The Dallas Mavericks had a surprisingly stable and low-key offseason. They re-signed Kyrie Irving to a max $126 million deal, but only for three years. They also brought back Dwight Powell on a fine three-year, $12 million contract.
But Dallas was active on the trade and free agency market. On draft night, the Mavs salary dumped Davis Bertans to the Oklahoma City Thunder to move back two spots and select the guy they wanted anyway in Duke's Dereck Lively II. Soon after, they used the trade exception they got from that deal to take on Richaun Holmes from the Sacramento Kings, getting a first-round pick for the trouble. Dallas selected Marquette's Olivier Maxence-Prosper with that pick.
Dallas also made some solid moves on the margins, including bringing back Seth Curry and Markieff Morris and signing Derrick Jones Jr. But the biggest move the Mavs made this summer was bringing in Grant Williams, acquired in three-team sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs. They gave up Reggie Bullock and a 2030 first-round pick swap to get Williams and sign him to a four-year, $56 million contract.
As of now, Dallas' starting lineup—based on games started last season and salary numbers, at least—projects to feature Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr., Grant Williams and Dwight Powell. But that isn't etched in stone quite yet. Could one of the Mavs' starting spots be up for grabs in training camp?
Josh Green or Tim Hardaway Jr.?
The answer is yes, and Josh Green is the player most likely to seize it.
Dallas desperately needs to improve defensively, and Green is this team's top on-ball defender of guards and wings alike. The Mavericks ranked 25th in defensive rating last season, per NBA.com/stats, and of the five teams below them, only the Indiana Pacers didn't end up netting a top-five pick in the draft. To put it bluntly: Dallas was a disaster on that end of the floor in 2022-23.
Williams should help there, but a bigger role for Green definitely would, too. He only started 20 games last season compared to Hardaway's 45, a ratio that should be flipped this season.
The Mavs' defense when Green shared the floor with Luka Doncic last year wasn't great. Granted, there weren't many, if any, lineups Jason Kidd threw out there that were even competent on that side of the ball. But those lineups were still better than units featuring Hardaway instead of Green. with Tim Hardaway Jr. in his spot. Dallas' defensive rating with Doncic and Green was a rough 118.2, according to Cleaning the Glass. But flip Green and Hardaway Jr. and that defensive rating drops even further to a porous 119.1.
It is worth noting that Dallas' net rating favors Hardaway Jr. over Green. With Hardaway on the floor with Doncic, Dallas' net rating was +4.6 points per 100 possessions, nearly four points better than when Green was in Hardaway's place. But the Mavs were forced to outscore teams a year ago. They might be this year too, but their goal is to be more balanced, and that means being better defensively—a dynamic that favors Green.
He is stronger and stouter defensively than Hardaway, with longer arms and quicker feet. Absent a true perimeter stopper, Dallas was forced to sic Green on teams' best guards last season, and will have to do so again going forward. Fortunately for Kidd, Green held his own in that role.
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) March 8, 2022
Green is also very alert off the ball, always lurking to wreak havoc and cause deflections and turnovers.
Josh Green continues to develop into a game-wrecker on defense. He begins the possession face-guarding Kawhi Leonard in the weak-side corner, then blows up a lob pass as the low-man.
Green turns defense into offense by recovering possession, creating a layup with numbers. pic.twitter.com/3XxzohKukb
— Grant Afseth (@GrantAfseth) February 10, 2023
The issue with Green has been his jumper, but he's made strides there. He shot 35.9% from three in 2021-22 and bumped that percentage up to 40.2% on more volume last season, but still needs to let three fly more often in 2023-24.
Hardaway's a more reliable shooter and also secondary scorer, which is a very valuable skill to have, but a bit redundant alongside Doncic and Irving. Green, however, is not only an athletic and active cutter, but a solid playmaker on the move, too. He's the type of connector who could help make the whole of Dallas' offense greater than the sum of its parts.
This is where Josh Green's feel for the game helps him as a playmaker. Dribbles into Rudy intentionally to take him out of the proper help position in time for Dorian Finney-Smith to cut and beat him to the spot for an easy layup #MFFL pic.twitter.com/TR4eHtYXgf
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) March 8, 2022
Hardaway remains a solid vet for the Mavericks. If the their goal is to outscore teams again, he'd be a good fit in their starting lineup again. But they have to get more balanced as a team, which was a big reason why they pursued Williams this summer. Inserting Green as a starter would only further increase the Mavs' chances of being respectable defensively this season. Needless to say, the battle between he and Hardaway to start on the wing will be one worth watching once training camp begins on September 27th.