Sad News: 3 key players departed Dallas Mavericks just now….

For years, the Dallas Mavericks front office had been criticized for their inability to build a contender around Luka Doncic. But they’ve pulled all the right strings over the past year-and-a-half — trading for Kyrie Irving, gambling on a Dante Exum revival, signing Derrick Jones Jr., drafting Dereck Lively II and finally, the mid-season trades that brought them Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington.

Those moves brought them to the NBA Finals but they fell woefully short against the high-level depth of the Boston Celtics. The Mavericks opened their championship window but also backed themselves into a corner. They’re essentially capped out heading into this offseason. Their 2024 first-round pick goes to the Knicks. They own their 2025 and 2026 first-round picks but can’t trade either because of the Stepien Rule. Their 2027 first-round goes to the Hornets. Their 2029 first-round pick goes to the Nets. The Thunder and Spurs can swap picks with them in the 2028 and 2030 drafts and they can’t trade their 2031 first-round pick until after the 2024 NBA Draft.

All that is to say, the Mavs need to make some upgrades but don’t have a lot of options to make it happen. But there are still some under-the-radar moves they can pull off to improve this roster, even if it means sacrificing more of their future to open that championship window a bit wider.

Before this season, Jones Jr. was a fringe role player who had bounced between four teams in seven seasons and was known mostly for his electric leaping ability. Now he’s a key piece on a contender. He played a career-high 76 games this season, averaging career-highs in both scoring and 3-point percentage. He often took the most challenging defensive matchup on the wing and his enormous vertical leap and catch radius made him a lob threat from anywhere on the floor — an especially dangerous variable when Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving were running a pick-and-roll.How to watch the OKC Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks NBA Playoffs game today:  Game 3 livestream options, more - CBS News

Jones Jr. is an unrestricted free agent and will likely be looking for more money and more long-term job security. But as long as the Mavs can keep his salary in a reasonable range, he’s absolutely worth bringing back. There are better shooters available and better defenders available but no one who combines both with the elite athleticism Doncic and Irving can get so much out of.

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