Everything is bigger in Texas … and that includes the drama!
According to Tim Cato and Sam Amick at The Athletic, tensions are high inside the Dallas Mavericks front office. Luka Doncic and several other members of the organization are reportedly fed up with the director of quantitative research and development Haralabos Voulgaris. The former professional gambler turned executive joined the Mavs full-time in 2018, and his growing power behind the scenes has apparently rubbed many the wrong way. In fact, according to The Athletic’s sources, Voulgaris has had a major say in day-to-day lineup decisions as well as recent draft picks.
Due to the internal dysfunction, there is a reported fear that Doncic could eventually want out of Dallas. Although, his decision to accept the likely $200 million contract extension set to come his way this offseason has apparently been unchanged.
Doncic has a healthy relationship with the Mavericks organization at large. League sources say he angled to be drafted by the team in 2018, and he has been particularly complimentary of his relationship with Nowitzki, whose final season coincided with Doncic’s first. Those feelings could change if the team’s postseason struggles continue, as the Mavericks haven’t advanced past the first round since their 2011 championship run. It’s not that Doncic’s situation with the team is at a critical inflection point right now. Multiple team sources simply fear that it’s heading that direction.
But a high-level power broker within the league says the Mavericks recognize that there’s urgency to build a contending team around Doncic after losing in the first round in each of the past two seasons. The clock is ticking.
While this feels like pretty concerning news for a franchise with arguably the league’s brightest young star, owner Mark Cuban was quick to respond to the article on Twitter with some choice words.
Total bullshit https://t.co/vBpYcZTTkI
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) June 14, 2021
I do think ending this story with the caveat that Doncic is still on good terms with a bulk of the organization does dilute a lot of what was written prior. However, complete bullsh*t or not, information like this does not just randomly come across someone’s desk. Some folks have spewed these concerns and it does seem to put the team in a vulnerable spot. After all, with Doncic only assenting higher up the league ranks, the pressure is on for Cuban and Co. to build a contender.
Since 2011 (aka the year Dallas won the title), the Mavericks have faced six first-round playoff exits. The team looked as if it could get over the hump this season in a slugfest with the Los Angeles Clippers but ultimately suffered a Game 7 collapse. More than evident in that series was the team’s lack of reliable talent alongside their superstar. Kristaps Prozingis was originally brought over to be Doncic’s righthand man, but the big man has struggled to produce, let alone stay on the floor. Other supporting cast members like Josh Richardson, Dwight Powell, and Maxi Kleber have also failed to be consistent difference-makers, while more recent trade acquisitions like Willie Cauley-Stein and J.J. Redick have barely seen the floor.
With all of this in mind, one has to imagine the front office feels the heat to make some roster changes, which means the Bulls might as well pick up the phone. The Mavs are not jam-packed with must-have assets, but the Bulls could potentially buy-low on a player or two. The prospect of adding Jalen Brunson, specifically, is something I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see the Bulls have some interest in.
Brunson, 24, has shown steady improvement over his first three seasons in the league. The point guard averaged 12.6 points per game with 3.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 25 minutes of action off the bench this season. He also shot an efficient 52.3 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from downtown. Owed a non-guaranteed $1.8 million next season, the Mavs could allow him to hit the open market or look for a potential sign-and-trade partner. Of course, they could also keep him around, but the need for those roster upgrades makes his potential availability a worthwhile question.
Whether or not Brunson is ready to be the long-term starting point guard the Bulls need is hard to say. But that doesn’t mean he would not be worth a shot. The guy is a well-rounded player who relies on his smooth jumper and good decision-making. What he lacks in size and athleticism he makes up for with a high basketball IQ.
What it would take to make a sign-and-trade deal work would likely heavily depend on the Mavs other plans this offseason. One fun thought experiment, though, is making Dallas a potential Lauri Markkanen destination. The big man has no strong say in where he goes this offseason, but there was a report that the Mavs were a team he would like to join (I’d love to play with Luka too, Lauri). The fact the organization already has another seven-foot sharpshooter who lacks physicality does not bode well for a potential deal. However, Prozingis has reportedly been unhappy in Dallas, so we should not rule out a frontcourt spot opening up for the Mavs this offseason.
Much like how we should keep our eye on the changes made in Portland, we should continue to watch the Mavs offseason closely. While everything being reported might not prove true, that team does seem destined to shake some things up, and that means the door could be open for other teams around the league to make a move.