According to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is “looking to move on” from the organization during this off-season.
For a Dallas Mavericks team with a clear need for a third piece, acquiring Oladipo via an NBA trade is the best avenue to improve this team. Here’s why.
Mavericks would be adding a proven star
The Mavericks had a successful 2019-20 season, culminating in a surprsingly competitive series with a Los Angeles Clippers team many prognosticators thought would win it all.
However, the overachievements only made the Mavericks’ weaknesses clearer — they need a third star to pair with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Oladipo, a two-time All-Star, is that elusive third piece.
During the 2017-18 season, Oladipo was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player while averaging 23.1 points per game. In Dallas, Oladipo won’t have the usage to hit those marks, but his skill set makes him one of the best third pieces in the NBA.
Acquiring Victor Oladipo would come on the cheap
There’s a reason Oladipo is available. After suffering a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, Oladipo missed a full year of NBA action. He finished the 2019-20 season averaging 14.5 points per game, well below expectations. Though he did improve in the playoffs, the Pacers have been reluctant to put an extension on the table, leading to rumors of potential trades.
Whoever gets Oladipo will buy low on a proven No. 1 option on a playoff team — the exact kind of player the Mavericks should be targeting. Everyone outside of Doncic and Porzingis is available. An offer of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Delon Wright as well as the 18th and 31st pick in the coming 2020 NBA draft should be enough to make Oladipo a Maverick. For a player with Oladipo’s pedigree, that’s a no-brainer for the Mavericks.
Victor Oladipo is a great defender
With an offensive rating of 115.9, the Dallas Mavericks had statistically the best offense of all time. How did an offense that powerful finish seventh in the Western Conference and exit in the first round?
The Mavericks were putrid on defense, finishing with the second-worst defensive rating among all playoff teams. Replacing Hardaway Jr.’s minutes with Oladipo is a major improvement to the Mavericks’ defense.
In his last full season, Oladipo was named to All-Defensive first team and led the league in steals. While Doncic is steadily improving on defense, the presence of a former first-team All-Defense guard in the backcourt is a huge step to remedying one of the biggest flaws for the Mavericks.
Mavericks poor history in free agency
As much as owner Mark Cuban and general Donnie Nelson try, the Mavericks have historically struck out with top free agents. During Dirk Nowitzki’s storied 21-year career, the most-prominent free agent signing was Harrison Barnes — an overpay who couldn’t lead the Mavericks to the playoffs.
Even the key pieces from the 2011 championship team — Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler — were all acquired via trade. The most famous free agent moment in franchise history is DeAndre Jordan going back on his initial agreement to join the Mavericks, one of the most embarrassing sagas in NBA history.
With Doncic and Porzingis showing every sign that they’ll be a powerful duo for years to come, the Mavericks believe they are a big player in free agency. Until a superstar is signed, however, trading for someone like Oladipo is the most-likely way to acquire a third piece.
Mavericks’ salary cap situation
Oladipo on the Mavericks is not guaranteed to work out. His injury problems may continue and he misses a lot of time or, even worse, we may never see the shooting guard return to his best form.
If the worst-case scenarios come true, the Mavericks will still be in a great position for free agency following the 2020-21 season. Oladipo’s $21 million contract expires at the end of next year, giving the Mavericks max cap space to sign anyone in a loaded free agent class.
For two role players and two non-lottery draft picks, a one year bet on Oladipo being the team’s missing piece is a worthy risk. If the gamble works for the Mavericks, they’ll have a big three, officially opening their championship window.