Can Mavs Contend Soon Without 3rd ‘Star’?

The Dallas Mavericks are one more superstar away from creating the NBA’s next super team, but even if that doesn’t happen, title contention is still very attainable with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
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Now that the Dallas Mavericks have shown impressive flashes of what they could be going forward if Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are completely healthy, it’s easy to look ahead to future free agency periods or pipe-dream trade scenarios to see who could be the next star added to that dynamic duo.

Although he’s said all the right things so far that would lead you to believe that he’s going to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been one of our bigger free agency pipe-dreams. We’ve also written a handful of articles on the prospect of a a potential Bradley Beal trade, should such an opportunity present itself. 

As amazing as it would be to see the Mavs add a third star of that caliber and create the NBA’s next super-team, is something like that really necessary for Dallas to become perennial contenders again? Right now, my read of the present signs says ‘no.'

Luka Doncic has been other-worldly good in his first two seasons, nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double in his sophomore season. When you have an 21-year-old All-NBA First-Team talent on a rookie contract, the pressure is on to make the most of that financial advantage with roster-building while you can. Factor in Kristaps Porzingis playing at an All-NBA level as well since February, and it’s easy to see why expectations have been raised and the timeline to title contention has been moved up from where they were last summer.

“I didn’t know we’d be this good, this fast, but we’ll take it,” said Mavs GM Donnie Nelson on our Mavs Step Back Podcast.

"We're cut out to bring the best possible on the planet earth right here to our backyard in Dallas.”

Although they might be “cut out” to add another star to the mix this summer or next, the Mavs could still become a true title contender now with minor roster tweaks going forward, especially if Doncic and Porzingis continue on their upward trajectory. Instead of pipe-dreaming for guys like Antetokounmpo and Beal, we could have more reasonable summer dreams for talented role players like Denver’s Jerami Grant or former-Maverick Jae Crowder, who is a much better player now than when he was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2014. 

Or, maybe the Mavs could go after another Miami Heat forward, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason: Derrick Jones Jr. Last summer, we reported that in some form, the Mavs and Heat had agreed to a trade involving Doncic’s good friend Goran Dragic. The only problem with that, though, was that the Mavs were expecting to get Jones Jr. in the trade instead of Dragic. It was a miscommunication that was embarrassing for all involved, but now, one year later, the Mavs will have their opportunity to add Jones Jr. the easier way if they choose to do so.

Regardless of the route Dallas takes, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Mavs don’t improve going forward. They have the young superstars, and they have decent depth with players on very team-friendly contracts. First things first, of course; let's see what happens with this group in the Orlando Bubble. 

But eventually? As Doncic and Porzingis become more comfortable playing with each other, bolstering the depth of role players around them should be more than enough to give them a real shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy for the foreseeable future, whether they add a third superstar or not.