Much has been made recently about the definition of failure in the NBA. Whether a team has a successful season or not is open to debate, but one thing is certain: only one team gets to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the year.
The other 29 teams, in the simplest sense of the word, are technically considered failures. Franchises can have moral victories or surprise seasons. But ultimately, a team’s number one goal is to win a championship and only one gets to wear the crown.
A lack of success can lead to pressure mounting within a franchise. Are the players not gelling? Is it a coaching issue? How serious and what level of changes need to be made? Should nothing change at all? These are all questions that go through the minds of NBA front office executives who find themselves the bridesmaids following the season’s conclusion.
While we are still knee-deep in the playoffs, some of that pressure is already mounting on some notable franchises. Whether it’s teams with high expectations going into the year that had to settle for courtside seats on their couch or play-in tournament teams that expected more, the pressure is undeniable and escalating.
This is a make-or-break year for many NBA front offices. Franchises want to win now. If a contender can’t be built, tough questions will become the norm for these five franchises.
1. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks decided to push all of their chips to the center of the table with the acquisition of Kyrie Irving at last year’s trade deadline; unfortunately, going all-in doesn’t always guarantee success.
For Irving’s talents, the Mavericks gave up Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and three draft picks, including an unprotected 2029 first-round pick. That’s a hefty price to pay, only to go 8-12 with Irving in the line-up.
Things got so bad for Dallas that they decided to push their chips in the other direction in the hopes of a high lottery pick. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Much like a future entry on this list, the Mavericks were on top of the world following a Western Conference finals run last season. Luka Doncic looked like a bonafide superstar and it didn’t look like anything could stop this team.
However, after an unceremonious 38-44 year amounting to the 11th-best record in the West, the pressure is boiling for the Mavericks. Kyrie could very well leave this offseason; Luka could get unhappy and request a trade. Everything rides on these upcoming decisions.
The Mavericks and general manager Nico Harrison must do everything they can to ensure no stone is left unturned in the hopes of building a championship-level roster around Doncic.
Their first order of business: have some lottery luck. If the ping pong ball bounces the right way, the Mavericks could be set for years and this past season could be viewed as an anomaly. It’s just a matter of making the right pick (which is easier said than done).
Once that’s taken care of, the roster may very well need to be gutted. Dallas simply doesn’t have enough depth or defensive prowess to compete consistently. The team also needs secondary scorers. Doncic should never be expected to score 40 every night. Dallas must find a way to take the load off of his shoulders.
If these questions can’t be answered, the Mavericks could very well stare down the barrel of a Doncic trade request.