With a week yet until the NBA draft lottery, it’s very clear that the day dreaming of the off-season is taking a toll. Other than think and project out about them myriad of options ahead of the Dallas Mavericks this summer, we hardly have anything else to talk about. So understanding that and knowing full well how much things could change next week, the staff formed some coherent thoughts on what we’d like the Mavericks to do in July.
While there’s still a lot that could change, it’s colloquially accepted that the Mavericks will have around $30 million in cap space to sign free agents. Assuming that number is right and free agency started tomorrow what would you like them to do?
Sam: After waffling on my stance, I’m settling on the decision that I’d like the Mavericks to chase Kemba Walker. I understand that the Mavericks are more than one piece away, but adding a player of Walker’s caliber significantly increases the team’s chances of making the playoffs, and that should be the first goal.
Acquiring Walker would do two things. First, it would make the Mavericks even more lethal than they’re projected to be on offense. Walker is coming off a season averaging nearly 26 points and six assists and can score with and without the ball (Per NBA.com/stats, Walker has shot 41.4 percent on spot-up threes over the past four seasons). Second, acquiring Walker shows Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis that the team will do what it takes to add top-tier talent, which is becoming increasingly more important in this NBA landscape. When teams are good, it’s easier to add quality role players, finding the needle-moving talent is the hard part.
Kirk: Considering I’m the type of person to get unreasonably testy when arguing a basketball opinion, I’m oddly ambivalent about their possible courses of action. As I watch the playoffs, I’m more and more struck by the sheer importance of star power. While there are certainly important role players (think PJ Tucker), when making a playoff push a team’s top end talent is the most important factor. So the pursuit of someone like Kemba Walker makes a lot of sense to me simply because he’s the most talented player on the market who is reportedly interested in Dallas. But if you’ve watched the last few seasons of Maverick basketball, it can often feel like they struggle to field a team of actual NBA level talent. Spreading that cap space to acquire a few starting level pieces makes a lot of sense. After all, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are star players in their own right.
At the moment either approach would satisfy me. I have a lot of faith in the front office, since it’s the same people who traded for Luka and KP. They deserve a little faith for now.
Doyle: The Mavs will have $52.2 million in cap space this summer if they renounce all of their holds and exemptions. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team went this route just to free up as much cash as possible. This summer is about more than roster stability--something the Mavericks don’t actually care about at all given their history. It’s about convincing Kristaps Porzingis to sign for more than a qualifying offer. Right now, he takes up the lion’s share of Dallas cap space to the tune of $17.1 million. That’s about where any kind of max deal he’s offered will start, prior to annual raises, of course. The Mavs will need to lock him in and do it fast, like minutes after midnight EST on July 1. Do that and then they can start worrying about the rest.
I won’t get into who the Mavs should be chasing in free agency. There are plenty of rumors out there, and for now, I don’t think that they carry much weight. Dallas will kick the tires on any free agent willing to sit down and listen to their elevator pitch. What the Mavs need is shooters and talent. If they can land a big name player in free agency--history suggests otherwise--then great. But they should be looking for players that fit with Porzingis and Luka Doncic and not ones that may otherwise detract from them.
That said, Dallas will need to look at players from its roster this season that it wants to retain. There is talk that the team will offer a new, extended contract to Dwight Powell, who is set to make $10.3 million if he opts into the final year of his contract. Then there are guys like J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, and Dorian Finney-Smith, who have been with the organization for multiple years and are unrestricted free agents. What will become of them? Will Dallas ditch their veterans for a youth movement and offer a contract to Trey Burke to fill a backup guard spot? Will Finney-Smith get the payday he deserves?
There are a lot of questions this summer. But the priority is signing Porzingis (that could change given his legal issues). Pairing him and Doncic for years to come is the organizations best hope to return to relevance and spark the post-Dirk era. If they can do that, then everything else should fall into place, regardless of who the team lands in free agency this summer.
Josh: If you’ve followed my writing for any considerable amount of time, you know what my answer is: ignore the big names, focus on B and C level free agents and start building around Luka like teams are supposed to build around LeBron: shooters and defenders.
I’m not against the idea of going for a name like Kemba, because the Mavs talent level certainly needs that boost. As wonderful as it is that the Mavs have KP and Luka, there is a big drop off from those two. So I get it. If Kemba is realistic, the Mavs should pursue and I’ll have to watch with gritted teeth.
But my dream is Patrick Beverley and spend that Kemba money on some smaller pieces elsewhere, whoever that can be. Beverley almost feels like he was built in a lab to play with Luka -- he’s a fantastic shooter and a great defender at the 1 and 2. Luka is the Mavs point guard but he can’t guard them, so Beverley really feels like the perfect fit, not need the ball on offense, able to space the floor and guard the smaller guards Luka will never be able to. Do that and sign maybe another wing like Danny Green, Malcom Brogdon, or maybe even Bojan Bogdanovic and the Mavs will be vastly improved without having to worry about any max contracts to jump through, aside from Porzingis.
Mainly though, the Mavs just need to land one of those two options. Either sign the big talent like a Kemba, or disperse that money among cheaper but useful role players. If the Mavs roll into this off-season with minimal changes because they struck out on the big names and the ones below that level got snapped up while the Mavs were star chasing, it’ll be a disaster. I like Dorian Finney-Smith, Justin Jackson, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell and Jalen Brunson but if three of those players are starting in October, the Mavs are in big, big trouble.