For two days now since the Mavericks’ season ended in Game 6 against the Clippers, we’ve heard a constant theme.
The Mavericks need somebody like Marcus Morris.
To be clear, they don’t need that particular player. Luka Dončić might resume the boycott if that happened.
But it’s hard to argue against the narrative that they could use an instigator/bodyguard to give the team as a whole a bit more edge.
And if they can grab eight or 10 rebounds a game, so much the better.
Free agency is a speck on the horizon right now, set to open on Oct. 18, three days after the draft, which is two days after the date of Game 7 of the NBA finals, should the series go that far.
But it’s never too early to start plotting for what the Mavericks need to upgrade the roster. You can be certain that president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban have been doing so for a long time. They had a full five months during the hiatus to work with the scouting staff and analyze angles for the future.
So what does this team really need to augment the fastest-rising young superstar in the game?
Three areas stick out.
Shooting: You can never have too much of it and a pure catch-and-shoot 3-point gunner would be an asset that Luka would love. The NBA is a make-or-miss league now more than ever.
And by the way, some of the shooting that the Mavericks need come come from within. They will be welcoming back a healthy Jalen Brunson and a healthy Dwight Powell when the next season begins.
Brunson had become a solid 3-point shooter before his shoulder injury and Powell has shown he can make perimeter shots.
And then there’s Dončić, who said after the season was over: “There are a lot of things to improve on. You cannot work on just one thing. But I think I will especially work on shooting.”
Good idea. If he continues to take anywhere from eight to 12 3-pointers per game, plus gest to the foul line 10-plus times as he did in the playoff games, improving the percentages is a must.
Rebounding: It was improved this season over last. But it still wasn’t great. And in the playoffs, the Mavericks were outrebounded by an average of more than three boards per game.
It’s not surprising that they were pretty good in the rebounding department in the two games they won against the Clippers.
They need to find somebody with a nose for the ball when shots go up. And that usually means somebody who plays with supreme effort.
Which brings us back to . . .
The bodyguard: Call this whatever you want. The Mavericks need somebody to be the tough guy who can dish out (and not take) tough, physical play. Brutish is the word that comes to mind. Not dirty, mind you. Just somebody who can handle himself against anybody who tries to be physical with the Mavericks.
And this person could be the same one who helps the rebounding department.
Look at the recent NBA champions. The Toronto Raptors had a hard-nosed big man in Serge Ibaka. And they had rugged smaller players like Norman Powell and, of coure, Kawhi Leonard.
The Golden State Warriors during their run had Draymond Green, David West and Matt Barnes. Players don’t have to be 6-8 and 250 pounds to be enforcers.
But that can be an asset.
The sad thing is that Charles Oakley isn’t coming out of retirement.
Just remember, this is a process. The Mavericks actually have done the hard part. They’ve found a huge superstar.
Now, they know what’s next. This moment in time is a lot like when they realized just how great Dirk Nowitzki was and how going through his career without a championship would be a crime.
The Mavericks worked every year to put new and better talent around Nowitzki. Eventually, it worked in 2011.
The situation is very similar with Dončić, who has the ability to carry a team, but also must have help. All great players do.
Now it’s up to the Mavericks’ front office to figure out the right pieces to fit around their 21-year-old point guard.