Ranking the Dallas Mavs' Top Five NBA Trades in Franchise History

The Dallas Mavericks have always been known for their NBA wheeling-and-dealing, and here we rank the Top Five trades in franchise history.
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With the NBA's hiatus continuing to slowly drag along due to accelerating nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've had a lot of spare time to sit back and relive some of the best and worst moments in Dallas Mavericks history. (We will eventually forgive NBA TV for re-airing the 2006 NBA Finals the other day... maybe).

Here we look at every trade the Mavs have made in franchise history and rank our top five. Some trades, like when the Mavs acquired Jason Terry from the Hawks or Shawn Marion from the Raptors, barely missed the cut here, but are still very important transactions that helped make a championship team. Whether you agree or disagree with the list below, feel free to leave your thoughts and continue this discussion with in the DBcom Boards.

No. 5 - Mavs fleece the Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis ... and Tim Hardaway Jr.

On January 31, 2019, the Mavs sent Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wes Matthews two future first round draft picks to to the Knicks in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke.

kp th luka clutch

This trade already looked pretty bad for New York when it happened, being that Porzingis was their franchise player and already an All-Star before his rookie contract had expired. Now, it has only gotten worse, as Hardaway Jr., who was once seen as the salary "tax" in order to acquire Porzingis, has turned into a key contributor to the Mavs' newfound success and is playing arguably the best basketball of his career.

On the other side, Jordan and Matthews are long gone from New York, Smith Jr., due to a variety of reasons, has seemingly regressed from the player we all saw flashes from in Dallas, and the Knicks completely whiffed in free agency as they watched their top targets (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) sign with the Brooklyn Nets, a team that's just a stone's throw away from Madison Square Garden. And those two first round picks? It's looking like they'll be in the mid-20s by the time they convey. So, all in all, this was just a total disaster for the Knicks and a massive win for the Mavs.

The only reason this trade isn't ranked higher right now is simply because we need a bigger sample size to see just how great the results can be. Porzingis has already paired well with Luka Doncic, having led the Mavs to a 40-27 record before things got put on hold, but even then, that duo has yet to reach its full potential. Maybe this trade can potentially lead to a championship like three of the next four trades did, but only time will tell.

No. 4 - Mavs bring back Jason Kidd for his second stint in Dallas

On February 19, 2008, the Mavs sent Devin Harris, Keith Van Horn, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, DeSagana Diop and two first round draft picks to the Nets for Jason Kidd, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright.

dirk kidd

Dallas was obviously already very familiar with Kidd, being that the Mavs drafted him with the second pick in the 1995 draft, and he spent his first two-and-a-half seasons there before being traded to Phoenix. Kidd was a 23-year-old kid (no pun intended) when he left Dallas the first time and came back as a 34-year-old wily veteran with valuable NBA Finals experience, despite falling short on two occasions with Vince Carter in New Jersey. 

A young-and-talented Devin Harris helped the Mavs reach the NBA Finals just two years prior to this trade, and he went on to have a very impressive stint with the Nets, but all-in-all, this move was a no-brainer for the Mavs.

Kidd's averages were never jaw-dropping, but his style of play was mesmerizing, and he turned out to be the perfect floor general for a hungry Mavs team that eventually went on to win a championship. His poise, defense and much-improved three-point shooting showed up on various occasions during Dallas' 2011 playoff run.

No. 3 - Mavs acquire the championship-caliber defensive anchor Tyson Chandler

On July 13, 2010, the Mavs acquired Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca from the Charlotte Bobcats for Erick Dampier, Eduardo Najera, Matt Carroll and cash considerations.

Ah, yes, famously known as ‘The DUST Chip’.


Before Chandler found himself in Dallas, he had some really nice moments with Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets before having back-to-back injury-riddled seasons from 2008-2010. By the time the Mavs traded for Chandler, he was, for the most part, an after-thought in the league, and there wasn't a whole lot of fanfare surrounding the acquisition at the time. It didn't take long for Chandler to change that.

After playing 45 and 51 games in the previous two seasons, respectively, Chandler bounced back strong in his first season with the Mavs, playing in 74 games and playing nearly 30 minutes per game while being the heart and soul of Dallas' defense.  Not only was Chandler a good player in his own right, but he's also regarded as being the perfect front-court teammate for Dirk Nowitzki, given some of Nowitzki's shortcomings on the defensive end.

Chandler only played two seasons in Dallas (two separate one-season stints), unfortunately, but he will always be considered one of the best, if not THE best, centers to ever put on a Mavs jersey. The Mavs are notoriously stingy when it comes to jersey retirements, but we wouldn't be shocked at all to see No. 6 hanging in the rafters one day (assuming Porzingis doesn’t eventually override his No. 6, which is entirely possible), and that alone makes this a top-5 trade in Mavs history.

No. 2 - Mavs make a 2018 NBA Draft-night trade with the Hawks to acquire Luka Doncic

On June 21, 2018, during the NBA Draft, the Mavs acquired the draft rights to Luka Doncic (3rd overall pick) from the Hawks in exchange for the draft rights to Trae Young (5th overall pick) and a protected 2019 first round draft pick.

trae luka 3

Nearly 20 years to the day the Mavs acquired Dirk Nowitzki in a similar draft-night trade, Donnie Nelson got 'his guy' yet again, setting Dallas up for what we all hope is another 20-year run of greatness.

After holding the third-best odds to win the 2018 NBA Lottery, the Mavs continued their franchise trend of having horrible lottery luck and ended up with the fifth pick. Had Doncic gone first overall like he should have, it would've made Dallas trading for him near-impossible. But luckily for the Mavs, not every team saw the surefire talent in Doncic that Nelson did, and they were able to get it done.

Fast-forward nearly two years later, and Doncic has lived up to and even surpassed the already-high expectations the Mavs had for him. In just his second season, Doncic is now an All-Star averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game while putting the Mavs on course to make the playoffs for the first time in three years.

"Whenever you see Luka, whether he's in a Real Madrid jersey or a Mavericks (jersey), he brings the ability to make everyone else better," said Nelson on our Mavs Step Back Podcast. "He's a special passer. At 6-8, he can put the ball down. He can shoot the long ball. He loves big moments."

"I didn't know we'd be this good, this fast," Nelson admitted, "but we'll take it."

No. 1 - Mavs make a trade with the Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki in the 1998 NBA Draft

On June 24, 1998, the fate of the Mavericks changed forever when they traded the draft rights for Robert Traylor (6th overall pick) for Dirk Nowitzki (9th overall pick) and Pat Garrity (19th overall pick who was then flipped in a package to Phoenix for Steve Nash).

dirk nash all star

The trade that landed the Mavs its best player in franchise history unsurprisingly lands at No. 1 on our list. Dirk Nowitzki wasn't just an all-time great basketball player destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he was and still is an all-time great person too. 

Nowitzki holds countless franchise records, was a 14-time All-Star, was selected 12 times for All-NBA honors, won a league MVP, and won a very satisfying championship and Finals MVP against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the star-studded Miami Heat in 2011. But as good as he was on the court, the always-humble Nowitzki was even better off the court, interacting with his fans and giving back to the community through the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and other charitable events. 

Nowitzki was/is as down-to-earth and relatable of a superstar as you'll ever find. What Nowitzki did for the Mavs and its fans for more than two decades is unique in today's sports culture and can never be truly quantified in our opinion.

And to think, it all started with a simple draft night trade in 1998. ... the No. 1 trade in Dallas history and one of the great blockbuster deals in NBA history as well.