market for a floor general this offseason.
Yet, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Mavericks will be targeting Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker and Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton in free agency.
Walker started in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. He has grown into one of the best scoring point guards, and players in general, at the position; he’s a star. In theory, he could be the missing piece to a potential Mavericks big three which would feature himself, Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis.
At the same time, fit is pivotal in the NBA, and Doncic and Porzingis’ skill sets wouldn’t mesh well with a star point guard.
Doncic put together a captivating rookie season. Averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, six assists, and 1.1 steals per game, he made his presence felt on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he showcased an ability to be an alpha-dog scorer, play in isolation, get to the rim, and stick the outside jumper while holding his own on the other end.
Throughout his heroics, Doncic was head coach Rick Carlisle’s floor general. More often than not he was the one bringing the ball up the floor, setting up the offense, and, when he wasn’t attacking the rim, finding the open man; Doncic is a point forward and an effective one.
This was a vital reason why the Mavericks were shopping former number nine pick Dennis Smith Jr. before including him in a trade package for Porzingis. Smith was a ball-dominant scorer, which took touches away from Doncic — who the Mavericks want to run their offense through. Why would they go back on their word?
Porzingis has missed the last season and a half due to a torn ACL. While his skinny legs and gruesome injury are reasons to be concerned about the 7-foot-3 Latvian’s health, the player the NBA saw before the injury gave the Mavericks reason to pull the trigger on a trade. Porzingis plays out on the perimeter, but attacks the rack, finishes inside, and is an underrated defender. Heck, before tearing his ACL, he was leading the NBA in blocks per game in the 2017-18 season (2.4).
Before being the Knicks’ go-to scorer in the 48 games he appeared in last season, Porzingis played two seasons by Carmelo Anthony’s side and, for the most part, excelled. He benefited from Anthony’s presence, as it opened up good, open looks and mismatches inside where he could finish. It also allowed Porzingis to shoot the outside jumper with more ease. While he was respectable as the integral source of offense before his injury, averaging an impressive 22.7 points per game, he struggled to dominate inside and didn’t take over late in games. With Doncic by his side, the Mavericks don’t have to worry about Porzingis running the show.
The Mavericks potentially have a stout duo in Doncic and Porzingis, and while adding to it is the idea, an alpha-dog point guard would do more harm than good. Doncic is at his best with the ball in his hands; Porzingis is great as a number two scorer, and if the trio — that being Doncic, Porzingis, and a scoring point guard — have a power struggle, the Mavericks could potentially stunt their youth’s growth. Yes, there’s room for growth with both of them, which is why the Mavericks should operate with caution this offseason.
The Mavericks will have roughly $52 million in cap space this summer. In all likelihood, they will pony up the five-year max for Porzingis, who is a restricted free agent, which would leave them with roughly $21 million to spend. They could open up more cap space by trading the expiring contract of Courtney Lee ($13 million), who will have a minimized role this season anyway.
Having cap space is great, but it’s essential to utilize it effectively. In the Mavericks case, that would be spending the money on a wing.
Middleton makes a lot of sense for the Mavericks. He’s a great defender, a reliable outside shooter, and an under-the-radar scorer. He could play in-between Doncic and Porzingis, serve as an exceptional third scorer, and give the Mavericks much-needed perimeter defense. Such a signing would also move Tim Hardaway Jr. to a sixth man role which, given his scoring prowess, should be a seamless transition and bolster Carlisle’s bench. The same logic would apply for any other wing they choose to pursue.
Adding a wing, especially one who can play out on the perimeter, would open up more isolation sets for Doncic and allow him to draw more fouls driving inside. It would also take attention off Porzingis. Meanwhile, if they chose to add a forward/big man, he could work inside and do the dirty work, allowing Porzingis to flourish.
With the addition of Walker, Kyrie Irving, or any other star point guard, the Mavericks offense is significantly altered. All of a sudden, you’re paying Porzingis to be a $31 million third option and running the risk of his game not operating well with two ball-dominant players for the next four years. With a wing, or frontline player, you add someone who is going to fit your scheme, but also be a critical piece to the puzzle.
The Mavericks have their building blocks. Now it’s about getting players who fit well around them.
It’s nothing against Walker, or any other free agent point guard, but the Mavericks are running their offense through a point forward. There’s no need for them to add a premier point guard.