Yesterday, just before the NBA’s trade deadline, the Mavs added veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick and Italian stretch four Nicolò Melli to the squad, bringing them from New Orleans in exchange for the extremely stylish James Johnson, promising wing Wes Iwundu, and a second round draft pick.
On paper, not a bad bit of business, making use of Johnson’s expiring $16 million contract, getting off a tiny bit of Iwundu’s guaranteed money (every bit counts when it comes to offseason deals), and only really losing a second round pick that the team probably would not have much use for anyway, if its approach to the draft since [scrolls through Basketball-Reference.com] pretty much forever is any indication.
On the court, it makes a lot of sense, too. Johnson hasn’t really played since COVID stopped ravaging the Mavs’ rotation and Iwundu has played only slightly more regularly, though when he did he generally made something happen. (On defense. On offense, describing his play as “tentative” would be doing him a huge favor.) Melli will slot into Johnson’s role as a veteran big riding the bench—though, on his best day, he will look about half as cool doing it.
Redick, though, gives the team an element it hasn’t had since trading away Seth Curry before the season: someone whose shot-making ability changes the spacing on the court just by his very presence. Redick has been in bit of a slump this year, but that probably has much to do with the fact that playing for the Pelicans this season has meant open jumpers are few and far between. Still, even where he is at now would make him, percentage-wise, one of the best shooters on the Mavs, and now that he’ll be playing with Luka Dončić, those numbers should only go up. The Pelicans are one of the worst teams at creating wide-open looks; the Mavs are one of the best. It’s just science.
He’s out now rehabbing heel surgery, but should be available soon. So the trade can only be graded in the abstract for a little while. So it’s still time to ask questions, and the question I have today is: was the on court and on paper fit enough to break up a roster that really seemed to be among the tightest in the league? Obviously, I see the Mavericks more than any other team. But I’ve seen every other team play, I follow most of them vicariously through friends from other cities, and probably half of my social media intake involves the NBA in some way.
And I can say that the Mavs appear to have more fun together than any other team around, or at the very least as much fun. Very few teams are as loud on the bench as the Mavs are. And look at this:
Does that lead to winning? Not always. Not directly. But this is still a young team, no matter how much experience Luka has playing overseas. I think there is something to be said for knowing you are in it all together. Yes, moves will have to be made if the team wants to get to that next level, beyond just Luka continually improving and Kristaps Porzingis staying healthy. They are going to have to hit on someone this summer, whether through free agency and trading someone into the salary cap room they’ll have. That will probably mean losing one or two guys, perhaps more.
All I’m saying is maybe they didn’t have to do anything until then. Just let this all be.
(If they take off after this and rocket up the standings, I’ll delete all of this so quickly and completely it’ll be like an entire month didn’t happen.)