Dallas Mavericks fans are hoping for a second star alongside Luka Doncic before the trade deadline to milk his MVP-worthy season as best as possible. SPOX editor Philipp Jakob explains why this is just wishful thinking in the new issue of the NBA Mailbag.
Also included: Why it could still be a long time before the big trade deadline explosions, which teams should urgently strive for a change and once again a look at the GOAT debate.
NBA Mailbag: Trade Deadline – the calm before the storm?
SPOX user LeFab: Why is there currently almost nothing happening on the trade market?
The blockbuster deal between the Celtics and Spurs around Noah Vonleh didn’t seem to get your blood pumping? Alright, admittedly it’s really been pretty quiet on the trade market so far. If you look back at the recent past, this is by and large nothing unusual.
Example last season: There was the first trade on January 3rd when Rajon Rondo was sent to the Cavs. The really important deals didn’t go through until February. The situation was very similar in previous years: smaller trades in December or January, most and especially the larger deals were only getting closer to the trade deadline. The only exception in the last five years is probably the 2018/19 season, when the first blockbuster came in November due to the Jimmy Butler turbulence in Minnesota. (We are excluding the 21/22 season here, as the coronavirus pandemic had thrown its schedule upside down.)
The introduction of the play-in tournament also had an impact on the trade market, which is also evident this season. Until a few years ago, realistic playoff hopes were limited to about the top 10 of each conference. The teams behind it were able to prepare for a sell-off by the trade deadline at an early stage. Thanks to the play-in tournament, for example, the Magic in the East can now also move up to 13th place (3 games behind 10th place) or in the west the Thunder (12th with 1 games behind rank 10) calculate at least theoretical chances for the postseason.
So at the moment there are only very few teams that go into the weeks before the trade deadline as clear sellers. The surprisingly strong first half of the season for the Pacers and Jazz, which were considered clear candidates for sale before the season, does the rest and the range on the market is correspondingly manageable – and the prices asked so far are correspondingly high. It is possible that buyers and sellers will only have more clarity towards the end of January. Then it will be particularly heated at the trade deadline.
NBA Mailbag: This team is in desperate need of a makeover
KnightsEnd49 on Twitter: In your opinion, which team is facing the biggest upheaval before the trade deadline or which (wannabe) contender will implode next?
Before things get heated up, as I said, a few upheaval candidates have about three to four weeks to evaluate their roster and make a decision on which direction to go. For me, those are primarily the Toronto Raptors, the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls.
The latter are still stubbornly trying to play their way out of this group. When Zach LaVine caught fire, Chicago started a streak with eight wins from 11 games, but recently two losses followed. In general, the Bulls are a relatively expensive team with a core of veterans that certainly has playoff potential. But otherwise? A surprise in the first round against a top 4 team from the East is rather difficult to imagine. Maybe retooling makes more sense now.
For the Wizards, the near-term prospects look even grimmer, which is why they’re number one in my upheaval ranking. the Washington Post recently named the franchise the “most aimless team” in the league. I’ll go with you. Too bad for a safe playoff spot, too good for a big draft pick. Bradley Beal is a superstar who has been battered from time to time with a bad contract, Kristaps Porzingis is at least as strong as possible, but lottery picks from the recent past that have not taken off.
Now for the fifth time in a row a season with a negative balance is looming, no one is surprised that the Wizards in the States are hardly seen on national TV. At least Kyle Kuzma should be traded before he can leave as a free agent for no money this summer. Further deals in the offseason at the latest would make sense to give the team a clear direction again.
And then there would be the Raptors, who could set the entire trade deadline rolling with their decision. The 2019 champion is certainly one of the big disappointments of the first half of the season and faces a fundamental decision: a major upheaval à la Pascal-Siakam trade? Does Fred VanVleet have to go unless he signs a contract extension? Retooling with smaller deals? Yet another attack on the playoffs with the same core? The coming weeks will be crucial for the rest of the Raptors season. I think retooling with smaller deals like Gary Trent Jr. is the most likely.
Speaking of disappointment and would-be contenders, there’s definitely the Hawks to name – and here, too, an implosion is seemingly always a possibility given the internal squabbles surrounding Trae Young, his head coaches and teammates. A trade for John Collins is already possible, should the season end as disappointing as it has been so far, more deals will certainly follow in the summer. Maybe then even Trae Young will be up for debate. Nothing can be ruled out in Atlanta.
NBA Mailbag: Pascal Siakam a candidate for the Mavs?
Marko on Twitter: Could Pascal Siakam be the necessary upgrade for the Mavs and who would Dallas have to give up for it?
And SPOX user BBinh0: Why isn’t Dallas able to put a co-star alongside Doncic?
In theory, Siakam sounds excellent as number two alongside Luka Doncic. An All-NBA frontcourt talent who can create for himself and for others and thus take the load off the Slovenian’s shoulders – that sounds almost too good to be realistic. It is. The Mavs simply don’t have enough assets before the trade deadline to thread such a blockbuster for a second star.
The Raptors are at a crossroads, but to sell Siakam they would have to be swayed by an “astronomical” offer, an anonymous source told Matt Moore of the Action Network last formulated. Marc Stein took a similar line, for Siakam or OG Anunoby – in my opinion also a great fit in Dallas – the competition would simply have to put a lot on the table.
The Mavs Stand do not have this option now. The only interesting asset from the squad is Josh Green, otherwise Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans or similar calibers would primarily be salary fillers that would not have much sporting value for the Raptors. The pick situation of the Mavs is also clear. Dallas still owes the Knicks a first-round pick, which is top-10 protected in 2023, as well as in 2024 and 2025. Until those pick debts are settled, the Mavs can due to the Stepien Rule only put their first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 on the table.
That would be far too little for a Siakam trade, which should demand at least a Rudy Gobert-like package. In general, the Mavs will not get their hands on a real second star next to Doncic until the trade deadline. That would not be possible again until summer. Because: It is very likely that the Mavs pick will end up outside the top 10 this year and thus go to the Knicks. All trade restrictions would then be lifted and Dallas could invest up to four future first round picks plus pick swaps in a potential deal in the offseason.
I mentioned it in my video mailbag back in mid-December, so I think it makes more sense for the Mavs to be patient with this trade deadline and not throw all the remaining chips in the middle right now. Deals that are realistic with current assets aren’t bringing Dallas a second star.
A Bojan Bogdanovic, for example, would certainly be a nice reinforcement, but not the guaranteed leap into the ranks of the absolute top contenders. And that would deprive yourself of a future pick from your collection that could be important for a potential summer superstar trade. Dallas should not block the chance of such a caliber with smaller deals now.
NBA Mailbag: LeBron and Kobe in the GOAT debate
SPOX user Iceman2023: Who is second behind Michael Jordan in the GOAT debate? Kobe or LeBron??
I will keep it short at this point and refer to the large SPOX ranking of the 75 best players in NBA history from October 2021 for more detailed answers. Not much has changed since then, especially at the top (PS: In retrospect, I regret my naïve trust in the health of a certain AD).
To me, LeBron vs. Kobe is a no-brainer with James as the clear winner. Sometimes Bryant got lost in the Hero Ball, other times his ego got in the way – but of course that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a great basketball player. In the GOAT debate, however, you can hardly afford to make “mistakes”, LeBron has had the better career with his longevity, his sometimes overpowering dominance or his versatility and was the better player overall – it’s not for nothing that he’s soon No. 1 in the game All-time scoring and the only NBA player to date in the 30K/10K/10K club in points, rebounds and assists.
In my personal ranking, Kobe even has to admit defeat to a few other legends, such as the dominators of the 50s and 60s Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, the former NBA saviors Larry Bird and Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. For me, the six-time MVP is the best candidate for completing the GOAT podium.