It was another interesting week in the NBA, highlighted by a historical stat line and comeback in Dallas, and former Spur Dejounte Murray — who infamously posted that the Spurs will be losing for another 15 years due to the way the system is set up — may not have ended up in the dream scenario he pictured when the Spurs courteously traded him to one of his desired destinations.
As a result, this week we’re inadvertently taking a look at how the two biggest names from the 2018 NBA Draft, who have always been tied together thanks to a controversial draft-night trade, and how they might come back full circle.
Luka Doncic makes history
The Dallas Mavericks continue to be in limbo. On one hand, they’re a playoff-level team, currently sitting in the fifth seed in the West with a 20-16 record, which is good. But on the other, with arguably one of the top 5 players in the league in his fifth year in Luka Doncic, it just feels like they should be further along. Instead, they’re still in “one piece away” mode, and the front office doesn’t seem to know what direction to go to reach championship-contender status. For example, Christian Wood is starting to click as a good partner to Doncic in their recent rise up the standings, but extension talks between Wood and Dallas are reportedly unlikely. Is he that one piece? It’s probably a little early to tell, but if they continue to wait, the right guy may never come along.
Regardless, at least for now, Doncic continues to carry the franchise, with few greater examples than Tuesday’s win over the New York Knicks. Down 112-103 with 33.6 seconds left after a couple of Knicks free throws, the Mavs proceeded to close on a 12-3 run to force overtime. Six of those came from Doncic, including the final three via a made free throw, followed by rebounding his own purposeful miss and scoring the tying bucket in one fell swoop.
The Mavs would go on to win 126-121 in overtime, and as a result helped remove the Spurs as the owners of the worst last-minute collapse this century. That title now belongs to the Knicks, who blew a 9-point lead in 35 seconds, while the Spurs merely blew an 8-point lead to the Rockets in Tracy McGrady’s famous 13-in-35 game back in 2004.
NBA teams were 0-13,884 in the last 20 seasons when trailing by at least nine with 35 or fewer seconds remaining, per @ESPNStatsInfo.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 28, 2022
Luka Doncic and the Mavs pulled off a miracle.
But of course, the big headliner was Doncic himself, who put up one of the best individual stat lines ever. With 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, he became the first player in NBA history to have a 60-20-10 game.
Luka Doncic is the only player in NBA history to ever record 60+ PTS, 20+ REB, and 10+ AST in a game. pic.twitter.com/0Io2BVx9Rq— NBA History (@NBAHistory) December 28, 2022
It remains to be seen if the Mavs can eventually build the right roster around Doncic to contend for a championship — some depth would be nice, as the win came despite only getting a putrid nine points from their bench, led by five from former Spur Davis Bertans — but at least for one night, he was the most celebrated player in the NBA thanks to a historic performance that will stand the test of time. (I just wish he was less whiny. It would help me like him more.)
What’s happening in Atlanta?
After the Spurs sent Dejounte Murray to Atlanta — one of his desired destinations so he could team up with Trae Young — the NBA media did what it is wont to do and overreacted to one All Star joining another, fantasizing about what the supposedly “complimentary” guard duo can do alongside a decent haul of role players. What they didn’t do is actually study if the duo would work together. While one is more offensive oriented and the other can cover on defense, the balance ends there. Both need the ball in their hands to be affective, and neither is having an efficient season shooting the ball, but the problem goes beyond Murray’s dream trade scenario possibly not working out on the court.
Young reportedly is not happy with head coach Nate McMillan, but a coaching change — fair or not to the coach himself — can always fix that. The bigger issue is, as rumor has it, that Young is not seen in a flattering light around the NBA, including by his own teammates. Now, with the Hawks sitting at an underwhelming 17-18, good for just 9th in the East, the rumor mill is churning that he could be the next big name to demand a trade.
Adding insult to injury, oddsmakers have placed the Mavs as having the best odds of acquiring him, all after the Hawks continue to take more and more flack as time goes by for trading the 3rd pick in the 2018 draft to Dallas for the 5th pick, which gave them Doncic — a trade that went from appearing even to favoring the Mavs more and more. Doncic and Young is another questionable pairing that would only be worth discussing if it actually happens, but still, after rising all the way to the conference finals just two seasons ago, this can’t be the situation anyone in Atlanta saw coming so soon.
And as Jesus Gomez pointed out, it’s a situation Spurs fans should keep an eye on since they acquired the Hawks’ 2025 and 2027 first round picks, the right to swap 2026 picks, and the Hornets’ top-16 protected 2023 pick in the trade (although that one is not looking promising for the Spurs at this point). While those picks are far enough away that anything can happen between now and then, and simply trading Young doesn’t necessarily mean the Hawks will bottom out and give San Antonio a trio of dream draft picks, it’s still worth monitoring if you’re a Spurs fan.