NBA trade deadline pressure? Nico Harrison, Dallas Mavericks could use a good deal or two


Good thing for the Nets that Kyrie Irving had made peace with his past before he went off for 36 dazzling points Tuesday at the reunion. Think what he might have done if he were still mad. For that matter, maybe the Mavs ought to lean into it. Make the scouting reports personal.
Because unless Irving suddenly has a grudge to settle with everyone, the Mavs, as currently constructed, will fall short of projections.
No pressure, Nico Harrison, but, come Thursday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline, you could use a good deal.
Maybe two.
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Honk if this is over your limit.
This deadline will be Nico’s third since Mark Cuban named him general manager 32 months ago, and you can’t say he’s been bashful about it. His first, he traded Kristaps Porzingis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, igniting a Western Conference Finals run.
Last year, he acquired Irving, and all it did was set most of Western civilization aflame.
Don’t blame Irving because the Mavs were forced to tank to get into the lottery. Which was a good thing, by the way. They wouldn’t have Dereck Lively II otherwise. They’re 22-14 when he plays, which projects to a 50-win team. He’s the Mavs’ third-best talent behind Luka Doncic and Irving. Everyone else is up for grabs, which is pretty much the problem.
During his exit interviews last year, Nico said they needed to improve the level of talent around their superstar backcourt. They needed better defense and rebounding and someone who could make a shot. The early returns were promising. Grant Williams, acquired from the Celtics, started hot, as did Tim Hardaway Jr. But Williams has faded badly, to the point that he’s the lead in just about every trade rumor involving the Mavs.
This is the second season in a row the Mavs’ main off-deadline acquisition didn’t live up to the billing. Christian Wood couldn’t have gotten himself invited to Jason Kidd’s Thanksgiving dinner. Same with JaVale McGee. Richaun Holmes was a salary dump, but, ditto. Had it not been for Lively, the Mavs’ sorry track record with big men would have remained intact under Nico.
Speaking of which: Even if Dinwiddie helped spark the conference finals run, have you seen Porzingis’ numbers lately? He didn’t work out as the Mavs’ second star, but he sure seems happy as the third wheel in Boston. I’m not sure whose fault that is, or if Porzingis finally just grew up or stayed healthy. But it’s a black eye for the organization. Just like the Jalen Brunson fiasco.
The further we drift from Brunson’s final season in Dallas, the more it feels like he was the glue that held everything together. He didn’t play any defense, but it hasn’t been the same since he left, either. On a team level, defense is about communication and accountability, and that describes the Knicks’ All-Star and his “immaculate vibes.”
Josh Green and Maxi Kleber have picked it up lately, but the Mavs shouldn’t take it for an answer. We’ve seen this before. Green’s draft position says we should expect better. Saddiq Bey, Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley and Desmond Bane all were taken after him, and all have filled bigger roles. Maxey — the South Garland kid whose dad, Tyrone, helped Hillcrest to a state title in 1987 — is a budding star. Not good to overlook a diamond in your own backyard.
Kleber is good when available. He’s just not available enough. In fact, the mask that Luka wore in the first quarter Tuesday was Kleber’s. Twinned up nicely with Dwight Powell’s wraparound glasses. The Mavs looked less like a contender than a Marvel movie.
Only they’re not quite so super, as Kidd conceded the other day when he said everyone must play at “a high level” to win.
“Our margin of error,” he added, “is very slim.”
Does that sound like a recommendation from the head coach?
If I’m Nico, I try to get Kidd a little more talent to work with. The Mavs could use a big man. Think Kelly Olynyk, Daniel Gafford, Andre Drummond, Bobby Portis. Another wing would help, but it wouldn’t come as cheap. P.J. Washington and Kyle Kuzma would cost not just the only first-rounder they can trade, in 2027, it would mean other assets as well, possibly requiring a three-team trade.
What about a homecoming for Dorian Finney-Smith?
A nice backup plan, if nothing else.
Whatever the Mavs do this week, they need to go all in, because they’re burning another season of Luka’s supernova career, his brightest to date. The flip side is they’d better get it right, because this will be the roster they have to live with for a while. Any significant payroll addition will make significant free agent signings impossible, and there won’t be any more draft capital to spend in trades, either. Talk about deadline pressure.
Twitter/X: @KSherringtonDMN
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