Through 24 immensely frustrating games, the only thing consistent about the Mavs has been their inconsistency, alternating between brilliant and inept, a world-beater one night, a toothless pushover the next. Unfortunately, that tends to happen when you and live die by a single player, a recipe that worked for the Mavs when they reached the conference finals a season ago but this year has seen diminishing returns.
Luka Doncic continues to put up gaudy numbers, leading the league in both scoring (32.4 points per game) and triple-doubles (six), though it hasn’t correlated to the Mavericks winning, with Dallas (13-11) looking more the part of a play-in team than a true contender. It stands to reason that, if the Mavs continue down this path, Doncic will have to take a long, hard look at his future, deciding whether to stick it out with Dallas or abandon the only team he’s ever known for a better opportunity elsewhere.
Appearing on the Hoops Collective podcast, league insider Tim MacMahon, who previously covered the Mavs’ beat for ESPN, opined Dallas has two years to prove itself to Doncic, needing to make significant headway toward a championship or risk losing the Slovenian phenom to a trade request. “I think they have a two-year window,” said MacMahon. “They really need to convince Luka that he has a chance to contend year in and year out right here in Dallas. If they can’t get it done in that two-year window, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s going to force a trade or ask for a trade. I’m just saying at that point if he’s not happy, he has all the leverage in the world if he were looking to leave.”
The 23-year-old is under contract through 2027, though, if recent history has taught us anything, if a player wants to be traded badly enough, he’ll usually get his way. Doncic, by all accounts, loves Dallas and would happily finish his career there. But as MacMahon alluded to, he’s also a fierce competitor, which means if the Mavericks aren’t winning, the disgruntled All-Star could begin plotting his escape.
“I’m around this team on a regular basis. I know people who know Luka well. I don’t think Luka will look for reasons to leave,” said MacMahon. “He loves winning. He’s used to winning. He won championships with Real Madrid. He won a EuroBasket championship with the Slovenian national team. He also detests losing. Like can’t handle it. Whether it’s cards, ping pong, but especially NBA games.”
Given his ball-dominant style, Doncic, admittedly, isn’t the easiest player to share the court with, though the Mavericks also haven’t given him much to work with following the recent departures of Kristaps Porzingis (traded to Washington) and Jalen Brunson (left in free agency). Squandering Doncic’s prime with a barebones supporting cast is bad enough, but could the Mavericks’ complacency actually cost them their best player? We might be only two years from finding out.