After the Mavs' loss in Game 7 of Round 1, we heard immediate analysis about the Mavericks' chances to put a better roster around Luka Dončić. This will be the final offseason in which Luka is on his rookie-scale contract, which should be the time to add significant talent.
But as we covered yesterday, the Mavs are in a complicated position. Internal development won't be enough, Rick Carlisle won't lose his job, and the only major move the Mavs have would be to trade Porzingis, who hasn't worked out. The only thing is, interest in Porzingis is minimal, so trading him would be a lateral move at best. That's why Bill Simmons speculated Luka could become the first rookie to refuse his Designated Rookie Scale Player Extension.
“We’ve never seen a player do this before. Luka’s three years in; normally this is where they say, ‘Here’s this giant extension, you should sign it.‘ Year 5, when you’re supposed to be making $13 million, you’ll gonna be making $31 million, or whatever it is. Obviously, nobody turns down $20 million [more]. If I’m Luka, I’m not signing it. I’m playing it out. Why not? I think Zion’s the other one to do it. We’ve never seen it – this would be the logical last chapter of the player empowerment era. This is the one thing we’ve never seen a player do.”
Bill Simmons, The Bill Simmons Podcast
This is not what you want to hear shortly after losing a series you were up 2-0 and 3-2 in. Every NBA fan knows superstars players don't hear "no" anymore, and if Luka were to decide the Mavs can't get him the help he needs to contend, would you be shocked to hear Dončić didn't sign the rookie extension? Bobby Marks came out with the math, and it turns out that Luka would become the first guy to sign a $200+ million rookie extension if he signed it. Luka was asked about his contract situation and answered with a big smile on his face.
"I think you know the answer."
Luka Dončić, exit interview
Now that Dallas fans can take a deep breath, the focus switches on the offseason. When it comes to the front office, the keyword is patience. There may not be an obvious upgrade piece in August - that doesn't mean there won't be in November. One thing everyone's forgetting is that the Mavs have one of the best selling points in the NBA for all potential arrivals - you get to play next to Luka.
When it comes to the Slovenian wonder boy, two things are a must. First, start making free throws. We've seen this over and over again. If the no.1 option on a team doesn't trust his free throws, their team loses. Luka stopped being aggressive and didn't attack the paint because he didn't want to go to the line. Shooting 80% from the free-throw line should be the benchmark for a player of Luka's caliber.
The second part is - show up in shape. Luka is more athletic than it seems, but we all saw he played himself into shape during the season and got gassed late in games. With what Kawhi did in those last few games, Luka should have all the motivation in the world to eat right and spend extra hours in the gym. That's why his decision about helping the Slovenian National Team got to Tokyo is good news for Mavs fans.
Luka is 22 years old, so I don't want to hear any talk about rest and recovery. Playing for the Slovenian team will make sure he's staying in shape and working on his game - at this point in his career, that's more important than getting a few more weeks of rest.
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P.S. Hats off to Luka for making the decision to play for his country. No one could blame him if he chose to chill this summer. From Dražen Petrović to Manu Ginobili. and Dirk Nowitzki, international players, seldom missed playing for their national team.