WASHINGTON – The clock ticked slower than normal on Thursday, or so it seemed.
But eventually, finally, the NBA trade deadline passed at 2 p.m. Dallas time and the Mavericks elected not to enter the free-for-all that was going on all around them.
Big names were flying around while the Mavericks were in the air from Dallas to Washington as the deadline passed.
When they landed, they were in the same spot in terms of members of their locker room as they were when they boarded their flight.
That’s not such a bad thing.
The NBA had 11h-hour trades going on all over the place with name-brand players and deep-end-of-the-roster guys going every which way. Among those with new addresses: Marcus Morris, Andre Drummond, Isaiah Thomas, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Wiggins and D’Angelo Russell.
And that doesn’t include the Houston-Atlanta-Denver-Minnesota mega-deal the day before.
But in the words of president of basketball operations/general manager Donnie Nelson, these Mavericks aren’t in a position to skip steps, some of which might not be all that pleasant to go through.
“As long as we keep taking care of business, we like our young team and they’ve got to go through the ups and downs, get dirt kicked on them,” Nelson said recently.
That’s the way Dirk Nowitzki did it in the early seasons of his career. And that’s the way Luka Doncic is going to have to do it now.
The Mavericks no doubt were working the phones right up until the deadline. Their history of risk-taking at trade deadlines of the past is well documented. Some worked great (Kristaps Porzingis, for instance). Some not so much (Nerlens Noel).
What the Mavericks clearly felt at the trade deadline this year is that their younger assets that aren’t making mega-money (yet) are the ones that were wanted by everybody who was dangling attractive veterans in trade talks.
Morris, Wiggins, even Drummond. Those kind of players would have required one or more of the Mavericks’ big contracts not named Porzingis. And it would also have required the Mavericks to give up some of their young players that clearly are a major part of this team.
Sticking with guys like Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith and others is smart. Seeing them blossom elsewhere would be a hard pill to swallow for the Mavericks – and especially their fans.
The Mavericks have been very savvy at identifying young players that are worth sacrificing, like Dennis Smith Jr. and Justin Anderson, among others. It stands to reason that they have earned our trust when it comes to knowing who to keep.
Back on the eve of the season opener, Nelson said to mavs.com that the Mavericks had two distinct options in front of them.
They could face a season in which they struggle again and they would have their first-round draft pick this summer. Another trip to the lottery and a chance to land another key rotation player.
That obviously didn’t happen.
So they were left with the second option. They are a competitive playoff contender with a lot of assets that are appealing to other teams. They could add a third key member to the Doncic-Porzingis dynamic before the trade deadline.
That didn’t happen.
So they are left with the upcoming off-season – as well as the buyout season, which could open up some other options. The Mavericks won’t have a ton of money in the offseason, but neither will virtually all the other teams that are playoff worthy.
So what it boils down to is that the Mavericks took a prudent, patient attack on this trade deadline.
It might not be the sexiest course of action. But just remember, it’s been done before with Dirk.