Doncic’s Final Days with Dallas Coming Soon?


Shortly after reaching the bitter end to the Dallas Mavericks’ 2022-2023 campaign, the clock immediately began ticking down on the “Luka Doncic might leave the franchise” front.

Or did it? Reporting earlier this season suggested that scenario is nearly impossible, which included confirmation even after the Mavs acquired Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline. Additionally, Doncic technically remains under contract until at least the 2025-2026 season with a player option for 2026-2027.

All is well, right?

Yet, the Mavs finished 9-18 post-Irving trade and 5-11 when the guard pair actually played together, including a questionable tankathon against Chicago that costed the franchise $750,000.

With a 38-44 record, Dallas finished with its lowest regular-season win total since Doncic’s rookie season in 2018-2019. That’s a 14-win decrease from the Mavs’ 52-win campaign last season. And even with its surprise Conference Finals berth in 2022, Dallas sits with a 14-17 record in the postseason since Doncic joined the franchise (12-16 when Luka plays).

And then, there were the early offseason grumblings about Luka’s pending future with the team moving forward.

ESPN’s Tim McMahon reported on Apr. 5 that Doncic could consider requesting a trade as soon as next summer (after the 2023-2024 season), with Luka’s frustration mounting following this year’s disappointing regular season.

So are we talking about smoke or an actual fire? Let’s break it all down.

The case for Doncic’s inevitable departure

The lack of support outside of Doncic remained a consistent problem throughout this year, Kyrie or not. Whether you look at Dallas’ early playoff exits in 2021 and 2022 or this season, the Mavs usually felt thin on bench support.

To be fair, Doncic’s performance statistically kept Dallas in the mix throughout this season, even with the roster limitations. With that said, it’s hard to take the Mavs seriously with Irving and Christian Wood as the next-best players on the roster given their respective shortcomings.

Moving forward, the Mavs face some interesting choice heading into this year’s offseason. Can the franchise re-sign both Irving and Wood to long-term deals? Is that even the right call? With little cap space and draft capital, what’s the next fallback plan to acquire more help around Doncic? If Dallas strikes out this free agency, is that already signaling a “beginning of the end” scenario for the Doncic-Dallas partnership?

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Also, as one of our writers recently noted, Dallas completely lost its defensive firepower between last season and this season. Check out the difference statistically between both years:

  • Opponent points per game: 2nd in 2022 –> 16th in 2023
  • Defensive rating: 6th in 2022 –> 24th in 2023

Except for turnovers forced (23rd) and defensive rebounding (17th), the Mavs finished league-average or better in every defensive statistical metric in 2022, per Basketball-Reference. This season, the Mavs’ slow pace kept shooting volume low for opponents but struggled with rebounding, rim protection and allowing too many easy looks inside.

One could also argue about the limited ceiling the Mavs face with just Luka as the main go-to star. Can you really win with Doncic as the only clear All-NBA selection on your team? Looking at other examples of ball-dominant isolation superstars like James Harden, George Gervin, Allen Iverson, Pete Maravich and company? The history tells a lot on that front, too.

So clearly, there’s a lot going against Dallas here. But…

The case for Doncic staying

For starters, Dallas is not afraid to make a splash to please its star. The Mavs’ recent moves show that the team is willing to take (albeit ill-advised) gambles on who it brings in. When you’re trying to please your franchise cornerstone, that mentality is already a positive for the team.

Yes, Dallas should consider the recent wave of superstars under multi-year deals who demanded exits from their teams like Harden, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant most recently. All were under contract, and all of them got their wish to get traded to a different franchise.

Then again, consider the list of superstars I just mentioned who got their wish for a trade. The common threat binding them together is the extraordinary circumstances which led to their eventual departure. Relations clearly soured between the Nets and Durant. The Rockets under Harden capped out after its Conference Finals berth in 2018. After one surprising season, the Pelicans could never figure it out with Davis.

Plus, Dallas possesses approximately $67 million in cap space in the summer of 2024, per Spotrac. Again, there is a move or two to be made here.

Regardless, the Mavs have figured it out with Doncic. We haven’t reached the breaking point just yet. And even then, the leverage for Doncic to ask a trade is not present, at least right now.

But that does not mean Dallas is in the clear.

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About Dominic Chiappone

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