Things change quickly in the NBA. Less than a year ago, Luka Doncic was leading the Dallas Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals, but on Friday, as the Mavericks completed their historic two-month collapse from No. 4 seed to the lottery. Dallas went 9-17 after acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets, in the process, and their franchise player is reportedly starting to get impatient.
In fairness, he already had been. Doncic reportedly asked the Mavericks to get him help during the season. That led to the Irving trade. But even with Irving, the Mavericks failed to reach the postseason. Now it's DEFCON 1 in Dallas, asthat the team is afraid he could ask for a trade as soon as next summer if the team doesn't improve.
One year is an eternity in the NBA. The Mavericks have proven that themselves. But the entire league is officially on notice. If the Mavericks don't shape up quickly, Doncic is going look for an escape hatch. If that happens, who is best-positioned to land perhaps the best young player in the NBA? We're going to rank all 29 non-Mavericks teams based on the following critiera:
- Trade assets. Doncic will be 25 next summer. He's never missed more than 17 games in a single season. He'll come with two years of team control if he's traded in 2024. Couple those things with his prodigious talent and Doncic would, unquestionably, be the single most valuable player traded in the NBA since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. He would command an absolutely historic haul of draft picks and young talent, and any team that can't meet that price is automatically out of the running. Tradable assets will be by far the factor given the most weight in these rankings.
- Existing talent. A team has to be good enough to believe that it could convince Doncic to stay after those first two years even after surrendering a historic package to the Mavericks for Doncic.
- Market. Doncic has given no indication that he's especially concerned with what city he plays in, but NBA history tells us he's going to have preferences. No city is eliminated outright, but we can acknowledge that he'd probably rather play in New York than Charlotte.
- Relationships. Star trades are often driven by preexisting relationships between players. Teams that have players in place that Doncic is known to be fond of are going to have an edge here.
So with all of that in mind, let's rank every NBA team except the Mavericks based on how prepared they are to trade for Doncic should he become available.
Tier VII: No chance
29. Washington Wizards: The Wizards hardly even deserve a blurb. Even in the unlikely event that they land Victor Wembanyama, they'd have to trade him to Dallas for the chance to pair Doncic with Bradley Beal. Washington has nothing else of value to offer, and they may not even be able to cash Beal in for assets to flip to Dallas because Beal has a no-trade clause. Leave the Wizards to keep winning 35 games in peace.
28. Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu are valuable young players. You'd need a dozen of them to reach Doncic's trade value. DeMar DeRozan's age and Zach LaVine's injuries mean that neither holds much value to Dallas, and even if they did, what sort of team would Doncic be joining? There's no move here.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves would need to trade Karl-Anthony Towns just to get back to neutral in terms of owed draft picks. Neutral in draft capital with only one other notable youngster to offer (Jalen McDaniels) isn't landing Doncic. Minnesota could offer Anthony Edwards for Doncic with the idea that a Doncic-Towns-Rudy Gobert trio is championship-caliber, but Edwards has several more years of team control. Edwards is more valuable to the Timberwolves, specifically, than Doncic because he gives them a longer runway to build their roster.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Could the Blazers put together an enticing trade package? Sure, especially if the lottery gods smile upon them in May. Shaedon Sharpe looks like a future All-Star, and the Blazers only owe a single first-round pick to another team. But Portland has tried the all-offense, guard-heavy roster approach before and it hasn't exactly worked. If Portland wins the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes this gets more interesting, but even then, Sharpe and future picks aren't going to be enough to get this deal done. The Blazers would probably need to send Damian Lillard to a third team to get the assets they'd need to win this bidding war, and that's just not something the Blazers will have the stomach to do.
Tier VI: Lack either the assets or the star power
25. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks don't control their own first-round pick again until 2028 and their three core supporting stars are all in their 30's. As fun as a Doncic-Giannis Antetokounmpo duo would be, the time for it would have been in 2021, when Antetokounmpo could have become a free agent and signed with a Mavericks team that had max cap space. It didn't happen then. It won't happen now.
24. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers don't control their own first-round pick again until 2027 and their best young player is Terance Mann. Perhaps they could flip Paul George for the assets needed to make this sort of trade, but even he doesn't come close to Doncic in value.
23. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are going to have a hard time trading picks because of the two they currently owe to other teams (2024 or 2025 to the Pelicans and 2027 to the Jazz). Austin Reaves has grown into an important young player, but he's not good enough to be the centerpiece of a Doncic trade. The Lakers, like the Clippers, could boost their package by flipping their current sidekick, but Anthony Davis is so injury-prone that he likely isn't getting enough back to entice Dallas. Even if he did, Doncic probably won't want to hitch his wagon to LeBron James going into his age-40 season.
22. Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers could at least offer Tyrese Maxey to Dallas, but that really only gets them past the first three teams in this tier. The 76ers have spent most of their picks. James Harden will either be on an enormous contract or the Houston Rockets by the time these negotiations come to pass. They just don't have enough to pair Doncic with Joel Embiid.
21. Brooklyn Nets: We know the Nets have a trade package worthy of a superstar because they just got that package from Phoenix in the Kevin Durant deal. Yes, the Nets could probably enter the bidding war with Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, all of those Suns picks and perhaps a few sweeteners of their own like Nic Claxton and the Philadelphia and Dallas picks they are owed from other trades. At that point, though, the Nets just wouldn't have enough left over to actually convince Doncic to stick around.
20. Miami Heat: The Heat could make a very interesting offer for a lower-level star. Tyler Herro and three first-round picks might get them someone like Lillard or Beal. It isn't enough for Doncic. Miami would probably need to either put Bam Adebayo on the table or flip Jimmy Butler for more elsewhere to realistically get into that conversation, and at that point, the Heat just wouldn't have enough left over to convince Doncic to stay.
19. Golden State Warriors: The young Warriors have lost a lot of their trade luster over the past year. Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga are still appealing in a vacuum, but probably not as centerpieces of this sort of deal. The Warriors have all of their own picks except their 2024 selection, so they could sweeten the deal there, but their offer would still be based on quantity more than quality. Besides, as much fun as a Doncic-Stephen Curry duo would be, it's worth pointing out that Curry will turn 37 during the 2025 playoffs. Would Doncic really want to join the Warriors for what might be their last few years of contention?
Tier V: Interesting, but the fit probably doesn't work
18. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland already has two young, All-Star guards. Doncic just doesn't present enough of a value-add to them, specifically, to give up the sort of assets it would take to get him. Such a deal would likely have to include two of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley considering how few picks Cleveland has left to offer (and, frankly, given the uncertainty of Mitchell's contract status at the moment). Cleveland is a 3-and-D wing away from having a championship-caliber roster as it is. There's no sense in breaking that up for Doncic.
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis could make a compelling "everything but Ja Morant" offer built around Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Morant and Doncic don't fit well enough together to justify breaking up such a diverse trio. Doncic is more valuble than Jackson and Bane, but not to a team that already has a high-usage ball-handler. The Grizzlies sorely need a defensive anchor and 3-point marksman next to Morant. They have those guys already.
Tier IV: The ghosts of draft mistakes past
16. Sacramento Kings: If the Kings are going to make a big move in the near future, it is going to be one that adds to the existing De'Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis core, not one that splits it up. This fanbase has suffered too long for the front office to break up such a beloved group on the hope that it can convince a player it once passed on in the draft to remain in Sacramento long-term. In basketball terms, Doncic is more valuable than Fox, Keegan Murray and picks. In the real world, the Kings would never break up the team that snapped its 16-year playoff drought.
15. Phoenix Suns: This is another one of those "purely hypothetical vs. cold hard reality" examples. Should the Suns theoretically offer Devin Booker for Luka Doncic? Probably... yeah. Doncic is younger and better. Kevin Durant couldn't ask for a better partner, especially as he ages out of a high-usage role. But practically speaking, the Suns aren't going to trade their homegrown star for a mercenary. Besides, Phoenix might be a two-time defending champion by next summer. This is a fun idea that would never actually happen.
14. Atlanta Hawks: The idea of Trae Young getting traded for Doncic a second time isn't that farfetched. How many teams could offer the Mavericks a readymade All-NBA replacement who is the same age as Doncic? The Hawks have a bit more tradable draft capital than you'd think, as one of the picks they traded San Antonio originally belonged to Charlotte, and they got one back from Sacramento for Kevin Huerter. Dejounte Murray would be an interesting fit as a possible Doncic sidekick. Doncic likely has loftier ambitions, though, and that even assumes that Young is on board with moving to Dallas. There are just too many variables here to consider the Hawks likely even if the on-paper components make sense.
Tier III: Talk to me if they get Wemby
You're going to be surprised by some of the teams listed below. Many of them will belong in lower tiers if we revisit this list three months from now. However, Victor Wembanyama is such an incredibly desirable teammate for Doncic in terms of talent, fit and, perhaps most importantly, his rookie contract, that any team that lands him would immediately jump up to the top of this list. That is especially true for the six teams below, as all of them have very valuable players and picks to offer Dallas for Doncic outside of Wembanyama.
13. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball and spare parts for Luka Doncic is about as much as the Mavericks could reasonably hope for in this sort of trade. There are only seven active players in the NBA that have made an All-Star Game and are currently younger than Doncic. Ball is one of them. The Mavericks would obviously prefer to keep Doncic, but a young star and spare draft capital is enough of a replacement to at least potentially allow them to land on their feet. Sadly, Charlotte is such a small market that the odds of a player like Doncic forcing his way there appear slim.
12. San Antonio Spurs: San Antonio could offer Dallas eight first-round picks and four swaps along with young players like Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan for Doncic. That package lacks the premium asset that a Charlotte deal would, but the volume is so overwhelming that other possible trade partners would have a hard time topping it. San Antonio has the same market problems as Charlotte, but the Spurs at least have a history of winning. Gregg Popovich convinced LaMarcus Aldridge to move to San Antonio. If he can dangle Wembanyama as a teammate, he might be able to nab Doncic as well.
11. Indiana Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton is one of those seven All-Stars younger than Ball, and considering the ankle issues Ball has dealt with all season, Haliburton is likely the slightly more valuable player of the two at the moment. The Pacers have a bit more in the way of supplementary assets to offer than the Hornets do, and while Indiana is hardly a glitzy market, its proximity to Chicago offers a bit more in the way of off-court opportunities. This sort of move would be aggressively out of character for a Pacers team that typically drafts and develops its players, and Herb Simon's history as a relatively frugal owner might scare Doncic off. But for Wembanyama, especially on a rookie contract, he might make an exception.
10. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham isn't as proven as Ball or Haliburton, but his upside is just as high, and the Pistons have plenty of other young players to put on the table with him. While the current front office is still relatively new, the Pistons do have a history of aggressive trades for veterans. Some, like the Rasheed Wallace and Mark Aguirre deals, led to championships, and having an experienced player agent in their front office like Arn Tellem should give the Pistons a better idea of how best to cater to a star of Doncic's caliber.
9. Orlando Magic: Orlando has historically been a very desirable market for players due to its warm weather, proximity to Miami and lack of state income taxes. The Magic very nearly kickstarted the superteam era in 2000 when they pursued Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan, but Duncan stayed put at the last minute. Doncic could give them a second chance over two decades later if they win the right to draft Wembanyama. Paolo Banchero might be the single most desirable player we discuss in this space by virtue of his contract. Dallas could have him for the last two years of his rookie deal and his entire second contract, giving the Mavericks plenty of time to rebuild a winner around him. You could even argue that this sort of trade makes sense without Wembanyama in place. Orlando already has a versatile front-court in Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. The Magic could credibly put a winner around Doncic, those two and whatever is left over after the trade.
8. Houston Rockets: Houston typically appeals to players for many of the same reasons that Orlando does, but unlike the Magic, the Rockets have actually landed a few stars in recent memory. Houston doesn't have a single Banchero-caliber player to offer, but Jabari Smith, Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun all have All-Star potential, and the Rockets are sitting on a goldmine of future Nets draft picks as well. The persistent Harden rumors suggest that Houston wants to get back into contention sooner rather than later. If they haven't already spent their assets by next summer, Doncic is going to be an option they explore with or without Wembanyama.
If the timing is right
7. Boston Celtics: If the Celtics were willing to explore a Jaylen Brown-for-Kevin Durant swap last summer, they'd be willing to consider a similar deal for Doncic. However, this is a somewhat messy situation for the Celtics to practically navigate. Brown has made it clear that he's sensitive to the frequent trade rumors that have followed him for his entire NBA career. If Brown hasn't already signed a contract extension by next summer, the Celtics probably wouldn't risk approaching him about a sign-and-trade to Dallas because that would send him a message that they don't want him back, compelling him to potentially leave as a free agent. Boston would have to get Brown signed to an extension this offseason (which is suddenly possible thanks to the new CBA), but if he's under contract and the Celtics haven't won a championship in either 2023 or 2024, the idea of exploring a Brown and picks for Doncic swap makes plenty of sense. Doncic and Jayson Tatum are an ideal offensive pair. Doncic would cover up Tatum's playmaking deficiency while Tatum would become a significantly more efficient scorer with defenses focused on a teammate.
Tier II: In the conversation
6. Toronto Raptors: Remember when "would the Raptors trade Scottie Barnes for Kevin Durant?" was the dominant topic of conversation throughout the 2022 offseason? Well, let's start that cycle again in 2024. If Toronto is indeed willing to part with Barnes in a deal for Doncic, it has everything else it would need to win a championship around him provided Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, who are all eligible for free agency in the next two summers, can be re-signed or signed-and-traded. Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals by surrounding Doncic with as much length and defense as possible. The Raptors are practically "team length and defense." Siakam isn't a traditional star, but he's already proven capable of playing second fiddle on a champion when he did so for Kawhi Leonard. American players sometimes prefer to avoid playing in Canada, but that likely isn't a problem for Doncic, who didn't grow up in the United States anyway. There are a lot of moving parts in Toronto right now in general. Their best players are all owed new contracts. Their coach might be headed to Houston. This season has been a disappointment. But on paper? The Raptors are still a great fit for Doncic.
5. Utah Jazz: Another relatively surprising choice here, but Utah belongs in this conversation whether or not they land Victor Wembanyama on lottery night. The Jazz are currently slated to have 11 tradable first-round picks in the summer of 2024, and that doesn't include the three picks they currently have for 2023. Those picks would allow them to make a suitable offer for Doncic without including All-Star starter Lauri Markkanen and defensive anchor Walker Kessler, both of whom would likely be needed to convince Doncic to remain in Utah long-term. The Jazz have never convinced an external star to commit their prime to Utah before, but remember, Boston was a free-agent wasteland before Danny Ainge. Utah's president has a remarkable track record of convincing players they can win on his team, and if Utah can make a Doncic offer without giving up their two most valuable players, they belong in the conversation here.
4. New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans could easily be bumped down a tier (or three) if Zion Williamson has another season ruined by injuries. However, if Williamson can stay healthy next season, he's still a very desirable teammate for Doncic. The Pelicans can build a compelling offer around either players (Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy, Dyson Daniels, Herb Jones) or picks (all of their own, two from the Bucks, one from the Lakers) without sacrificing the flexibility needed to actually put a winning team around that duo. New Orleans still hasn't seen their healthy roster over a reliable sample, so for all we know, the Pelicans contend next season and decide to keep their roster intact. But very few teams have both the assets to get Doncic and the starpower to keep him. The Pelicans might be one of them.
Tier I: The favorites
3. New York Knicks: The bad news for the Knicks is that the Mavericks have likely tanked their way out of sending New York their 2023 first-round pick. The good news for the Knicks is that if things go badly enough that Doncic wants out a year from now, the 2024 pick they get from the Mavericks could be just as valuable. Picks are something the Knicks have in abundance. They'll be able to offer seven unprotected picks and four swaps to Dallas in a Doncic deal, but perhaps more importantly, they have one of the few players likely to make an effective recruiting pitch to Doncic in Jalen Brunson. They've already reached the Western Conference Finals together. Now, with Brunson ascending to a higher level and the New York stage to recruit supporting players with at their disposal, the two of them could compete for titles at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have spent three years building for the moment a player like Doncic becomes available. It would be a fitting conclusion to the disastrous Kristaps Porzingis trade. Once upon a time, the Mavericks thought they were giving Doncic a superteam by making a blockbuster deal with New York. That prophecy could come to pass with Doncic joining the Knicks.
2. Denver Nuggets: If it is up to Doncic, there's a good he'd choose to join the Nuggets. He and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic did plenty of flirting at All-Star Weekend, which is often where superstar duos are born. While the Nuggets are out of tradable first-round picks, they could put both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. on the table in a deal that would give Dallas two young, potential All-Stars. The Mavericks could, in turn, flip those two for draft picks if they prefer to rebuild. The Doncic-Jokic pairing wouldn't be an immediate slam dunk. Doncic is one of the highest-usage players in the NBA. Jokic encourages egalitarian offense. Neither is a particularly strong defender. Both are decent shooters, but hardly marksmen. It would take time to figure out how to maximize the two of them together. The rest of the roster would need tweaking. But the upside would be a possible dynasty. Jokic and Doncic might be the two best players in the NBA before long. Putting them on one team would almost be unfair.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Yup, it's time. In 2024, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be five years removed from their historic 2019 rebuild. In that time, they will have accumulated the most impressive collection of trade assets ever assembled. Next offseason, the Thunder will have 12 tradable first-round picks at their disposal, and they've landed so many swaps over the years that years in which they could only offer swap rights would have significant value. The Thunder already have an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, two more players on an All-Star trajectory in Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, and a No. 2 overall pick set to debut next season in Chet Holmgren. Given Oklahoma City's success in developing players, it's entirely possible that another youngster emerges as a possible star between now and next offseason as well. The only thing holding Oklahoma City back here is the uncertainty surrounding their market. Would Doncic want to live in Oklahoma? We can't say for certain. But if his priority is long-term winning, the only better situation for him is the team that lands Wembanyama. And if this is a true bidding war? Nobody can offer more than the Thunder. After half a decade of building, the Thunder will have reached the point in 2024 that they can effectively trade for any player they want so as long that player is at least somewhat available. If Doncic is, and if the Thunder want to get into the sweepstakes, there just isn't much any other team can do to stop them.