We’re six games into the season, and the Dallas Mavericks are sporting an encouraging 4-2 record, which could easily be 6-0, had a couple more bounces (and whistles) gone their way against the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. Not only is this team actually winning games, but this group is also just extremely fun to watch as well, something that hasn't always been the case over the last three seasons.
So far, with Luka Doncic taking a big leap and Rick Carlisle pressing all the right buttons, the Mavs have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, currently registering the No. 1 in offensive rating with 113.1 points per 100 possessions. That ranks Dallas directly ahead of title contenders like the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets.
After watching this team for a few weeks, I keep seeing similarities to that 2014-2015 Mavs team that featured Jameer Nelson, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. That team was also one of the best offensive teams in the league at that time, and had a 19-8 record before the infamous Rajon Rondo trade went down. The Mavs’ front office knew that team likely wasn’t a title contender, given their defensive deficiencies, so they swung for the fences with Rondo in an attempt — an extremely risky one at that — to ‘maybe’ give Nowitzki a title-contenting roster in the last few years of his career.
As we all know, that plan failed miserably, with Rondo and Carlisle butting heads during games, and it ultimately ended with Rondo quitting on the team for good in the first round of the playoffs (even the players voted to keep Rondo from getting a piece of the playoff bonus that teams revive), as Dallas fell to Houston in five games.
Fast-forward four years, and the Mavs are in a much better situation. The offense is humming with second-year maestro Luka Doncic doing the orchestrating. Kristaps Porzingis, despite still working his way into NBA shape, has shown flashes of brilliance on both ends of the floor. The rest of the team seems to be gelling around those two young stars nicely, and overall, they just all seem to really enjoy each other’s company.
“We’ve got a great group of guys. Everybody gets along,” said Mavs Owner Mark Cuban recently on the Mavs Step Back Podcast. “I always say you can have one knucklehead on a team, but you can’t have two, because they hang out together. We don’t have have any knuckleheads, and that’s a good thing.”
Last week, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley wrote a piece titled “Every NBA Team’s Ideal Trade Target This Season,” suggesting Chris Paul to the Mavs, with the reasoning being that Paul is a good enough three-point shooter to not impede Doncic’s on-ball development. “If the Mavs want to go all-in, this is their move,” Buckley wrote.
(Worth noting: Buckley doesn't have a "scoop'' here and this is wrongly being billed as "trade gossip.'' It's nothing of the sort; there is no Mavs source telling anybody this idea is worth sniffing around about. It's simply one man's idea.)
Shooting numbers aside, you can’t ignore the locker-room issues that Paul has been involved in during previous two stops with the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul has butted heads with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and James Harden, which eventually led to him being traded. That should definitely place Paul in Cuban's "knucklehead" category at this point in his career.
Right now, it doesn't seem as if any issues have surfaced with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that track record of drama, plus the fact that Paul has a $44-million player option during the summer of 2021 when he'll be 36 years old, just doesn't strike me as an "all-in" move for the Mavs... but rather another disastrous trade in the making. And if you're wondering, "Well, what if the Thunder attached a pick or two along with the Mavs taking CP3," then you're probably underestimating Thunder GM Sam Presti.
Trading for Rondo back in 2014 was aways going to be a big risk, but given Nowitzki and the rest of the Roster's age, it made more sense for them to take that chance. This season, the Mavs seem to be way ahead of schedule, with Doncic, who won't turn 21 years old until late February next year, still on his rookie deal, and Porzingis, who is 24, locked in long-term. Although expectations may be on the rise, there's no need to make a hasty move for a Chris Paul, who is a shell of his former All-Star self. These Mavs have all the time in the world, for now.
We've always wondered what that 2014 pre-Rondo Mavs team would've looked like at the end of the year, had the front office let the roster continue to grow together. Five years later, I believe we'll finally get to see some glimpses of what we would've seen then. ... Only this time around, the Mavs are much younger, and quite possibly better.