The Dallas Mavericks have had a bit of a hectic offseason so far. They have made a couple of big moves that figure to help them improve during the upcoming 2022-23 NBA season. Despite looking a bit better on paper, it will be tough to improve on their improbable run to the Western Conference Finals again next season.
With Luka Doncic leading the way for Dallas, though, the sky appears to be the limit. Doncic is easily one of the most talented all around offensive players in the NBA, and the Mavericks are doing their best to surround him with as much talent on the court as they can.
However, the Mavericks failed to make one big move this offseason that would have helped Doncic out a lot moving forward. Dallas let one of their best players from the 2021-22 season leave in free agency, and it undoubtedly will make things more difficult for the Mavericks in the 2022-23 season. Let's take a look at the move Dallas failed to make this offseason that could hurt them greatly moving forward.
The 1 move the Dallas Mavericks needed to make in the 2022 NBA offseason
Re-signing Jalen Brunson
Throughout the first four seasons of his career, Jalen Brunson gradually increased his role with the Mavericks. Brunson is a shifty undersized guard who could bring the ball up the court whenever Doncic was not on the court. Considering how Dallas didn't really have any other ballhandlers behind Doncic, Brunson quickly became an important piece of the Mavericks' offensive gameplan.
During the 2021 offseason, the Mavericks could have offered Brunson a four-year, $55.6 million extension to lock him up on a cheap deal for the future, but they opted to extend Dorian Finney-Smith instead. Finney-Smith is a solid player, but it's clear that Brunson is much more valuable, and that was a glaring misstep by Dallas' front office.
That came back to bite them in a big way this past year, when Brunson put together the best season of his career and became a huge piece of the Mavericks rotation. Brunson averaged 16.3 points per game on 50.2 percent shooting from the field, while also dishing out 4.8 assists per game. He was the perfect complement to Doncic on offense, and it made sense for them to look into re-signing Brunson this offseason.
Yet Dallas never appeared to seriously pursue Brunson. Brunson's price obviously spiked up from the 2021 offseason, but it was clear that he was worth that price. Brunson was absolutely vital in the Mavs' opening series of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Utah Jazz, as he filled in for Doncic, who missed the first three games of the series, and ended up averaging 27.8 points per game throughout the opening series.
Brunson's value skyrocketed after that, and he made the Mavericks look foolish for not extending him last offseason. But that doesn't mean they should have made as minimal an effort as they did to retain him in free agency. There was almost no inkling of interest from Dallas in bringing him back, and the Mavericks reportedly low-balled Brunson again as he made his way out the door.
Dallas' reported offer to Brunson was a five-year, $105 million contract offer, which was again less than the maximum offer they could have handed him. Brunson would end up taking a four-year, $104 million deal from the New York Knicks, and who can really blame him for doing so?
Losing Brunson hurts Dallas pretty badly. They have lost their secondary ballhandler behind Doncic, and they don't really have a replacement for him. He also became a mightily important piece of their offense down the stretch, and again, that will be something they have to find a replacement for moving forward.
Dallas made the mistake of waiting too long to extend Brunson, and it caught up to them this offseason. In a way, it makes sense that they didn't pursue Brunson harder, as they don't really have a ton of money to work with. But their failure to truly make an effort to retain him over the past year really stands out, and now the Mavericks are without a talented secondary scorer who could come in and give Doncic a rest in games.
Dallas has moved to replace Brunson's lost scoring output in acquiring Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets, but he's a big man rather than ballhandler. He figures to be a good fit, but Brunson's impact will still be missed. The Mavericks didn't have many options with Jalen Brunson this offseason as a result of their mistakes from a year ago, but they needed to make a move to bring Brunson back and they didn't, and they will need to work hard to make sure they don't regret letting him leave.