The Dallas Mavericks are facing a pivotal offseason after blowing two series leads -- up 2-0, and 3-2 -- against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. With Luka Doncic's rookie max extension looming this summer, and Kristaps Porzingis signed through at least the next three years, this could be the last summer the Mavericks have significant financial flexibility for a few years. Dallas' future with Doncic as the centerpiece is bright despite two first-round exits in back-to-back seasons.
However, there's been some reports of some turmoil within the Mavs front office involving Doncic that could be concerning for Dallas. According to The Athletic's Tim Cato and Sam Amick, Doncic doesn't get along with a member of the Mavericks' front office, Haralabos Voulgaris, who was hired by the team in 2018. There was a reported incident during a game in February when Doncic snapped at Voulgaris, saying "Don't f------ tell me to calm down," after the young superstar thought the well-known sports gambler was telling him to calm down after Doncic turned the ball over.
"Internally, there are concerns the front office's dysfunction has hurt its ability to [build a contender around Doncic] — and that poor relationships Doncic has with key members of the franchise, including Voulgaris, could impact his current desire to remain in Dallas long-term."
While Voulgaris later said that's not what he meant when he gestured by moving his hands down in the way one would do to tell someone to calm down, Doncic didn't take it that way. It also wasn't the first time the Slovenian guard was reportedly rubbed the wrong way by Voulgaris. In January, while the Mavericks were taking on the Knicks, Voulgaris left the game with 45 seconds left as the Mavericks were down by 10 points. Doncic reportedly noticed that, and after the game in the locker room he said he viewed it as Voulgaris quitting on the team," per Cato and Amick.
It's not just Doncic's relationship with Voulgaris that is on thin ice. There's been question regarding the amount of control the exec has within the organization despite not being the biggest decision-maker in the franchise.
"Multiple league and team sources tell The Athletic that Voulgaris has been the most influential voice within the Mavericks front office since joining the team, either initiating or approving virtually every transaction made over the past two seasons. Those same sources add that Voulgaris has frequently gone as far as scripting the starting lineups and rotations for longtime head coach Rick Carlisle."
The Mavericks hired Voulgaris in 2018 as the director of quantitative research and development, after fostering a friendship with Mark Cuban that involved the personable Mavericks owner asking Voulgaris for advice related to the team on numerous occasions. While team president Donnie Nelson is still the one pulling the trigger on most of Dallas' bigger moves since Voulgaris was hired -- like trading for Kristaps Porzingis -- those moves reportedly also came with the support and approval of Voulgaris before they were made.
In regards to Voulgaris' involvement with the team, Cuban was complimentary of the executive.
"I really like what Bob brings to the table," Cuban said via The Athletic. "He does a great job of supporting Rick and the front office with unique data insights. Bob has a great grasp of AI and the opportunities it creates for gaining an advantage. Which is important to me. But he isn't any more influential than any other data source on the team."
Voulgaris was also reportedly the one behind the Mavericks' 2020 draft class, which received mixed reviews after Dallas passed on prospects like Saddiq Bey and Desmond Bane, two players who had standout rookie years. Instead, they drafted Josh Green and Tyrell Terry, both of whom rarely played this season.
Given all this information, it sounds like it would be as simple as parting ways with Voulgaris, considering the franchise centerpiece isn't too fond of him. But if he has Cuban's ear, that may be a little more difficult. Cuban also hasn't been an owner who makes a ton of changes to personnel, as Nelson has been the president of the franchise since 2005 and Rick Carlisle has been head coach since 2009. Nelson and Carlisle have had job security with the Mavericks despite the team not winning a single playoff series since their 2011 championship or building a title contender around Dirk Nowitzki after 2011 and now Doncic in his first three years.
After the story was published by The Athletic, however, Cuban took to Twitter to refute the reporting, calling it 'Total bullshit,' while also saying he wasn't contacted by the writers until right before the 'opinion piece' was published.
Nevertheless, though, it does bring up some big-picture items that the Mavericks will have to keep in mind moving forward with Doncic as the franchise star. Although Doncic is expected to sign his rookie max extension that could be upwards of $200 million over five seasons, there isn't always a guarantee that he'll want to stay in Dallas forever. The Mavericks got lucky that Dirk Nowitzki never wanted to play elsewhere, but as Doncic said after dropping Game 7 to the Clippers, he hates losing. If the Mavericks can't figure out how to build a contender around their young star and keep him happy, he could request a trade or leave after that rookie extension is up.