This is the first time fans have had this feeling since the 2012-13 season, and even though the Mavericks lost more games this season, it was a lot more fun than having to watch a starting lineup that included Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman (If anyone tries to tell you this year was worse, they're WRONG).
To give Mavs fans a little extra something to look forward to as we watch the next few weeks, let’s talk about some pending free agents to keep an eye on as the postseason progresses.
Blake Griffin (Unrestricted, Player Option)
Before we get started, for this to even be a possibility at all, assume Griffin declines his $21.4 million player option for the 2017-18 season. Obviously, this would be a major long shot for the Mavs, but given the current state of the Los Angeles Clippers (no Western Conference Finals appearances in the CP3 era so far), Dallas’ front office could at least call Griffin’s agent to see if there’s any interest whatsoever.
If the Clippers can’t make it out of the second round this year again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Blake Griffin and/or Chris Paul leave in free agency. The Clippers will face a tough Utah Jazz team in the first round, and if they manage to outlast that, it’s more than likely that the Golden State Warriors will be waiting for them in the second round.
At 28 years old, Griffin is currently in his prime. He averages 21.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for his career. When he first entered the league, the only thing he was really good at was dunking — but Griffin is a much improved jump shooter now, and that should benefit him well as he ages.
Even if Dallas managed to pique Griffin’s interest, there would be a lot of salary cap hoops to jump through, assuming he wants a full max contract (he will). The Mavs’ first priority this summer will be securing Nerlens Noel long-term, but if they know Griffin wants to sign with them, they would almost have to try to make room for both players.
Whether Dallas gets involved or not, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Clippers this offseason. If Griffin has no interest in the Mavs, blame J.J. Barea.
Serge Ibaka (Unrestricted)
I’ve always thought Serge Ibaka would be a great fit with Dallas. Ibaka started to shoot more jumpers (threes especially) after getting owned by Dirk in that 2011 Western Conference Finals series. Of course, he’s not as good at it as the Big German is, but his 39.1 percent shooting from deep this season is really good for a big man.
At 27 years old, Ibaka is still in his prime, and playing for Rick Carlisle could be one of the best things to ever happen to him. This season, Ibaka averaged 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Carlisle would be able to run a lot of the same plays for Ibaka that he’s used to running for Dirk.
In my opinion, Ibaka won’t ever be a first or second option for any team, but he could be a heck of a good piece to the puzzle going forward. If the Mavs were able to make this work financially, wouldn’t you much rather have Ibaka on the roster than Dwight Powell? I know I would.
Jeff Teague (Unrestricted)
If the Mavs can’t find their point guard of the future in the NBA Draft, then Jeff Teague is a guy that I wouldn’t be surprised to see wearing a Mavs uniform next season.
After making $8 million this past season, Teague will more than likely be looking for a significant raise. I haven’t heard if the Mavs are interested in Teague, but if they aren’t gifted a future franchise point guard on draft night, I’d expect Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson to dig further into this possibility. Jrue Holiday will be another point guard that Dallas will potentially look at in free agency. However, since the Pelicans aren’t in the playoffs, we won’t go in depth there just yet.
You can check out what Jeff Teague has to offer as the Pacers take on the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
Otto Porter (Restricted)
In the last year of his rookie contract, Otto Porter had a career season with the Washington Wizards, as he averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Not only that, but Porter also blossomed into one of the NBA’s best perimeter shooters this season as well, shooting 43.4 percent from deep on the year. Had he converted on 7 percent more of his free throws, he would've posted a 50/40/90 season.
The point is, this guy is good, and at only 23 years old, he’s only going to get better.
As far as fit, Porter would continue the youth movement and hopefully continue to trend upward with the Mavs. However, if Dallas were to sign the 6’8” small forward, they would probably be committing to Harrison Barnes playing at power forward long-term. Or, since Porter’s shooting numbers would allow him to play shooting guard as well, imagine this hypothetical lineup: Draft Pick Point Guard (or Yogi Ferrell/Seth Curry), Porter, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel.
No matter how much Dallas likes Porter, Washington will be able to match any offer he receives this summer, since he’s restricted. Like all the other potential targets in this piece, it would take some salary cap juggling by the Mavs to make this work. The first step would be to decline Dirk’s $25 million team option for next season, then possibly trade players like Wesley Matthews or Dwight Powell to clear up additional space.
Another key factor is just how much money Noel is going to make this offseason. Like Washington with Porter, Dallas will be able to match any offer that Noel receives. The Wizards have given every indication that they will match any offer for Porter, but regardless, I think this is a scenario worth looking at.