Two-time NBA All-Star Zach LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and teams all over the league have been linked to the Chicago Bulls’ scoring dynamo. The Dallas Mavericks are a team set for some shakeup this offseason following their Western Conference Finals elimination.
Even though the two aren’t a natural fit, as the Mavs don’t have the cap space to sign LaVine outright, other avenues exist for Mark Cuban’s team to get involved.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein, general manager Nico Harrison could get involved in the LaVine bidding process later this summer. Here are three reasons why LaVine to the Mavericks might be a better fit than expected.
Luka Doncic needs a partner in crime
While the Mavs do boast one of the best players in basketball in Luka Doncic, one man simply cannot do it all, and the rest of the core isn’t one that’s built to grow from within. The average age of their top-eight contributors in minutes per game in the playoffs was 27.75 years old. Only Doncic was younger than 24, with Jalen Brunson being the only other player younger than 28. This team is past it’s peak, aside from Doncic who’s yet to touch his ceiling.
They don’t have the young talent set to improve and their 26th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft isn’t likely to bring in a player who can elevate this squad to the Finals.
Then, there’s the salary cap situation, where they cannot sign any unrestricted free agents this offseason.
Doncic was clearly worn out by Game 5 of their Conference Finals matchup after running the show as the team’s main ballhandler, shooter and slasher. He needs another player who can do any of the three, freeing up Doncic to take a few plays off, which should allow his defensive effort to improve.
Simply put, Doncic needs another All-Star, and LaVine might be one of the first ones available, plus, at 27 years old, he fits the current timeline.
Zach LaVine’s arrival makes Jalen Brunson expendable
Sure, some might just say the Mavs should keep Jalen Brunson since they already know what he offers and since Doncic and him work well together, but that’s not what I’d advise.
Brunson, at 6-foot-1, is undersized, and while it clearly doesn’t limit him offensively, his defensive limitations cannot be denied. Let’s not act like LaVine is an exponentially better defender, but he at least offers more size and switchability thanks to his athletic 6-foot-5 frame.
Not only is LaVine a slightly better fit defensively, his offensive output is outstanding compared to Brunson.
- Zach LaVine stats: 24.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, .389 3P%, .554 eFG%
- Jalen Brunson stats: 16.3 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.9 RPG, .373 3P%, .549 eFG%
LaVine is a high volume shooter who can get his shot off in a hurry with very little space needed. He can also create his own shot, or get to the rack by attacking the rim. His impressive athletic ability allows him to get buckets that smaller, less bouncy athletes can only dream of.
He’s a bonafide 20-plus points per game scorer and certainly brings a better game-by-game effort than Brunson has displayed thus far. If the decision is to pay Brunson $20-$25 million or pay LaVine nearly $40 million, I’d be more intrigued by how the latter can elevate the offense long-term.
Mavericks instantly become a feared opponent with LaVine
As mentioned earlier, Doncic is getting gassed when he’s tasked with operating the offense for 40 minutes per game. Jason Kidd could instead structure the minutes so one of LaVine or Doncic are on the floor at all times, but them sharing the court for the most part.
Doncic would still run the show as the 1A superstar, but having LaVine as his 1B would be a nice get.
Like Doncic, LaVine can do all the same things the Slovenian stud can, which naturally lessens the burden on Doncic.
LaVine has a reputation for being able to take games over and has a much higher ceiling than Hardaway, Dinwiddie and everyone else currently on the Mavs roster. It also makes them more expendable, allowing the Mavs to use their contracts in trades elsewhere, perhaps even for Rudy Gobert.