Nearly 30 free agents agreed to terms on Friday, the opening day of the offseason, and none of them were with the Mavericks. Although it wasn't for lack of trying, Dallas missed out emphatically on their top three targets and it was all downhill from there.
After missing out on the top free agent targets, the Mavericks' new plan is absorbing players through trade using their extra cap space. There are a few teams out there preparing contingency plans that include dumping an Andrew Bogut or a Tiago Splitter if they get good news, and as quickly as they'll need to get rid of contracts, Dallas might be able to be that partner simply by being the first team to raise their hand when asked.
There's a chance, if everything -- and I mean everything -- breaks right for Dallas, that Paul Millsap or Goran Dragic could be their prize here. But there's so many assumptions and lucky breaks needed to get there that are totally out of Dallas' hands, all while free agents continue signing, not worried about their perilous situation and probably actively avoiding it at this point. The front office has voluntarily taken themselves out of the offseason at this point. They've decided that completely on their own! They're going to throw Fourth of July parties all weekend, hoping another team gives them a call and gives them an impact player. There's a chance it works! But it's also the most passive action available, and there's literally nothing they can do to affect the outcome in one way or another.
That doesn't seem like good team building to me. And maybe it's their next best option, but only because they chose not to believe in the free agent valuations this summer that 29 other organizations did. It was a noble stance to take, refusing to throw give the Bazemores of the world $18 million, except we literally saw this play out in Game of Thrones. The noble approach gets Ned Stark's head cut off. You can't be an idealistic and set your own prices in a capitalistic market that will pass you by in an instant. And as Parsons scrolls through Yelp looking for the frattiest bars on Beale Street, the market very clearly has.
If the Mavericks do decide to try to sign some free agents, there are still some names left that could start for them right now, even if they have to pay some real cash.
1. Dwyane Wade
I bought it. Good job, Dwyane. I know that the meetings that Wade is threatening to set up with teams are likely posturing. I know that they are thinking-face-emoji suspicious, since they line up exactly with the time that Kevin Durant is supposed to make his decision that presumably isn't Miami and their cap space would be clear. But if the reports are true, and if the Heat really only offered him $10 million in negotiations -- that is, less money than Solomon Hill made this summer -- then I buy it. Wade is mad and really might leave the only team he has ever known.
The Mavericks are one of the four teams pursuing Wade, per Marc J. Spears. I think there's a one percent chance Wade would ever come to Dallas, a franchise that has used him as the punching bag for all of their 2006 anger going on a decade now. I really don't think they're interested beyond semantics. But he's the best player on the market that they have any sort of a chance at.
2. Harrison Barnes
... oh good gosh, Barnes is the second-best option available. Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Here's the thing: Barnes is a real NBA player with real NBA skills. He's a career 38 percent shooter behind the arc and he can defend three positions. He's supposed to make the max, a representation of how ridiculous this free agency period is, and he's a restricted free agent, so offer him significantly less than that and the Warriors might just match. But he's a good player to have if you can snag him at the right price. You'll hear a lot more interest in him about July 6, the last day of the moratorium, since restricted free agents can't really be signed until then.
3. Festus Ezeli
The same applies for Ezeli. There's a chance Ezeli is a Bad Basketball Player, more so than Barnes, who is at least decent. But Ezeli's playoff performances doesn't worry me as much as some people, since I'm not sure he was totally healthy. I'd be more convinced about him not passing a physical.
4. Marvin Williams
Williams is a really good stretch forward. He's not young, he'll cost a lot and he's probably headed back to Charlotte, but he's still available.
5. Eric Gordon
The biggest problem with Gordon is he's really pigeonholed into the shooting guard position, the only position Dallas has filled this offseason. You don't want Gordon as a key playmaker, and you don't want Wesley Matthews playing tons of small forward again, because then where does Justin Anderson get in? But the Mavericks have a great training staff, they're even better at reclamation projects and if they believe they could keep Gordon healthy, and convince him of that same thing, there's certainly room for him here.
6. Bismack Biyombo
Biyombo's price will be too high, most likely, for what the Mavericks want to pay. That's fine with me. Biyombo had a really good postseason, but there's a big question how sustainable that actually was. Is it $18 million per year sustainable, like Biyombo probably gets? Either way, he's definitely a starter, but maybe not much than that, and I understand if Dallas doesn't want to shell out that cash, because ...
7. Ian Mahinmi
... I personally prefer Mahinmi. The Mavericks are still trying to make the playoffs right now. Maybe they end up tanking, but that's still not their mindset, and the way they're able to pull together a 40-win roster is one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries among scientific communities. Mahinmi won't hurt you on offense and is a good defender, plus he has history here. He'll be an easier fit next to Dirk Nowitzki. If Dallas blows it up, then I take all this back, but I'm still under the impression that the Mavericks will figure something out and actively try to win next season.
8. Courtney Lee
Lee's a great role player, but he's old now (31 before next season) and expensive since he's so reliable. Still, the Mavericks have plenty of cap space.
9. Arron Afflalo
Even among the incredulous contracts being handed out, there's still a minor "buy low" factor with Afflalo to consider after a terrible year with the Knicks. At his best, he can easily outplay the Courtney Lee's of this world. But "at his best" might not be a thing in 2016 anymore.
10. Allen Crabbe
The best, youngest 3-and-D option on the market. As a result, one of the most expensive, and the Trail Blazers insist they'll match any offer since he's a restricted free agent.
11. Rajon Rondo
The Mavericks need to add some discounted talent, and one name that is being overlooke--
ha ha ha
ok I'm kidding on this one