Grading what Mavericks did at the NBA Trade Deadline

The Dallas Mavericks moved up the Western Conference ladder at the NBA trade deadline

P.J. Washington, Daniel Gafford, Dallas Mavericks
P.J. Washington, Daniel Gafford, Dallas Mavericks / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks were active at the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline, swinging two major trades to land P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford. Neither came cheap, as Dallas sacrificed two first-round picks, Grant Williams, Seth Curry, and Richaun Holmes to get the job done.

It's too early for definitive takeaways, but the early returns are strong. In their Mavs debut on Saturday, both newcomers received extended opportunities. Washington notched 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 24 minutes. Gafford score 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in only 17 minutes, with nine rebounds and a block for good measure.

The Mavs absolutely hammered the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder, 146-111, in their most thorough victory of the season. A coincidence? Yeah, maybe, But it's definitely a positive start and a good indicator of what Washington and Gafford can bring to the table moving forward. Both figure to see their minutes increase in concert with their familiarity.

The final outgoing package for Washington was Grant Williams, Seth Curry, and the Mavs' 2027 first-round pick (top-two protected). In exchange for Gafford, the Mavs handed the Wizards Richaun Holmes and OKC's 2024 first-round pick, which was acquired in a separate trade centered on the Mavs' 2028 first-round pick swap.

NBA trade grades: Mavs upgrade frontcourt ahead of postseason push

Saturday's win was a reminder of how dominant the Mavs can be with Luka Doncic on the floor. He is a bonafide MVP candidate, and yet Dallas is only No. 8 in the West at 30-23. The standings are a little misleading — Dallas would be No. 6 in the weaker East — but the Mavs need to factor the strength of the West into their front office calculations.

Both Washington and Gafford address areas of need. In Washington, the Mavs get a legitimate 3-and-D forward with a deceptively broad skill set. In Gafford, the Mavs get another elite lob threat and rim protector to pair with Dereck Lively II on the depth chart.

The Mavs will probably end up starting Washington at the four spot before long. He's averaging 13.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists on .449/.323/.708 splits for the season. His 3-point efficiency has been in a lull this season, but we should anticipate positive regression. That is especially true since Washington gets to share the floor with Doncic and Kyrie Irving, who keep defenses plenty occupied in the middle of the floor.

For some, there's hesitation to endorse the Gafford trade precisely because he occupies a similar role as Lively. Both are built for success next to Doncic, and Gafford's explosive Mavs debut quieted a lot of critics. There's a strong chance Gafford pushes Lively's minutes down, but let's be frank. The Mavs need to focus on winning right now. Gafford is a more polished rim protector and a more experienced player overall. He is a stronger, safer bet to contribute in the playoffs, which is where Dallas' focus should be. At worst, Lively is still well positioned for success in a bench role. The idea that player development and playing time are directly correlated is simply not true. Lively will be fine.

It's a favorable contract situation for the Mavs. Washington re-upped with the Charlotte Hornets on a three-year, $46.5 million deal before the season. Gafford is also in the first year of his deal, which is worth $40.2 million over three years. Dallas gave up long-term flexibility, but there's no flight risk. Washington and Gafford — both 25 years old — can grow alongside Doncic and the Mavs' core on team-friendly contracts.

The P.J. Washington trade carries the most risk. Dallas was not fond of the Grant Williams experience, but a top-two protected 2027 first-round pick is quite valuable. Especially when Doncic can opt out of his contract after the 2025-26 season. If the Mavs can't appease Doncic and keep him around long-term, that pick could convey to Charlotte near the top of the lottery. That's a risk worth taking for starting-level impact, but the Mavs need to be wary about their future. The Gafford trade carries far less risk on the surface — it's a mediocre first-round pick in a mediocre draft and Richaun Holmes never cracked the rotation — but that 2024 pick was acquired at the cost of Dallas' 2028 first-round pick swap. So, the Mavs cannot afford to fall off a cliff in three years.

Washington's efficiency in a better team context merits close attention, but in today's NBA, there are only so many 6-foot-7 forwards who can defend multiple positions, hit 3s, bully mismatches in the post, or score facing up in the mid-range. Washington checks a ton of boxes and Dallas is a strong fit to maximize his talent.

Gafford will look better than ever next to Doncic. After toiling away for so long in Washington, he has a chance to really assert himself on the national stage with a winning franchise.

Grade: B+

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