Trade deadlines come and go, but the job of improving the Mavericks never stops.
The league’s stamp of approval may not have dried on the trade bringing J.J. Redick to the Mavericks, but Donnie Nelson acknowledged that more moves via the buyout market could, in theory, still happen.
But the president of basketball operations cautioned it would have to be an ideal scenario for any buyout candidate to join the Mavericks.
The Mavericks have seen what can happen when the wrong incoming player is wedged into an uncomfortable situation. We all remember Rajon Rondo’s short-lived stint in Dallas, right?
“The things that are available have to augment and fit within the player structure that we have,” Nelson said about Thursday’s trade deadline and the looming buyout season. “We really didn’t want to tamper with the rotation with the uptick that we have and have a Rondo II kind of a deal.
“It was really the pieces that would fit together with what we have. We felt J.J. was a really good fit.”
While the trade certainly will help the Mavericks’ offensively, it did not address another need: rebounding. And their defense also took a hit with the loss of James Johnson in the Redick deal.
Nelson said the odd of improving on the front line might not be good, partly because the Mavericks will be selective about what kind of player would fit in.
“In terms of up front, it’s got to be better than what we’ve got,” he said. “Are players that are going to get flushed out into the marketplace, are they an upgrade over what we have?
“And then, these guys are free agents. They’re going to go to a place where they can play. They’re basically in their contract year. So minutes are really important. And minutes are tough right now with the lineup we have. So it’s got to fit for players, it’s got to fit for us and where we’re at. I really don’t know what direction we’re going to go, but it’s a fit for that player and his agent and the minutes are right and the opportunity is right, then we’ll pull the trigger. But this is a dance where both parties have to be in step.”
Free-agent look-ahead: Nelson also gave an early look at free-agency this summer. He said having Luka Dončić not only makes everybody’s job easier on the court. It helps in the front office, too.
And the rest of this season should provide more clues about exactly where the Mavericks stand.
“Every summer has the same pressures to add to the team,” he said. “Look at where we are, we certainly like a lot of the pieces. We got to give ourselves a chance to see what we have. Anyone that plays next to Luka seems to take an uptick and I think that’s going to bode well for us this summer in terms of the kind of attractiveness to this style of play, a championship coach, and Mark (Cuban).
“Our sense is that we’re in probably as good a position as we’ve ever been to have those conversations.”
Those conversations would be with high-profile free agents who can pick their destinations based on opportunity, success of the team and, of course, money.
Nelson, by the way, said that he’s finding that recruiting free agents is different with Dončić than it was with Dirk Nowitzki.
“It’s completely different,” he said. “One guy is an open shot waiting to happen. And the other guy was a shot-taker and a shot-maker. I think in terms of free-agency, who doesn’t want to play with a Jason Kidd? Who doesn’t want to play with a Steve Nash? So in terms of recruiting, it’s much better to have a “true quarterback” that has the abilities that he (Dončić) has. It’s going to make our recruiting efforts a lot smoother.”
Low-down on Melli: Less of a known quantity in the Redick trade is 6-9 Italian Nicolo Melli.
He’s a versatile big man, coach Rick Carlisle said.
“Melli can shoot it and can play some four and some five,” Carlisle said. “We feel like both these guys can help us.”
Nelson used fourth-year Maverick big man Maxi Kleber as an example of the career trajectory the team has hopes for from Melli.
“If you look at the success of Maxi Kleber, you can see kind of a little bit of a path there,” Nelson said. “He’s a guy who can clearly make the long ball. He’s a great teammate. He can swing a little, a little four, a little five. He’s going to have an opportunity to fight for some backup minutes.”
Melli was a European player on the team from Turkey that lost to Dončić’s Real Madrid team in the EuroLeague championship.
“I was visiting with Luka a little yesterday and he obviously have memories of him in Europe and a great deal of respect,” Nelson said. “So we think he’s going to be a really nice addition. Melli provides us with another really solid locker-room glue piece that can be kind of a utility guy. Those guys have done well within the infrastructure of the pieces we have.”