Dallas is looking to form a big three of its own and the final piece of the puzzle could be Kemba Walker.
The Mavericks selected 2019 Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic in last year’s draft and acquired Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks just before the trade deadline. Dallas is reportedly prepared to offer Porzingis a five-year, $158 million deal this summer and Walker has qualified for a supermax contract after a career year in 2018-19.
The Mavericks aren’t a lock to land Walker by any means, as the Celtics, Knicks, Lakers and others are interested in him, as noted by Bill Simmons and Marc Stein on the “Bill Simmons Podcast.” However both believe he would be a good fit. Walker has played all eight years of his NBA career with the Hornets and says staying in Charlotte is a “priority,” even if he’s offered less than a supermax deal.
If Dallas is able to entice Walker, it’ll have an interesting team that would almost certainly blow past last year’s 33-49 record — which ranked 14th in the Western Conference.
Here’s what the Mavericks would get from their ideal big three:
A marriage between Doncic and Walker in the backcourt could be an amazing thing. Both players ranked top-10 in pick-and-roll possessions in 2018-19, per NBA.com. Walker was first in the league while 19-year-old Doncic ranked ninth. Walker topped the NBA in points and field goals made per game as a pick-and-role ball handler, but he’s never played alongside an elite shot creator like Doncic.
Doncic established a role for himself as Dallas’ closer and received serious All-Star consideration during his rookie year without any players close to that caliber around him. With Walker, the Mavericks could break defenses down by creating mismatches and with guards that are nightmares in space, create separation and convert at an efficient rate from behind the arc.
And then there’s Porzingis. The 23-year-old is often called a unicorn because of his combination of mobility and shooting touch from all three levels in a 7-3 frame. Porzingis would complete a deadly trio, as Walker and Doncic could attack using him in pick-and-roll sets, dump it off to him on his way to the basket or let him drop back and hit the long ball — he is a 36.1% shooter from beyond the arc.
Opposing defenses would have to choose between dealing with Walker’s quickness, Doncic’s craftiness or Porzingis’ length and versatility. The Dallas team would be perfect for the modern NBA on the offensive end.
Potential for great spacing
Believe it or not, Walker and Doncic were both top-10 in drives to the basket last season (ninth and 10th, respectively). Both are willing to get downhill and attack the rim with layups or in-between floaters, which can create a plethora of drive-and-dish chances.
Porzingis hasn’t played since 2017-18 due to an ACL injury, but averaged 22.7 points per game that season and could be a valuable escape outlet on drives receiving lobs by the rim or on the outside if bigs collapse into the lane. Tim Hardaway Jr. can also prosper in a catch-and-shoot role in an environment where teams won’t key in on him — as he averaged 19.1 points per game as New York’s top option last year.
Walker and Doncic both primarily operated as ball-dominant players in 2018-19, but there is tremendous opportunity for growth for each playing together. Both could demand double team’s on the perimeter, and now they’ll each have better supporting casts when they want to get out of trouble.
Walker is undersized, Doncic lacks lateral quickness and Porzingis’ strength and conditioning is a question mark.
NBA backcourts are becoming filled with big, fast prospects that could take advantages of Dallas’ weaknesses. Teams could look to match Walker up with larger guards, run Doncic around screens and post up Porzingis, who has played a lot of power forward in the league but will reportedly spend significant time playing center for the Mavericks.
Porzingis has length, but traditional big men could look to dominate him with physical play down low. Many centers are transitioning from back-to-the-basket styles, but most are still stronger than Porzingis. Dallas, however, could just focus on scoring more than the opposition, which could be tough given the talent in the West.