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Why Luka Doncic and Trae Young are linked to more than one night trade project

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Atlanta Hawk She was on the clock with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft when owner Mark Cuban stepped into the hallway outside the Dallas Mavericks’ draft room and made a phone call.

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Cuban reached out to Tony Ressler, the principal owner of the Hawks. Donnie Nelson and Travis Schlink, who ran their basketball operations divisions at the time in Dallas and Atlanta, respectively, spent most of the day discussing a potential deal that would allow the Mavericks to move up to two picks. With just a few minutes left, Cuban wanted to make sure the deal made it to the finish line.

The Billionaires agreed to go with the framework that was in place: The Hawks Mavs would field the No. 3 overall pick and the top five protected pick in the following year’s draft.

Luka Doncic He donned his Hawks hat at Barclays Center but was headed to Dallas, where his analytics department was “ten miles ahead of everyone else” in draft line, Cuban recently told ESPN. Tra Youngnamed with the fifth pick, donned a Mavs hat on stage but already knew he was going to be the Hawkeye.

It turned out to be an exchange between two of the most prolific playmakers in the NBA, both an elite scorer and passer. They both earned All-NBA recognition, Doncic with three first-team selections, Young with one third-team honor. That made them eligible for identical five-year, $212 million SuperMax extensions with player options for the final season.

Halfway through the first season of these stretches, the Mavs and Hawks are facing major challenges as they try to build a rivalry around the franchise’s young players. It’s a goal that comes with a natural sense of urgency in the modern NBA, where examples abound of superstars going to greener pastures after their original teams fell short of championship aspirations.

Those aren’t the only similarities in the career paths of the stars, who will meet Wednesday night in Dallas (7:30 ET, ESPN). Both butted heads with their first coaches and led their teams to upset conference finals after coaching changes. Both franchises have undergone major front office overhauls.

And both teams made huge swings in the commercial market for co-stars, deals that have yielded disappointing results in Dallas and (so far) in Atlanta.

This leaves the Hawks and Mavs looking for a way to compete for the title with their superstars, worrying about what might happen if they can’t figure it out fast enough.


In sight , Hawks advance upon themselves. They didn’t expect to go through a deep playoff run in 2020-21, especially after coach Lloyd Pearce was fired mid-season.

However, the Hawks went 27-11 the rest of the regular season under then-interim head coach Nate McMillan, passing the New York Knicks in the first round and shocking the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals. That run convinced the Atlanta front office to keep the roster basically intact — a decision that, regrettably, after a 43-39 season and a modest first-round exit to Miami last year marks a huge step backwards.

“I think if you asked our front office, they would say we thought based on last season’s visit to the Eastern Conference Finals that we could mostly repeat the same team and improve and expect to be better,” Ressler told reporters. may be. “I don’t think this resolved the way we thought.

“So yeah, I think we should have tried to improve instead of giving back what we had. By the way, it won’t happen again. It was a mistake, in my opinion.”

Atlanta really made an unexpected all-around move, landing an All-Star guard Dijonte Murray In a huge trade with the San Antonio Spurs. The Hawks gave up three first-round picks – one heavily protected from Charlotte acquired via a mid-season trade cam redish and unprotected Atlanta options in 2025 and 2027 — plus swap rights 2026.

It was an especially risky move given that Murray, who could be a free agent in 2024, had no reason to agree to a contract extension. League rules limit extensions to a 20% increase in the first year of a deal, and Murray’s salary of $17.7 million in 2023-24 is well below his market value.

Atlanta has been very good with Young and Murray on the floor combined, outscoring opponents by 3.8 points per 100 possessions, according to data from pbpstats.com. The Hawks are bad when Murray plays without Young (-6.58 net rating) and slightly worse when Young plays without Murray (-6.62).

It adds up to a record of 22-22, putting the Hawks back in the playing zone midway through a roaring season. Schlink was ousted weeks ago, with 34-year-old General Manager Landry Fields now running basketball operations with much influence from Ressler’s 27-year-old son, Nick. Questions swirl around McMillan’s job security—and/or his desire to stay in Atlanta—after his clash with Young. forward force John CollinsAs has been the case for a few years, it features prominently in trade rumors.

An inexperienced front office is now tasked with building a competitor around Young – an especially difficult challenge with depleted assets.


Mavs gone All in just months of Doncic’s rookie season. When the Knicks decided to trade Christaps PorzingisHowever, the Mavericks took the opportunity to pair Doncic with another young, European-born star. But both the Mavericks and the Knicks left out Porzingis’ list of favorite destinations, which sources said did not include Dallas.

Nelson was in discussions with the Knicks about taking Tim Hardaway Jr. And possibly Courtney Lee In exchange for expiring contracts, the Knicks were eager to create a salary cap space for free agency that summer. Dallas would have received draft compensation in such a deal.

Suddenly, Porzingis was added to the package and two first-round draft picks (2021 and 2023) went to New York with the point guard Dennis Smith Jr —The 2017 Lottery Pick That Wasn’t Likeable in Dallas. Porzingis sat out the rest of the season to continue rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee he suffered the previous season.

Dallas doubled down on Porzingis that summer, when a restricted free agent signed him to a maximum five-year contract with no injury protection before he played a single minute in a Mavs uniform.

At the time, Porzingis’ trade received rave reviews, especially domestically. When Dirk Nowitzki left, he passed the torch to a pair of young European stars.

So much for this short story scenario.

There was a stretch when Doncic and Porzingis clicked, as the Mavs broke the NBA record for offensive efficiency in 2019-20, but their chemistry was slow to develop and quick to disintegrate. They were a brilliant duo that led through the pandemic and during restarts on the bubble, but that was halted when Porcingis suffered a torn meniscus in his body. else knee. This injury required surgery, and Porzingis never fully regained his form with the Mavs.

Porzingis struggled, especially on the defensive end. Back two weeks into the 2020-21 season, he wasn’t happy with his supplement role. The Mavs had shopped Porzingis in the commercial market at the time, but figured they would have to give up at least one other first-round pick to transfer his contract.

At that point, the only common bond between Porsingis and Doncic was that neither of them enjoyed playing with coach Rick Carlisle, who quit that summer rather than enter the next season on the hot bench.

The passive-aggressive tension between the players dissolved after Carlisle’s departure, and both were delighted with their fresh start. After Jason Kidd was hired to replace Carlisle, he praised Porzingis, calling him a “perfect fit” as a co-star with Doncic. Encouraged by the post- and mid-range, Kid Porzingis has tried to eliminate parts of his Carlisle game (armed with analytical evidence).

However, actions speak louder than words. The Mavs traded Porzingis just before that season’s deadline, sending him to Washington for two contracts (Spencer Dinwiddie And Davis Bertans) The magicians were anxious to move.

Porzingis played relatively well when he was healthy that season, but it didn’t boost Doncic’s brilliance. The Mavs were more effective with Porzingis on the bench than on the court, so they shipped him once he didn’t have to attach a first-round pick, with general manager Nico Harrison citing “depth and flexibility” as the main reasons he made the deal. It was a bonus that Dinwiddie has become a key part of the Mavs core going into the Western Conference Finals and so far this season.

Recognizing the acquisition of Porzingis was a strike that put the Mavs back to square one in their search for a legitimate co-star to pair with the perennial young MVP candidate. (Not to mention the epic Mavs got it all wrong Galen Bronson (And losing to the Knicks in free agency last summer, where they starred in the West Finals.)

Doncic has been more exciting than ever this season, leading the league in scoring efficiency despite repeat double teams and pulling Dallas to a 24-21 record, good enough for fifth in the West. He is definitely not satisfied with being in the middle of the qualifying pack. Doncic is a strong competitor with a championship pedigree, having won titles with the Slovenian national team and Real Madrid, patience is not at the top of his list of virtues.

Sources said Doncic, who has not shown a desire to get involved in personnel matters in the past, has strongly indicated he wants to promote the Mavs before the February 9 trade deadline.

Of course, that’s easier said than done for the team that still owes the Knicks the option to complete the Porzingis deal.

The Mavs are well aware of the problem with modern NBA mathematics: Unhappy stars with only two guaranteed years left on their contracts have leverage if they are looking to leave. For reference, see Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans or James Harden And Houston Rockets.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Doncic will demand a trade if the Mavs don’t put up a competitor-quality support staff by the summer of 2024. But the Mavs, like the Hawks with Young, certainly don’t want to mess around. And find out.

For the Mavs in particular, this means having to balance trying to put a more competitive roster in place this season against reducing the possibility of dealing with a co-star in the near future. The latter will likely require a host of first-round picks, so the Mavs will have to be very selective while considering giving up the pick now.

“It’s a really tough spot,” a professional scout for a rival team told ESPN. “It’s the pressure great players put on the organization. You want to be good, but the balance of patience and competitiveness is really a tough line to walk.”

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