What has Jason Kidd done to earn a third opportunity as head coach of an NBA franchise? I’m legitimately curious. All he did in his one year with the Nets and three and a half with Milwaukee was win one playoff series while consistently underperforming and failing to win a single division title. There’s also, you know, some pretty disturbing off-court incidents in his closet.
Yet, for some reason, the Dallas Mavericks have decided that Kidd shall be the heir to Rick Carlisle.
After years of underperforming, the Mavericks needed someone to put them over the top and lead them to a championship, so obviously Jason Kidd, whose best season as a head coach resulted in a record only three wins above .500 and a second-round playoff exit, was the perfect fit.
I hope the sarcasm reads through there.
In less than three weeks since their season ended, Dallas has witnessed dozens of rumors swirling and made a myriad of moves all in an attempt to make Luka Dončić happy. However, Dallas has seemingly done the opposite.
The team’s goal is and should be for Dončić to sign a long-term extension. In today’s NBA, contracts mean next to nothing. James Harden had three years left on his contract with Houston when he suddenly decided he didn’t want to be there anymore. Anthony Davis was unhappy in New Orleans, so he made sure to get himself traded. Now, even Zion Williamson and his family are starting to voice their displeasure with the Pelicans, and a trade for the former No. 1 overall pick is seeming more and more likely each day. The only thing that contracts do now is guarantee that you’ll get at least some sort of return on your investment should your star player ever demand to be shipped to a contender.
That being said, the best way to avoid that from happening, is to build a contender yourself — somewhere the best players in the world want to go so they can coast to a championship and help build their legacies. Dallas has struggled to come anywhere close to that since they won the NBA Championship in 2011.
They have reached the playoffs just six times in the past ten seasons and have not won a single playoff series in that span. Just as an aside, a lot of that has to be on Carlisle, who is now getting to return to Indiana. Does that one ring that one time really merit his chance at a fourth head coaching tenure after 19 seasons at a .548 winning percentage?
Dončić is widely considered a generational talent, so reaching the playoffs twice in his first three seasons is a start, but you have to win some games.
Hiring Kidd as the coach is a slap in the face to Luka, who has already expressed his displeasure with some of the moves Dallas made earlier this offseason including the “firing” of former GM Donnie Nelson. I understand that Kidd is an icon in Dallas, and was one of the Mavericks’ biggest faces during the team’s 2011 NBA championship, but hiring someone to coach your team just because he has ties doesn’t mean he’d be a fantastic coach. For every Steve Kerr, Bill Russell, Doc Rivers, or Larry Bird (yes, I know his stint was short, but I mean the guy had a .687 win percentage as Indiana’s head coach) there are five Isiah Thomas’, Brian Winters’, and Marc Iavaroni’s. It doesn’t matter how great a player you were, you have to prove yourself to be a capable coach. Jason Kidd has not.
Dončić needed something extra to convince him to sign an extension. He’s European. The only tie he has to Dallas is the guy who helped recruit him — Nelson — and now he’s gone. In his stead comes Nike executive Nico Harrison, who has zero NBA experience. The man has never been involved in an NBA locker room, but will now play a major role in personnel decisions. That is unless Haralabos Voulgaris is the person really in control of those decisions like the rumors would have you believe.
All this being said, the general manager and coach are not the most important pieces to build a contender. That distinction is, and always will be, owned by the players. And the Mavericks have a lot of cap space available to go after big name free agents this offseason (they could have even more if Josh Richardson opts out of his player option for next season, but it’s highly unlikely that he will).
The best opportunity Dallas has to convince Luka to sign a big extension is by signing a big name free agent or trading for a second superstar to pair with him. However, the only big name free agents that would really make a splash are Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard, who are both likely to opt out of their player options. Aside from them, there’s… 33-year-old Mike Conley? Injury-prone Victor Oladipo? 35-year-old Kyle Lowry? Otto Porter Jr.? Those guys are all fine, but they’re not going to give Dallas the bona fide superstar tandem they need to compete in the tough Western Conference. Not to mention, Dallas would still have to convince those free agents to join them, and why would anybody want to play for a team that just cleaned house and replaced key front office positions with someone who has consistently underperformed and another with no experience in the NBA?
There are still options through trades. However, Dallas is a good enough team that its draft picks aren’t too enticing to any team looking to sell one of its best players. Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber might have some trade value (KP might as well, but he’s too expensive for most teams to be interested in), but the two of them and a likely-lottery-protected first-round pick probably wouldn’t be enough to grab someone really difference-making like Zion or Nikola Vucevic. Maybe they could grab Ben Simmons? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been completely undervalued after his awful postseason, but if the Mavericks are really trying to build a contender… I doubt Ben Simmons would be the big name they’d want to grab.
Dallas has put themselves in an awful position to start the offseason. Can they recover? Yeah. They have the cap space to put together a contender, but due to the lack of incentive for free agents to come to Dallas, as well as how upset they’ve made Dončić with their recent personnel decisions, it’s unlikely the team will draw the pieces necessary to compete in 2022. Luka will want out, and the Mavericks will lose out on retaining a generational talent that they absolutely could’ve kept with a few simple front office adjustments.