After trading for James Harden, would the Dallas Mavericks have enough to compete for a title?
If the Houston Rockets are going to trade James Harden to the Dallas Mavericks the trade package will almost certainly be headlined by Kristaps Porzingis, Tyrell Terry, and a few veterans who can help the team right away. The Rockets would be taking a step back in an effort to build for the future and the Mavericks would go from a deep roster to a top-heavy championship favorite.
The pairing of Harden and Doncic would give the Mavericks two of the league’s top-10 offensive players but how much better would it actually make them. Remember, last season, without Harden, the Mavericks’ led the league in offensive rating.
It was their defense was that let them down and in the offseason, they brought in reinforcements to bolster that end. Adding Harden would all but guarantee that their offense remains at the top of the league but would those new defensive gains have to be sacrificed?
Throughout league history, to have a real shot at a championship a team needs to trot out a top-10 defense and offense. The Mavericks finished last season with an offensive rating of 116.7 points per 100 possessions and a defensive rating of 111.7, which was 18th in the league.
Would they have a shot of vaulting into the top-10 if they traded away the recently acquired Josh Richardson and James Johnson? The chances would be slim and that’s not to mention how their depth would be affected.
In a condensed season, depth will be paramount and might end up being the deciding factor when it comes down to playoff seeding. The Mavericks would have to sacrifice one of their strengths to get Harden and while it makes them a better team on an individual game basis, it might not improve their regular season performance all that much.
At the end of the day, James Harden would make the Mavericks better this year and next. However, his acquisition would hurt them down the line and would leave the Mavericks’ light on tradable contracts and draft picks.
The Mavericks could win the title this year without Harden and they’re well-positioned to construct championship-caliber rosters around Luka Doncic for the next decade. The idea of snagging Harden is alluring but it’s probably a move that the Mavericks will pass on.
The Rockets can do better in a trade than the oft-injured Kristaps Porzingis and draft picks. This is a trade that they need to nail to keep the franchise in the playoff picture this season and into the future.
The Rockets and Mavericks might end up engaging in talks but they won’t last long. The Mavericks don’t have the best offer and will probably play the long game knowing that Luka Doncic should be in Dallas for the next decade.
However, Doncic won’t be cheap forever, and now might be the time to try and push their chips in and make a run at a championship. The Mavericks are in an enviable position, but they’ll likely play the long game instead of swinging for the fences, while the Rockets will look to snag another franchise’s young cornerstone.