Now that the smoke has cleared following the NBA trade deadline, it is time for the Dallas Mavericks to get back to work as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday at American Airlines Stadium.
Dallas was expected to go after a big man to augment the front and improve rebounding, which is exactly what the team did. The Dallas Express reported that the Mavs picked up fifth-year forward PJ Washington from the Charlotte Hornets and forward Daniel Gafford from the Washington Wizards.
Both players will add size and strength to the team and should be in a position to contribute defensively, one of the key areas the Mavs need to address if they have any hope of a deep playoff run this season.
Right now, the Mavs are sitting at eighth in the Western Conference and are a whopping seven games back from the division-leading Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder will take the court on Saturday just one-half game back from the Wolves and sitting pretty at the No.2 spot.
The matchup between these two teams is an excellent opportunity to get new players in sync, and Dallas will need to get production from their two big men. Luka Doncic has been on fire lately, and the return of Kyrie Irving from an injury has bolstered the team significantly. Still, they will continue to be without Dereck Lively II, who is out with a broken nose. Gafford and Washington should see playing time, but it is unclear how much they will be on the court.
“They are two different players, but with their size, they can help us,” Doncic said of his new teammates, per Sports Illustrated. “PJ [Washington] can shoot, block shots, and play defense, while Daniel [Gafford] can also block shots and protect us in the paint. I think those two are really going to help us.”
The Thunder are favored in the match, which tips off at 2 p.m. CT. CBS Sports recently wrote that the Thunder were “elite in basically every area.” The young team was a surprise contender last season and has used its ability to dominate the scoreboard this season to keep the winning happening.
Dallas has done its share of high-scoring efforts this season, and the addition of Washington and Gafford could quickly improve the defensive side of the game and add to rebounding, one of the few areas CBS said the Thunder are lacking. The new players could be involved in turning this match into the first upset of a busy Saturday in the NBA.