UPDATE: It wasn't with the Mavericks, but Marcelo just got a contract with the Lakers. Congrats!
In the fall of 2000, a skinny, 5'11" Brazilian exchange student walked into the gym of the only high school in Coppell, a small suburb outside of Dallas, Texas. Then head coach Brad Chasteen had agreed to meet young man, but with his team all but set, did not have high expectations. His first play in a pick-up game with varsity and junior varsity players, Marcelo Huertas threw a 60 foot no-look bounce pass across the court which led to a layup. He made our team.
After he graduated, I lost track of Marcelo. I knew he had returned home and was playing professionally, but beyond that, details were scarce. Then in the spring of 2005, I saw his name as a potential late second round selection in the NBA Draft. But, the draft came and went without Marcelo's name being called. In the summer of 2007, with the U.S. playing in the FIBA Americas tournament, I caught what appeared to be Huertas laughing after a dead ball with Deron Williams, who we had played against back in high school. I still remember freaking out and calling our old high school coach. I knew Marcelo was pretty good, but I had no idea he was on the Brazilian national team. Since then, I've followed my friend's career closely, even getting to watch him play in person against Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James in a 2012 Olympic warm up game.
Now, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, Huertas is considering making the jump to the NBA. Since most casual fans are probably very unaware of Huertas, let's examine his professional career to date. After graduating in 2001, he returned home to Brazil and played two years professionally while also growing a few inches and adding muscle to his frame. In 2004, he joined the Spanish ACB league, playing for DKV Joventut and Bilbao Basket to 2004 from 2008. He then spent the '08-'09 season in Italian League before returning to ACB with Caja Laboral from 2009 to 2011. He's spent the last four years playing for ACB club FC Barcelona.
This can be stated with authority: Marcelo Huertas is a better player than Raymond Felton by a significant margin. He's a better pure point guard than J.J. Barea. He's the kind of player who can run an offense fully. There are many top foreign players who elect to play over seas for more money and bigger roles. Huertas is one of those players. That he's testing the NBA market now is simply a timing issue, not one related to talent or skill.
Fit with the Mavericks
Other than Jeremy Lin, there may not be a better pick and roll point guard left on the free agent market. At 6'3" and 185 pounds, Huertas is tall enough and strong enough to handle NBA quality defenders. He has excellent ball handling skills and the kind of floor vision that most American point guards lack. As a younger player he was occasionally seen as reckless, mostly because he'd attempt passes that other players couldn't begin to see. Pair these skills with Rick Carlisle's "flow" offense and there is the potential for an extremely efficient, hard-to-stop offense. Imagining Huertas running a pick and roll with DeAndre Jordan while having Dirk Nowitzki at the top of the key and Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews on the wings would dare defenses to pick their poison.
Shooting is a bit of a different story. Much like Lin, Huertas is a streaky shooter, particularly from three point range. His career stats paint a picture of a player who can hit the long ball, but goes through prolonged periods where his shot simply goes away. He's a strong driver though, and has a floater that's necessary for any point guard bold enough to get into the lane on the NBA level. With Dallas, Huertas would not be expected to score much; and with lanes open because of the aforementioned shooters and rim runner in Jordan, one could reasonably expect Huertas to be more than up to the task of stewarding the Dallas offense.
Defensively, he's not going to be excellent. In a league with lightning fast, powerful guards, having a top notch defensive answer usually means sacrificing something on the offensive end. But I believe Huertas will surprise teams with his agility and anticipation. He's fairly big and has good hands. Compared to Jameer Nelson he'll be more than a statue. With a player like DeAndre at his back I suspect he might even become a bit of a gambler.
Interestingly, I'm on an island when it comes to Huertas. You see his name precisely nowhere, primarily because he's not on the list of known quantities of NBA veterans. But here's the thing: outside of Jeremy Lin, there really isn't anyone better on the market capable of running an NBA offense. Mo Williams is too expensive and Lin may end up being as well. Huertas has made his money overseas and if he's truly interested in playing in the NBA, the Mavericks are the perfect fit. I suspect he'll be fielding two year offers with a player option worth $2-3 million per season.
Huertas is not a spring chicken, having spent a decade playing in the best non-NBA league on the planet. He's used to strong willed, smart coaches and would probably get along swimmingly with Rick Carlisle. He's played in big moments during his career and is the kind of point guard the Mavericks could regret passing on if he goes to another team in a bench capacity. If Jeremy Lin prices himself out of the market, Huertas is an option the Dallas Mavericks should consider immediately.
Huertas vs Team USA in 2012 (warm up game)
Pours in 32 vs Argentina