2. Mavericks going all-in on Doncic, Porzingis
With their moves in late January and early February, the Dallas Mavericks have committed to a future led by rookie point forward Luka Doncic and Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis.
Doncic, who just turned 20 on Thursday, was the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Slovenian was acquired by the Mavericks in a draft-night trade, sending fifth overall pick Trae Young as well as a top-five protected 2019 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks to secure his rights.
He’s been everything the Mavericks could have hoped for. The runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year has averaged 21.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.0 steals in 32.1 minutes per game over 58 appearances this season, shooting 43.5 percent overall and 34.9 percent on 7.0 3-point attempts a game.
He is on pace to become just the second rookie ever to average at least 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The only other player to do it was Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists for the Cincinnati Royals in 1960-61.
The situation surrounding Porzingis, who will not play this season as he recovers from a torn ACL sustained in February 2018, is much murkier.
Porzingis will be a restricted free agent July 1 after he and the New York Knicks did not come to terms on a rookie-scale extension by the deadline last October.
He was traded to Dallas along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee on Jan. 31, with Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews going to New York along with two first-round picks.
The thinking is the Porzingis will want to remain in Dallas to team with Doncic, but as is often the case when insanely large stacks of cash start getting tossed around in free agency, nothing is a certainty at this point.
Three of the five players who started for the Mavericks when they last faced the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 21 are no longer with the team and the fourth, Dorian Finney-Smith now comes off the bench.
Only Doncic remains and he’s moved from the 4 to the 1 in Dallas’ new alignment. Against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, Doncic was joined in the lineup by Jalen Brunson at the 2 with Hardaway and veteran Dirk Nowitzki at the forwards and Dwight Powell at center.
The Mavericks are scuffling of late, with their 111-81 blowout loss at home to the Grizzlies their sixth loss in their last seven games.
But it seems Dallas has a new plan moving forward, one that revolves around two young European stars on the rise.