By David Mullen
June and July may be remembered as the two months that re-established the Dallas Mavericks as viable contenders in future years in the NBA, got the Dallas Stars enough firepower to get back into the Stanley Cup race and when the Texas Rangers began a full-fledged youth movement. These months could change the landscape of Dallas sports for years.
The Mavericks did the near impossible. They were able to move up to the third overall pick in the NBA draft and get the man that they wanted. And Mavericks’ brass believes that he will immediately become the new face of the franchise.
Luka Doncic was acquired on June 21 when the Mavericks were able to trade up with the Atlanta Hawks. The 6-7 Slovenian has a huge upside and is 21 years younger than Dallas icon center/forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is expected to retire at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Doncic, while only 19, was the MVP for EuroLeague champion Real Madrid. He has already developed a highlight reel thanks to his athleticism and shooting ability. He will join budding superstar Dennis Smith, Jr. in a backcourt that could make the Mavericks competitive again in the stacked Western Conference of the NBA.
In obtaining Jalen Brunson with their second round pick of the NBA draft, the Mavericks got a player with championship experience. He helped lead Villanova to the national championship in 2016 and 2018. He averaged 18.8 points per game and 4.6 assists in the highly competitive Big East conference. While he is not slated to be an immediate starter like Doncic, he potentially adds instant scoring from the bench. One only needs to look at the World Champion Golden State Warriors to see the importance of having a deep bench.
Now the Mavericks look to lock up key role players and find a big man in free agency. They made strides on Tuesday when they tendered offer sheets to guard Yogi Ferrell, center Salah Mejri and forward Doug McDermott. Next they need to find a rebounding center not named DeAndre Jordan.
The Stars also went young on June 22 when they drafted 17-year old center Ty Dellandrea. Typically, first year draftees in hockey don’t have an immediate impact on a team like they do in basketball. So the Stars need to rely on free agency to fill holes at backup goalie and on defense. The Stars had 10 more wins than losses last season and still didn’t make the playoffs. But they are close, and in the NHL, any team can emerge and win a title.
In early June, Rangers ownership gave manager Jon Daniels a multiyear contract extension. He was hired in 2005 at 28 to build a World Championship team. In 13 seasons he has not, although in two seasons the Rangers made the World Series and lost. Now the team seems lost.
In a press conference, Daniels said, “There is a definite sense of urgency, not for a quick fix by any stretch … but a sense of urgency in everything that we do to make progress, to put building blocks in place and keep going. Our focus has been on just re-establishing a foundation for a long-term sustainable model to win here for a long time.” He has had 13 seasons to do it and is just now figuring it out?
Daniels (pictured above) must try to get something for Cole Hamels and Shin-Soo Choo before the Tuesday, July 31 trading deadline. Together, the two players — who were brought in under Daniels’ watch — make $40 million and have underachieved. The future of the Rangers is in letting young players play and strengthening the farm system. Whether Daniels can do that or not remains to be seen. Apparently, Rangers ownership believes he can.
The next two weeks will be telling in the success, or failure, of the Mavericks, Stars and Rangers for the rest of the decade and beyond.