How the Mavericks' win-now trade deadline deals make them dark horse contenders

PJ Washington (left), Kyrie Irving (middle), and Daniel Gafford (right) vs Oklahoma City
PJ Washington (left), Kyrie Irving (middle), and Daniel Gafford (right) vs Oklahoma City / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

This year's deadline was relatively quiet until roughly 60 hours were left in the trading period, when activity ramped up. A few teams were aggressive at the deadline, whether it was selling or buying. The Dallas Mavericks were among the more aggressive teams in acquiring talent that would "take them over the hump" in a stacked Western Conference.

Below is a deeper analysis of each Mavericks' move and why the Mavericks have become a dark horse contender post-trade deadline. Currently eighth in the Western Conference as of this article, the Mavs have positioned themselves to withstand injuries and a lengthy journey toward the playoffs this season. Dallas has struggled in spurts, filling the void of injuries to Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic this season.

However, acquiring players to fill their weaknesses and deepen their rotation has given Dallas life and the ability to play deep into the playoffs, with added length, versatility, defense, and shooting coming their way.

Mavs acquire versatile forward PJ Washington from Charlotte

Mavs acqure PJ Washington

The Mavs slightly overpaid for a player who's not significantly better than Grant Williams but has been far more productive. A career 13-point per game scorer, Washington has the ability to be a microwave off the bench for Dallas, both as a standard power forward and as a stretch center in small-ball lineups.

Considering Williams' contract versus production (8 PPG, 41% FG, 38% 3-pointers), his time in Dallas was deservingly short-lived, as Dallas upgrades their frontcourt for the rest of this season. Seth Curry rarely saw minutes this season, sending him away with a first-round restore to Dallas' future cap space.

The move also gives the Mavericks another potentially lethal secondary scoring option in non-Luka or non-Kyrie minutes, especially when either player is potentially missing time with an injury. Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, and Jaden Hardy have been bright spots this season as supporting guards to Dallas' dynamic duo, but they've lacked depth in the frontcourt all season. This trade for Washington gives Dallas stability in that position group, especially if Dereck Lively II goes down with another injury.

Mavs snag Washington 's Gafford for "next-to-nothing"

Mavs acquire Daniel Gafford from Washington

Dallas was also able to acquire one of the most underrated players in the league from a rebuilding Wizards team trying to clear cap space, obtain picks, and build for the future. Gafford has become one of the NBA's most under-the-radar players, largely due to being one of the worst teams in the league for several seasons. However, this could be the move that puts Dallas over the top.

Oklahoma City entered this trade when Washington wanted better (I'd argue sooner) draft compensation for Gafford's services. They're the third team that ultimately completed this trade in its entirety, so it's a better return for Washington than what initially would have been a future first rounder with uncertainty attached to it. Overall, the trade is definitely a win for Dallas, as they bring in a player who'll consistently be in their rotation for the foreseeable future, and his impact will be instant.

Gafford is in the midst of a career season, averaging 11 points, eight rebounds, over two blocks, and one steal per game. Gafford is also shooting near 70% from the field, leading the NBA in FG% at 68.2%.

His new teammate, rookie big man Dereck Lively II, is shooting 74% from the field, which would lead the league if he qualified. With Gafford set to start while Lively deals with an injury, Dallas has a dynamic "one-two" punch at center as they look to trek through the rest of the season.

Overall, Dallas was one of the bigger deadline winners, acquiring some premier secondary talent and role players at a relatively cheaper price than usual. For lack of better wording, Dallas was able to take advantage of two surefire lottery teams, accomplishing it in a way that helps them compete this year.