Southwest Notes: Doncic, Jones, Irving, Murphy

Thanks to the help of perhaps his most talented supporting cast thus far, Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic has made the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three years, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic.

The Mavericks rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half of a Game 6 clash at home, ultimately beating the Thunder by a single point, 117-116, to clench their second-round series.

The team’s cadre of talented new bigs, led by 25-year-old Daniel Gafford, 20-year-old rookie lottery pick Dereck Lively, and 25-year-old P.J. Washington, has had an outsized impact on its run this spring. Dallas also seems likely to be able to further grow in the coming years. Among the team’s rotation pieces, only 32-year-old Kyrie Irving and Maxi Kleber are older than 28.

All Dallas’ key rotation players are under contract long-term, with the exception of forward Derrick Jones Jr., who’s averaging 10.8 points (on .510/.375/.684 shooting), 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 assists per game across 12 postseason contests thus far — all starts. He scored a critical 22 points in Game 6 and helped the club close out the series with some clutch buckets in the second half.

Jones and his agent recently suggested to Cato that they’d like to work out a new deal with the Mavs above the veteran’s minimum this summer. Dallas will only hold the forward’s Non-Bird rights, limiting the team’s ability to offer a raise.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd supports the notion that Doncic has major confidence in this year’s supporting cast, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “He’s one of the best players in the world, but sometimes we lose sight that it’s not just built [around Doncic],” Kidd said. “One guy can’t get you there. You need a team. Right now, he’s got a team that he believes in.”
  • The collaboration and connection between the Mavericks’ star backcourt of Doncic and Irving has improved both players’ games, a fact of which they’re keenly aware, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). “He helped me mature a lot and realize how to see the game in a different way,” Doncic said. “On the court, it’s amazing to play with a guy like him. I go out there and enjoy.” For his part, the well-traveled Irving says he has enjoyed watching Doncic blossom: “I think this guy next to me has pushed me to continue to work on my game and continue to develop as a young leader. I think the big word that we both can agree on is maturity. Coming into Dallas, I was dealing with a lot mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. They embraced me with open arms.”
  • Pelicans swingman Trey Murphy impressed with some extended run this season. Still on his rookie scale contract for now, he’ll be eligible for a contract extension when the 2024/25 league year officially begins on July 1. Christian Clark of speculates about what Murphy’s next deal could look like. “Obviously, we are going to try to do what’s best for me and the Pelicans,” Murphy said. “I hope we can get something done. At the end of the day, it’s not about money. I just want to play basketball. Hopefully, we can get something done.”
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