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Home » «Link Between Luka Doncic and Trae Young Extended Beyond Draft Night Trade»

«Link Between Luka Doncic and Trae Young Extended Beyond Draft Night Trade»

19 January 2023, Thursday
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, made sure the deal with the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft went through. Cuban was in the hallway outside the Mavs' draft room with minutes to spare when he called the Hawks' principal owner Tony Ressler. The trade had been discussed throughout the day by Donnie Nelson and Travis Schlenk, who led the basketball operations departments of both Dallas and Atlanta respectively. This conversation sealed the deal, allowing the Mavericks to move up two picks in the draft.

The billionaires involved reached an agreement to keep the original framework in place - the Hawks sending the Mavericks the No. 3 overall pick for No. 5 and a top-five-protected pick in the following year's draft. Consequently, Luka Doncic donned a Hawks cap when he appeared at the Barclays Center stage, although he was ultimately sent to Dallas, with the Mavericks analytics team deeming him "10 miles ahead of everybody else" in that draft class, Cuban mentioned to ESPN. Similarly, Trae Young, selected with the fifth pick, was made aware that he was to be a Hawk from the start, wearing a Mavs cap on stage.

The two superstars of the NBA, both noted for their scoring and passing abilities, swapped places in a landmark deal. Doncic was awarded three first-team All-NBA selections, while Young earned one third-team honor, thus qualifying them for five-year, $212 million supermax extensions with player options for the final season. 

As their extended contracts roll into their first year, the Mavericks and the Hawks experience difficulty in their pursuit to construct winning teams around their star players. This is a typical occurrence in today's NBA, where famous players often move on to better and more rewarding opportunities if their original teams fail to capture championships.

On Wednesday night, two of the biggest superstars in the NBA will face each other when the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks meet at 7:30 ET. They share many similarities in their respective career paths. Both players had disagreements with their initial head coaches and saw their teams experience surprising runs to the conference finals after changes in leadership. Significantly, both franchises have gone through extensive changes within their front offices. Additionally, they both made aggressive moves via trades to acquire other stars, deals which did not pan out well in either city.

The Hawks and Mavericks are both striving for championship success with their star players, and are aware of the consequences should they fail to do so in the near future. They are thus searching for a way to become title contenders and are worrying about what might transpire should they not find it expediently.

When the Knicks resolved to move Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks promptly seized the chance to join him with another young European talent, Doncic. Sources detailed that Porzingis' list of preferred destinations didn't include Dallas, though.

Mavericks executive Donnie Nelson had been chatting with the Knicks about exchanging Tim Hardaway Jr. and possibly Courtney Lee for expiring contracts, as New York wanted to craft a salary cap for the upcoming summer's free agency. A deal such as that would have yielded Dallas certain draft compensation.

Suddenly, Porzingis was added to the transaction, with two first-round picks (2021 and 2023) going to New York and point guard Dennis Smith Jr. -- a 2017 lottery pick who had become unpopular in Dallas -- also included. Porzingis refrained from playing the remainder of the season while still in the process of recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee that he had sustained the earlier year.

That summer, Dallas took a further gamble on Porzingis, who was then a restricted free agent, by signing him to a five-year maximum contract with no injury protection even prior to him playing a single game as a Mavs player.

At the time of the deal, the transaction of Porzingis was viewed positively, with many being excited for the emergence of two European stars taking the helm of the team. Still, the partnership between Doncic and Porzingis didn't evolve as quickly as hoped for. Despite brief moments of synergy between them, their chemistry was unable to sustain itself. Just prior to the pandemic and during the bubble, they showed much potential; however, Porzingis' injury which resulted in his meniscus tear prevented him from performing up to his capabilities with the Mavs.

Porzingis had difficulties, particularly on the defensive side of the game. Following his reemergence a few weeks into the 2020-21 season, he wasn't pleased with his role as a supporting player. The Mavericks attempted to find a trade partner to take Porzingis off their hands, but soon realized they would need to part with at least one more first-round draft pick in order to do so.

At the time of their first meeting, Porzingis and Doncic had little in common besides their shared dissatisfaction with then-coach Rick Carlisle. The passive-aggressive tension between the two players dissipated after Carlisle's departure, and they were both glad to receive a new start. When Jason Kidd was brought in to replace Carlisle, he complimented Porzingis, referring to him as the ideal co-star for Doncic. He also suggested that Porzingis should focus more on post and midrange play - two factors Carlisle had previously discouraged due to analytics.

The Mavs made a trade at the deadline that season, sending Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards in return for the contracts of Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, which the Wizards were looking to move. Even though Porzingis had been playing well when healthy, the Mavs were more successful with him on the bench than on the court. Thus, they offloaded him without attaching a first-round pick. As an added benefit, Dinwiddie has since become an integral part of the Mavs' core, playing a key role in their run to the Western Conference finals this season. According to GM Nico Harrison, the primary reason for the deal was to gain depth and flexibility.

The acquisition of Porzingis has been seen as a strikeout for the Mavs, setting them back to the beginning of their search for a capable partner for their budding MVP contender. This casts a shadow on the way the Mavs handled Jalen Brunson in free agency last summer, right after he was an integral part of their Western Conference Finals success.

Doncic is having a sensational season, leading the NBA in points despite facing multiple defenders. His show of excellence has resulted in the Mavericks having a 24-21 record, putting them fifth in the Western Conference. It's not the result which the determined Slovenian, who has won championships at the international level and in the Spanish League, desires. It is understood Doncic wants the Mavs to upgrade their roster before the February 9th trading deadline, and he has been quite vocal about it - a role he hasn't previously sought out.

The Mavericks know all too well the modern NBA conundrum: Stars who are discontent and have only two years remaining on their contracts have the power to be able to get away if they desire. This is exemplified with both Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, and James Harden and the Rockets.

But the fact remains that this is a task that is much easier said than done, seeing as the Mavs still owe the Knicks a pick as part of the Porzingis deal.

If the Dallas Mavericks don't assemble a championship-contending roster by summer 2024, there's a possibility that Luka Doncic could demand a trade. This doesn't necessarily indicate that he will, but the Mavs do not want to take the chance. This is similar to the situation that the Atlanta Hawks found themselves in with Trae Young.

For the Mavs, finding the right balance of striving for success this season and preserving assets to make a big move in the future is a difficult task. A scout from a contending team shared that it's "a really tough spot," due to the pressure looming from wanting to field a competitive team while also limiting their potential to trade for further help.
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