Dallas made a leap forward with their run to the conference finals this season, but the heat of the playoff cauldron also exposed areas the Mavericks need to improve: Luka Doncic‘s conditioning, finding a true 2 option on offense (with apologies to Jalen Brunson) to add shot creation, and more rim protection.
One school of thought had the Mavericks seeking a big who could set picks for Doncic, roll to the rim, and provide top-shelf rim protection on defense. Which is why the Mavericks had been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Rudy Gobert if the Jazz trade him.
Sources nonetheless maintain that one option already being weighed by team brass is the prospect of joining the sign-and-trade bidding for the Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine, amid a growing belief around the league that LaVine, as he heads into free agency, has more interest in leaving Chicago than initially presumed. Atlanta, Portland and San Antonio — all of whom possess either the cap space or the trade pieces to more readily chase him — have already been mentioned as likely LaVine suitors…
Despite long-running speculation that the Mavericks hope to trade for Rudy Gobert, I’m told that an all-out pursuit of Utah’s All-Star center and defensive anchor is unlikely. As much as Cuban and GM Nico Harrison have openly acknowledged a pressing need to bolster their rim protection and rebounding, Dallas sees LaVine as the sort of player who could fill other crucial needs with his ability to both play off Dončić as a long-range shooter and likewise collapse defenses by slashing to the basket to score.
During the second half of the season, the Mavericks found a five-out system that they liked and suits Doncic’s game well. Gobert would be a shift away from that. While Gobert is elite defensively and solves some problems for the Mavs, bringing him in would be a fast turn toward a more conventional offense. Dallas isn’t taking that road.
While rumors were all over the Chicago Draft Combine about LaVine considering leaving the Bulls and he said he wanted to explore free agency – it’s fair to question if that is all posturing and he will eventually take the biggest bag he can and re-sign in Chicago.
If LaVine is serious about leaving the Bulls, what does he want in a new team? To be the Robin to Doncic’s Batman on a potential title contender? To team up with Damian Lillard? To play next to Trae Young? Cade Cunningham? Is it rings or a specific role that is the priority? (He’s a max player, so if he leaves Chicago it’s the same everywhere, four years, $157 million.)
If the goal is to find an All-Star who can take some shot creation load off Doncic, then there may be no better available option than LaVine. Dallas should kick the tires on a deal. However, a LaVine and Doncic backcourt would mean Dallas’ front office must find rim protection and wing defenders somewhere to balance the roster out. But that’s a bridge the Mavericks can cross if they get to it and land LaVine.