When the Houston Rockets acquired James Harden in 2012, a superstar was created. Harden had been the third banana for the Oklahoma City Thunder and needed to spread his wings to evolve his game and ascend to stardom.
Harden morphed into a heliocentric force that was unstoppable, in his early 20s. The Rockets' front office tried their damndest to find a successful pairing with Harden, pairing him with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and later Russell Westbrook, who are all future Hall of Famers.
But regardless of the co-star, the Rockets never won a title with any iteration of Harden on the roster. They did have a lone Western Conference Finals appearance under their belt, however. Then came rumblings of Harden having approached the Rockets' front office about wanting a trade for years.
And after swapping out one co-star for another multiple times to try to appease Harden, eventually they did have to trade him to appease him.
How the Mavs could've avoided their Luka Doncic conundrum by paying attention to Rockets
What exactly is the relevance of this? I'm glad you asked.
It's because we're witnessing the exact same thing in Dallas right now, as it pertains to Luka Doncic (who many compared to Harden earlier in his career). In Doncic, the Mavs have a heliocentric offensive force who is unstoppable, in his early 20s.
Due to Doncic's superstar status, the Mavs have realized the need to find a co-star to give him a formidable chance at contending for a title. From All-Star Kristaps Porzingis to All-Star and future Hall of Famer Kyrie Irving (although it's been a relatively small sample size), the Mavs have essentially swapped out one co-star for another for Luka.
And they've swapped one coach (Rick Carlisle) for another in Jason Kidd, to try and appease Luka. But thus far all of that has netted them one trip to the Western Conference Finals. Even worse, the Mavs are about to miss the postseason for the second time in Luka's five-year career.
And now the whispers of Luka potentially wanting out in the near future have gotten out, while the franchise has to make decisions on contract extensions for Christian Wood and Kyrie Irving. Now the front office is starting to feel the pressure that Luka is applying, and it's only going to heighten if they aren't successful in their goal of winning a title.
And if Luka ultimately does demand a trade, the franchise will do whatever they can to try and keep him. At which point we'd likely see the Mavs' version of trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook.
But regardless, all roads lead to them having to trade Luka, if he doesn't feel he has a legitimate opportunity at a championship. In essence, the Mavs are in familiar territory for the Rockets.
But they didn't learn that you can't surround a heliocentric superstar with a poorly constructed roster. Unfortunately, that could prove to be a costly lesson.