The last decade has not been kind to the Dallas Mavericks in free agency. Since winning a championship in 2011, the Mavs have failed to attract big-name players to suit up for them, and it's certainly not for a lack of trying.
Every offseason, Dallas would set its sights on some of the league's biggest names at the time -- Deron Williams in 2012, Dwight Howard in 2013, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in 2014, DeAndre Jordan in 2015, Mike Conley in 2016 -- and each offseason the Mavericks would come away with options B, C and sometimes D on their wishlist. You could argue that some of those L's they accrued actually panned out in the long run, like not having to pay Hassan Whiteside $98 million, or bypassing the distractions that Howard often caused -- although he did just win a championship with the Lakers.
Still, though, Dallas' success rate in free agency since winning a title has been abysmal, which resulted in many wasted years in the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki's career, and minimal success for the team in the form of zero playoff series wins since hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2011.
But that might be about to change because the Mavericks are finally built like a team capable of attracting the biggest names in the league, something that never happened during Nowitzki's career.
Dallas' pitch used to be, come play alongside Dirk, a sweet-shooting 7-footer who carried the scrappy Mavs to a championship against all odds. There was no second surefire star to mention to entice players and no stable roster of guys that would be there for several years. It was Nowitzki and a constant carousel of role players around him.
Dallas had a great head coach in Rick Carlisle, a front office that never made too many bad decisions and an owner in Mark Cuban with a deep passion for his team. But the talent surrounding Nowitzki was never quite up to par.
Now, though, like Thanos securing all of the infinity stones to harness all the power in the universe, the Mavericks have enough top-tier talent to warrant their big-game hunting, and it starts with Luka Doncic.
During the Mavs' playoff series against the Clippers, Doncic averaged near a triple-double (31 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists), and his game-winning stepback 3-pointer in Game 4 was a real "I've arrived" moment. At 21 years old, he already has a trophy case filled with accolades which include Rookie of the Year, All-NBA First Team, All-Star starter, and becoming the second-youngest player in league history to finish in the Top 4 of MVP voting. What's even more enticing, he hasn't even reached his prime yet, and after his postseason performance he may enter next season as a top-five player in the league, and if not that high, certainly top 10.
Doncic, just like Nowitzki, isn't enough, though. This is where the major difference comes in for Dallas that never existed during Nowitzki's career: a second star.
A trade with the New York Knicks in January 2018 landed Dallas the services of 7-foot unicorn All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, who in a lot of ways has a game similar to Nowitzki, only more athletic and a far better defender. The pick-and-roll game between Doncic and Porzingis flourished in their first season together, and while K.P. was limited in Dallas' playoff series due to a torn meniscus, he still managed to put up 23 points and nine rebounds to go along with 52.5 percent shooting from the field and 53 percent shooting from deep. His health should be a concern for the Mavs, but he's been able to bounce back fully from every injury he's sustained so far.
With Doncic and Porzingis in tow for at least the next half-decade, a well-respected coach around the league in Carlisle and an owner in Cuban who is viewed favorably by opposing players, what's not to like about playing in Dallas where, oh by the way, there's no state income tax. The Mavericks just posted the most efficient offense in league history, and could potentially do that again next season. They have the star power to lure big names, and it may already be happening, as The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Dallas "could emerge as a destination for top talent," this offseason as the Mavs continue to build around Doncic and Porzingis.
Already Dallas is being linked to chasing after big fish like Giannis Antetokounmpo, who our own Sam Quinn tabbed as the best place for the back-to-back reigning MVP to sign if he decides to leave Milwaukee, and ESPN just ranked them as the fifth-best team in the league in their way-too-early power rankings.
The Mavericks have always chased after big names in the open market, and in the past its always seemed like a pipe dream. Nowitzki alone was never enough to bring the league's best to Dallas. But now, with Doncic and Porzingis, Dallas can afford to dream as big as it wants to, because it has all the necessary pieces to turn those dreams into a reality.