In previous years, DallasBasketball.com has broached the idea of the Dallas Mavericks going after Orlando Magic big man, Nikola Vucivic. Now, as the Mavs have fallen to 8-10 on the season with a brutal handful of games coming up quick, it might be a good time to re-examine that idea.
Although we think the Mavs will be OK in the long run (we think), there’s no doubt that this roster has some issues as currently constructed. Kristaps Porzingis is best utilized on the offensive end of the court when he’s playing at the center position, as we saw on many occasions last season. We’ve also seen it this year as well, as Porzingis made his first start at center in this young season against the Indiana Pacers last week and put up 27 points and 13 rebounds in a 12-point win on the road.
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The problem is, though, when KP isn’t hitting shots or rebounding, the Mavs have no other big who is capable of picking up that kind of slack. Sure, the eventual return of Maxi Kleber should help this Mavs front court out a lot, as well as Dorian Finney-Smith getting his NBA legs back under him post-Covid, but it likely won’t fix all the Mavs problems when they’re facing a superstar big man like Rudy Gobert.
Vucivic isn’t the brute rebounder that Gobert is, but he still averages an impressive double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds per game which shooting 49% from the field and 44% from deep. He would give the Mavs more force on the boards without restricting their offensive flexibility the way a guy like Andre Drummond might (and this isn’t a knock on Drummond, but just an honest assessment).
Like the Mavs, the Magic have been mediocre this season, currently sitting outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with an 8-11 record.
The difference is, however, that the Magic have been stuck in this NBA purgatory for some time now.
Orlando has had its fair share of unfortunate injuries, but in reality, even if fully healthy, that roster’s ceiling still feels like it could be a 7-seed at best. They could be ripe for making some trades pretty soon.
We’ve written and podcasted about Magic forward Aaron Gordon too, and make no mistake, he would help out this Mavs roster tremendously as well at this point. But Gordon just isn’t playing on the same level as Vucivic is right now, and would likely cost more given that he’s younger with more upside.
Contractually speaking, both Gordon and Vucivic are on very team-friendly deals due to their annual salary amount decreasing every season. Gordon will make $18.1 million this season and $16.4 million next season. Vucivic will make $24 million next season and $22 million in the 2022-2023 season, but again, you get more bang for your buck with him than you do with Gordon given how they’re both currently playing, despite Gordon having more upside.
Vucivic is definitely a center, and if the Mavs did acquire him, it would all but guarantee that Porzingis starts at power forward for the rest of this season. However, maybe having another big who can grab double-digit rebounds every night while not being a liability on offense could free up Porzingis to do more of the things he’s comfortable doing.
Although KP is 7’3, he’s far from being a ‘bruiser’ type of big man, and that’s OK. Given his career injury history, maybe he doesn’t need to try to be that kind of player. If that is the case, the Mavs will have to consider upgrading their frontcourt depth.
All the talk this season has been, ‘Luka needs more help’, and he definitely does, but maybe that talk right now should be about Porzingis being the one who needs of more help down low.
Mavs receive - Nikola Vucivic
Magic receive - Maxi Kleber, James Johnson & a heavily-protected 2025 first-round pick that would likely turn into two second round picks instead
Does "Luka need help?'' Doncic and company get help. Right there.
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