What the Mavericks' JJ Redick trade means for this season and the future
The Dallas Mavericks acquired J.J. Redick and Nicolò Melli from the New Orleans Pelicans in a deal finalized just minutes before Thursday’s trade deadline, team sources tell The Athletic, sending out James Johnson, Wes Iwundu and the team’s 2021 second-round pick. The team currently plans on keeping Melli, who’s on an expiring one-year deal worth $4.1 million, although he’s a candidate to be waived if the Mavericks are able to come to terms with a buyout market player they prefer. But this deal is about much more than him, of course. From the deal’s immediate impact to the bigger-picture ripples, here are the ramifications of the Mavericks’ trade deadline.
How does this trade affect the rotation this season?
Redick may well be having his worst season since his third year in the league, but he will always be able to shoot: He’s hitting 36.4 percent of his 3s and attempting about 12 per 100 possessions. (For perspective, Tim Hardaway Jr. attempts about 13 per 100 possessions.) The career 41-percent sniper should shoot even better in Dallas. Only about a quarter of his 3-point attempts in New Orleans this season were considered “wide open” attempts, per the NBA’s stats site, but the Pelicans are the second-worst team in the league at generating such looks. Since Feb. 3, Dallas is eighth-best. Having another elite shooting option on the roster is a good maneuver for Dallas, and Redick also adds a veteran locker room presence to a roster that only has one other player, Boban Marjanovic, over 30.
Redick won’t necessarily be playing every game, and his ability to impact a playoff series when opponents specifically target him is in question. But Dallas was light on elite shooting prior to this move, and this helps that weakness. If nothing else, it provides more variety to the lineups Rick Carlisle can deploy.
The rest of the deal is largely meaningless. Johnson had fallen out of the rotation, playing just six of the past 19 games, and would’ve remained there had he stayed. The same goes for Iwundu, who also had a small amount of guaranteed money next season the team no longer has to worry about. The second-round pick will be in the mid-40s. Melli could factor into Carlisle’s rotations, but probably won’t. After a mediocre showing as a rookie last season, the 30-year-old with a long European career has shot just 25 percent from the field this season — and worse behind the arc. He’s probably not a viable NBA player, but that’s alright.
What other trades were the Mavericks considering?
The Redick trade was first formulated with San Antonio involved. The deal would’ve been largely the same, per sources, but Trey Lyles would’ve come to Dallas while Melli and another Pelicans player would’ve gone to the Spurs. Instead, San Antonio backed out at the last minute for unclear reasons after Dallas and New Orleans both believed the deal to be agreed upon, causing the teams to scramble to create the secondary framework represented in the two-team trade that ultimately took place.
Dallas never had the assets to seriously engage in other trade discussions. The team was interested in Orlando’s Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, per sources, but certainly couldn’t compete with Denver’s completed deal with the former, which sent Gary Harris to the Magic. Boston’s package used to acquire Fournier was lighter: Jeff Teague and two second-round picks, according to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss. It’s still unclear which second-round picks were involved, but if Boston used one of its more valuable ones — it owns Charlotte’s 2022 second rounder and most likely Houston’s 2023 second rounder — Dallas wouldn’t have been able to compete. We’ll get to the dearth of available trade assets shortly, but it’s clear Dallas had little to entice teams to make deals.
Furthermore, upcoming restricted free agents Lonzo Ball and John Collins, both rumored to be deadline trade candidates, weren’t moved at all. The Mavericks did explore a trade for Victor Oladipo, per sources, but Houston dealt him to Miami instead. Dallas essentially believed Oladipo couldn’t improve the guard rotation and wouldn’t fit without someone being moved. While Oladipo boasts higher upside than any of the guards not named Luka Doncic, I tend to agree with the assessment. He has struggled since returning from his 2019 injury, and the trio of Josh Richardson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson are performing at their most consistent levels since the season began. The team isn’t in a desperate situation and shouldn’t gamble on players it doesn’t believe in.
What about the players who weren’t traded?
Kristaps Porzingis was never going to be traded at this deadline, even if it’s likely true that the Mavericks quietly gauged his value earlier this season. As I wrote earlier this week, “Dallas helping Porzingis turn into a consistent star player is the best-case scenario for all parties involved — even if you would rather trade him. Building his value back up makes it feasible to imagine him as the centerpiece of a trade for another star. Right now, it’s just impossible to imagine that.”
Dwight Powell was the other player likely seen as expendable, particularly since moving him would increase the team’s cap room this coming offseason. But he’s a fringe rotation player who has struggled since returning from his Achilles injury, and the two years and $22 million remaining on his contract is just as unappealing to other teams as it is the Mavericks. The reasons for moving him would’ve been strictly strategic, anyway; Dallas loves what he represents to the franchise with a hard-working ethos that models the culture that Dirk Nowitzki built around this franchise and certainly isn’t upset he remains on the roster going forward.
When will we hear from Redick and the Mavericks?
Donnie Nelson often holds a press conference for reporters shortly after the deadline, but he will instead be available prior to the team’s home game against Indiana on Friday. As of this writing, the trade has yet to be officially announced. As for Redick, it’s expected he will join the team immediately but won’t yet be available to play after a minor surgery on his heel conducted on March 11. He last played for New Orleans on March 3.
What does this trade deadline mean for the team’s future?
Look, Dallas is obviously trying to build a title contender around Luka Doncic. That’s no secret. The team didn’t have the draft picks or young prospects to conceivably get closer to accomplishing that at this deadline, but it will once again enter the offseason with cap space that could reach up to $30 million. While the 2021 free agency class isn’t filled with superstars, it does have players the Maverick should try to sign. Right now, what’s most needed is additional talent, even if that means adding a talented player later deemed to be a suboptimal fit. Either the player sticks in Dallas, or the Mavericks have another piece they can market in a future deadline.
Dallas could have used its cap space sooner rather than preserving it to chase now-unavailable superstars (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal) this summer. It could’ve used its draft picks last year on prospects who would be ready sooner, perhaps giving them a player who would’ve been more appealing at this deadline. In both cases, it chose not to. This approach certainly adds pressure to succeed this summer.
But it’s also worth noting that even “failure” — however you choose to define that — isn’t as significant as it would be with a superstar older than Doncic. The unique immediacy of a third-year player turning into a top-five player in the league, as Doncic has done, means that the team almost certainly has years ahead of them to get this right. It doesn’t absolve the team’s front office from criticism about how it approached the past years. But as long as Doncic is on the roster, it’s worth remembering that the team is set up for success. It’s up to the front office to continue figuring out how to maximize that success.
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