There is an overwhelmingly jubilant vibe in the air that is still lingering one week after the Mavericks made a NBA Draft night trade to bring Luka Doncic to Dallas.
The Mavs’ front office has been criticized over the years for their lack of interest in the draft and failed attempts to lure free agents, and rightfully so. However, Donnie Nelson and company deserve a ton of credit for knocking these last two drafts out of the park. Dennis Smith Jr. last year and Doncic this year? Those are foundational pieces that could finally make Dallas an attractive free agency destination.
It feels like we tell ourselves this every year, but with this summer really could be the dream offseason the Mavs have been patiently waiting for. And the Mavs do have a glaring hole in the roster where a big free agent could make a huge difference. You guessed it — it’s at center.
These have been the Mavs’ starting centers every year since the title: Brendan Haywood (2012), Chris Kaman (2013), Samuel Dalembert (2014), Tyson Chandler (2015), Zaza Pachulia (2016), Andrew Bogut (2017), and I guess you can now throw Nerlens Noel into this group. It’s an especially underwhelming list when you consider that many of them were back-up plans to failed attempts to lure guys like Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside.
If free agency is the route Dallas wants to go, they have a couple “big name” choices. They could throw money at DeMarcus Cousins, testing the New Orleans Pelicans’ willingness to pay him after he tore his Achilles this past season. In these situations, it almost always comes down to money, but if Cousins likes the idea of being a franchise centerpiece in Dallas, along with the Mavs touting one of the best training staffs in the league, maybe there could be more to it than money in Cousins’ decision making.
Clint Capela is another intriguing name that Dallas could chase. Although I think the Houston Rockets will match any offer sheet he signs (Capela is a restricted free agent), the idea of pairing a 23-year-old floor-running, rebounding, shot-blocking, lob-catching big man with Smith Jr. and Doncic is almost euphoric, and it’s one of the better outcomes the Mavs’ could dream of this summer, especially since he fits Smith Jr. and Doncic’s timeline better. The Rockets reportedly have eyes for LeBron James this summer, so maybe if Dallas hits Capela with big money right off the bat, Houston flinches. If anything, you’d force your division rival to pay a premium price to keep their guy.
A big downside to this scenario is that it could tie up the Mavs’ cap space for three days, if the Rockets take their full allotted time to decide whether to match, potentially leading to Dallas missing out on some other free agents.
The DeAndre Jordan situation is one that I believe is worth keeping an eye on. He’s not a free agent, at least not yet. Jordan has the option to opt in to the last year of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, worth $24 million. If he does opt in, it would make a lot of sense for the Mavs to pursue a trade for Jordan. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, that’s exactly what’s being considered right now:
One source described a Jordan-to-Dallas trade as a "long shot" ... but the fact it's on the board is the strongest indication yet that the sides are willing to engage again after Jordan's about-face in 2015 free agency when he committed to the Mavs and then went back to the Clips https://t.co/RtYuckP40H— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 26, 2018
Yes, Jordan completely screwed the Mavs over in 2015, but those hard feelings would diminish the first time either Smith Jr. or Doncic throws him an alley-oop that is flushed down hard.
I think Jordan would be an ideal scenario for the Mavs, not because Jordan fits the rebuild timeline, but Dallas would finally have a dominant center to help them try to make the playoffs next season, while only being on the hook for one season of Jordan’s services. So if it doesn’t work out, you cut your losses and move on. Another reason I like this is because by trading for Jordan, the Mavs would retain some cap space to go after some other pieces to fill out the roster, assuming that Wesley Matthews and possibly even Dwight Powell head back to Los Angeles in a deal.
Cousins, Capela and Jordan are just three of the bigger center names on the market, but the point is, Dallas finally has a golden opportunity to get themselves a franchise center this summer.