When the Dallas Mavericks called in their trade for Kristaps Porzingis, the comparisons were unavoidable. The Mavs had their best pair of young stars since Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash joined forces so many years ago.
If all works out, the combination of Porzingis and rookie phenom Luka Doncic could bring about a new era of contending for the Mavericks. Doncic already looks like one of the best rookies in recent memory and no player possesses both Porzingis’ size and shooting ability. That is a core that the majority of NBA teams would love to build around.
Of course, inviting comparisons to Nowitzki and Nash also recalls how their saga ended: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban refusing to pay what was needed to keep Nash from leaving in free agency. Nowitzki still ended up getting a ring and a spot in the inner circle of NBA greats, but Nash’s departure left a massive what-if in the history of both players as well as the Mavericks.
Apparently, Cuban believes he’s learned from that infamous decision, judging from what he told The New York Times’ Marc Stein.
Powerful quote from Mavs owner Mark Cuban that will be part of Tuesday's @nytimes NBA newsletter: "It was my mistake not to keep Dirk (Nowitzki) and Steve (Nash) together longer," Cuban tells @NYTSports. "I won't make the same mistake with Luka (@luka7doncic) and KP (@kporzee)."
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 5, 2019
While that might be encouraging for Mavericks fans to hear, the time for Cuban to put his money where his mouth is isn’t very far away.
Porzingis could leave Mavericks like Nash in 2020
As the Mavericks are currently constructed, they will almost certainly have at least one full season of Doncic and Porzingis playing together. Cuban has already said Porzingis probably won’t be playing this season due to rehab of an ACL tear from last year.
Because of that slow ACL recovery, Porzingis will actually hit restricted free agency before he even plays a game for the Mavericks. He could sign a qualifying offer for next season, opening him up for unrestricted free agency in 2020, but Cuban will probably try to lock him down on a mega-extension this summer.
Cuban says he wants Doncic and Porzingis together for 20 years
The good news is that Porzingis and the Mavericks appear to be on the same page of keeping the Latvian in Dallas, as Porzingis agreed when Cuban said he plans to sign long-term in Dallas.
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) February 4, 2019
“Our goal is to keep these two together for the next 20 years,” Cuban said.
Fortunately for the Mavs’ cap space, the team retains control of Doncic until 2023 for a relatively affordable price as far as stars go.
So that’s how the Mavericks’ world is turning these days. Cuban has very publicly gone all-in on a new pair of stars and tied the future of his franchise to keeping them together. Check back next season when we finally found out how much it could pay off on the court.
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