The Mavericks are months away from free agency, but like every year, the foundation for what will happen this summer is beginning to take place. Behind the scenes, whispers are exchanged, players talk with one another and executives prepare strategies long before the playoffs even begin. Dallas knows they have little chance of beating their first round opponent, particularly if they fall to the seventh seed. Planning for the offseason is just smart business.
You don't need sources to realize the Mavericks will be interested in Houston center Dwight Howard. Dallas is still upset they missed out on DeAndre Jordan, but Howard is a similar player -- older and injury prone, of course, but a high-flying pick-and-roll threat nonetheless who appears to have several good years left. The Houston Rockets are massively underperforming this season after finishing with the No. 2 seed and reaching the Western Conference Finals last year, which might indicate a desire to shake up the roster. Plus, Howard shares an agent, Dan Fegan, with the Mavericks' star recruiter Chandler Parsons. Fegan and Mark Cuban are also friends.
USA Today's Sam Amick reported Wednesday that Howard will likely opt out of his $23.2-million player option to pursue a maximum contract come July. With the salary cap rising, a max contract for Howard would begin at $31.5 million in the first year and increase rapidly from there, paying him slightly more than $40 million when Howard is 35. The Rockets still see "as a vital part of their core" and "want to re-sign him," a source told Amick. But as of right now, Amick says, neither the Rockets nor the Mavericks are prepared to offer him the maximum contract he desires.
The Rockets will have about $45.5 million in cap space, but re-signing Howard to the max could hinder their ability to pursue Kevin Durant. The Mavericks could have more than $40 million before dealing, but the situation is incredibly fluid depending on Parsons' and Deron Williams' player options (both likely declined) and subsequent cap holds.
The offseason is still a long ways away. Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard's friendship has been "rekindled" and Parsons said he would love to play with Howard again.
"For sure," Parsons told Amick. "I'm talking to him (routinely), obviously, and we share the same agent with Dan Fegan ... Obviously I have a really close relationship with Dwight and one year wasn't enough playing with him in Houston. I was a big reason why he went there, so I'll have to revisit that when the time is appropriate. The relationship I had with him, and making him feel comfortable, that was big (in Houston)."
It's highly unlikely Parsons would talk on the record about players he's actively recruiting, so take that potentially out-of-context quote with a grain of salt. Still, come on, it's still probably true. Parsons knows he needs a pick-and-roll threat to reach his full potential, something the hard-working and well-intentioned Zaza Pachulia simply cannot provide. With Pachulia on an expiring deal anyway, it's very likely Dallas moves on from him this offseason in an attempt to secure a center who fits the pick-and-roll heavy offense that Carlisle prefers.
If free agency began now, Dwight Howard arriving in Dallas would seem unlikely. But with five months to go, just about anything could happen. The Mavericks clearly are interested in him, even though he's past his prime, and Parsons' has proven to be an able negotiator. Plus, Fegan owes Cuban a favor after the disaster DeAndre Jordan turned into. This is far from the end of this saga.