1 lesson Cavaliers should take from Mavericks blueprint

The Cavaliers should take after their Western Conference counterpart on their path to contention.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks - Game Four
Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks - Game Four / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

Despite a roster full of exciting young talent, the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled to build a cohesive roster capable of contending with the best teams in the league.

Reaching the NBA Finals requires a lot of talent and a lot of luck during the postseason. While the Cavs have improved their depth and talent this year, their luck ran out as their talent grew inconsistent from beyond the three-point line and on the glass. Once again, the Cavaliers watch from home as the top teams in each conference battle head-to-head in the Finals.

For as much talent Cleveland's young core has, the redundancy in both their backcourt and frontcourt leads to more question marks than answers. While Cavaliers leadership has insisted they are not eager to part ways with their core four, it is undeniable that change is needed in Cleveland if they want any chance to be a real contender. Sometimes too much similar talent does more harm than good, and the Cavs' core four has become a prime example.

Both Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell excel when the other is out. The same goes for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen in the frontcourt. After Mobley's dominance against the Boston Celtics as the lone big man, there is no doubt the best version of Evan Mobley is a center rather than being forced to play as a power forward.

The Cavaliers' current blueprint does not work, but they might be able to take cues from a West rival rather than repeating their mistakes another year.

Cleveland should learn from the Dallas Mavericks to become a contender

When the Dallas Mavericks gave up on the pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas looked more likely to lose Doncic before they could ever contend with him. They had little to no draft capital, and their intended All-Star duo crashed and burned before it ever took off.

Instead of reentering a rebuild, the Mavs doubled down on Doncic's talent and took a leap of faith in a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving at least year's deadline. They lost nearly all of their remaining depth and draft assets, and it became now or nothing for Dallas to win when it matters. Irving's reputation was damaged at best after a dramatic stint with the Brooklyn Nets, but the Mavericks saw a window opening.

With two All-Stars at the helm, the Mavericks focused on adding complementary role players to the equation in free agency and trades. Rather than loading their roster with talented players who clashed with their stars, Dallas targeted players who could ideally elevate their duo's potential, even if it meant taking a chance on a "damaged good" type of player such as Irving or Derrick Jones, Jr.

Additionally, the Mavs invested in the Draft with their remaining picks. In a controversial move, the Mavericks intentionally lost games at the tail end of last season to keep a top-10 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. On the night of the draft, the Mavs added Derek Lively, III to their team. Though young, Lively projected to be a high-level rim running center with great defense and the potential to extend his shooting to the arc in time.

While the Cavaliers do not need to tank for draft picks right now, they should prioritize a proven prospect this year with the 20th overall pick. This year's rookie pool does not include superstar talent, but the older rookies can be contributors for day one, giving the Cavs a chance to get the steal of the night if they make the right pick.

The Mavericks' two-guard core worked with Irving's willingness to play off-ball behind Luka for most of the season. Irving's time with LeBron James taught him how to become just as elite off the ball as he can be with the ball in his hands. The Cavaliers are not as fortunate with and undersized backcourt duo, but the pairing of Mitchell and Mobley could skyrocket the Cavs' potential if it is fully optimized.

Rather than forcing players who clash with one another to make it work, the Cavaliers should learn from the Mavericks' strategic and daring moves, investing in wing depth and complementary players to their starring duo. Considering how much Mitchell and Mobley have thrived without their counterpart at their side, this summer cannot be an offseason of complacency for Cleveland. They have every feasible chance to become a leading challenger in the East if they are willing to take risks.

In fact, the Cavs might have an opportunity to steal away one of Dallas' best risks gone right this offseason. Derrick Jones, Jr. enters unrestricted free agency, and while he may return to the Mavs, the Cavaliers can offer him upwards of $10 million per season to serve as a borderline starting wing. With the Mavericks this year, Jones averaged 8.6 points and 3.3 rebounds with a 34.3 percent three-point shot in 23.5 minutes per game. He started 66 of his 76 games played, eventually earning the full-time starting role throughout the postseason.

The Cavs might find a better fit in free agency, but if Jones is available and willing to build something special with the Cavaliers, the front office would regret not considering the possibilities.

There is no one-size-fits-all perfect way to build a contender. The Cleveland Cavaliers do not have the same type of star talent the Mavericks have in Doncic and Kyrie, but they do have young players with immense value on the trade market to allow them to build around their own star duo. The NBA has seen numerous rosters that stack ill-fitting talent fall to the wayside quickly, but teams who complement two stars and build a cohesive, trustworthy roster have thrived in the modern era.

The Cavaliers must adapt and build a true contender rather than waste more years of Mobley's development and Mitchell's prime with stubborn hesitation.

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