By Zack Cunningham
If you’re sitting at home watching the NBA playoffs, which you very likely are, you’ve noticed that the Milwaukee Bucks are under-achieving (to put it lightly) and the Portland TrailBlazers are two games away from being swept by the 6th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.
Somehow the Bucks, who employ an all-world freak of nature in Giannis Antetokounmpo, are struggling to look competitive against the depleted-but-still-talented Boston Celtics in their first-round series. People have been saying for the last year that the Bucks are hampered by either incompetent coaching, a lack of a strong supporting cast, or both.
The Bucks recently got Jabari Parker back from his second ACL tear (on the same knee) and he was expected to provide a spark to an otherwise beleaguered Bucks’ offense.
He’s played 25 minutes combined in the first two games of the series. And then there’s this:
Parker has always been renowned for his character so this development is stunning. It’s also understandable, to an extent, that a player hailed by some as the next big thing out of high school might not be happy being the No. 2 (or in the case of the playoffs, the No. 8) option on a playoff team.
However, his production has been terrible. He can’t stay in front of anyone, takes two 3s a game and is a massive injury liability even if he’s currently healthy. There’s also the talk of him desiring a max extension.
How does any of this relate to the Mavericks? Well, if any of the above accolades interest them (it’s clear Parker would be an intriguing piece to replace Dirk Nowitzki at the 4 going forward for Dallas), he will likely be available for less than his desired max salary.
That isn’t to say Parker won’t have plenty of other suitors, but the number of teams with cap space will be severely limited this summer. Chicago could be a player given it’s Parker’s hometown, although a fit with Lauri Markannen would be questionable at best.
Obviously, Dallas would prefer to acquire Parker in some sort of trade instead of using most or all of their precious cap space on an injury-riddled player. It remains to be seen if the Bucks will look to shed salary this offseason should they exit the playoffs early, but the Mavericks are certainly in position to rent out their cap space in the event Milwaukee decides to fork over Parker in some other scenario.
This brings us to Nurkic. His fit in Portland has been strange. While he hasn’t struggled with the same unfortunate injury history as Parker, Portland hasn’t really shown a commitment to him as their long-term solution at center (Zach Collins figures to fit the modern NBA mold better with his range) and Nurkic, to be fair, hasn’t exactly been consistent in his effort.
His restricted free agency is going to be fascinating. Portland has a bloated roster and needs to shed salary no matter what happens this year. Could Dallas be a destination for Nurkic in a similar sense to Milwaukee’s situation with Parker. The big Bosnian is still just 23 years old, a solid rebounder and defender (two boxes the Mavericks sorely need check) and has shown a soft touch.
Given where Dallas will likely be drafting, the Mavericks are going to have some decisions to make, but they will have plenty of options heading into the offseason. It wouldn’t be a shock to see either Nurkic or Parker in Dallas next year. The only question will be the price.