There is a calming, soothing comfort in knowing the Mavericks have 20-year-old Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and 23-year-old All-Star Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks have a youthful foundation unlike anything they’ve had in decades. With the trade of Harrison Barnes this past February, the Mavericks seemed ready to move past rebuilding and reload the roster around their two young cornerstones.
But with NBA free agency less than 48 hours old (to be fair), there hasn’t been much clarity about their strategy at all.
In the time since Sunday afternoon, the Mavericks have made one new move — smartly acquiring Seth Curry for a four year, $32 million deal. Other than that, it’s mostly silence and re-signing their own free agents. The current rumor is the Mavericks are waiting on Kawhi Leonard to make his decision and if he picks the Lakers then Danny Green will likely come to Dallas.
When reports came out before free agency started that the Mavericks weren’t interested in star chasing, but going after the strong mid-tier class, it was a sigh of relief that the Mavericks had a plan, were ready to surround Luka and Porzingis with the stable core and make the next steps to becoming a winning team.
So I ask, what was the plan? The Mavericks had a confusing trade with Miami fall through on Sunday night and then signed no one. As names flew off the board Sunday night and into Monday morning, it was hard to tell what exactly the Mavericks were hoping to do. Useful perimeter players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Terrence Ross, Jeremy Lamb, J.J. Redick and Patrick Beverley. Bigs that could pair well with Porzingis like Thaddeus Young, Derrick Favors or Dewayne Dedmon. By the time the Mavericks reached a deal with Curry, just about every sensible free agent target was off the board.
Dallas has rebounded well, considering the circumstances. They always do. The pivoted well when Deron Williams picked the Nets, trading for Darren Collison. They moved swiftly after Dwight Howard jaunted down to Houston by grabbing Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis. Instead of chasing Carmelo Anthony, Dallas moved on and grabbed Chandler Parsons. After striking out on Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside, the Mavs scooped up Harrison Barnes. Every summer the Mavericks scramble and scramble well. If Danny Green comes on board, they’ll have done it again.
But why does every Mavericks free agency period have to be so dependent on other moves falling before they can strike?
Dallas decided to not wait on stars this year and ending up targeting the one mid-tier role player (Green) who is waiting....on a star. The Mavericks have Luka and Porzingis, yes, but the rest of their roster is very much in the air. Go get a Ross, Lamb or Redick to pair with Curry to supercharge your offense. Go all in on Bogdanovic to craft a powerful shooting trio.
The problem remains that the Mavericks very much have the roster of a 33-win team behind their two stars — with Luka on his rookie deal, the ability to go over the cap while re-signing Porzingis, it felt like the perfect time to splurge on a gaggle of good role players. Curry is one! Waiting on Green (who would be a fantastic fit), while the rest of the market has effectively dried up, seems puzzling. Are the Mavericks incapable of making a free agency decision on their own? Must they always be beholden to someone else making another decision for another team? It muddies the picture on what the Mavericks actual plan was. There are shades of breaking up the title team over what Mark Cuban thought was the right move under a new CBA. The Mavericks are the smartest guys in the room, until they aren’t. It’s odd how a majority of NBA teams were ready for the fast pace on Sunday, yet the Mavericks were not.
Obviously, we’re still early on. But if the Mavericks don’t secure Green, what is this team? Do the Mavericks believe Luka and Porzingis, two players that haven’t played on a winning NBA team yet, think they’re ready to make the leap with a mostly inexperienced NBA roster? Never underestimate Dallas’ ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat during this time of year, but I wish they didn’t have to.
Here are some other stray thoughts on free agency bouncing through my head:
- We are absolutely not getting the full story on the Mavericks failed trade with the Miami Heat. The Mavericks are insistent that the trade was always supposed to be Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr. but, as cap experts pointed out, that trade wouldn’t work because Miami would still be short on clearing the cap to move out Jimmy Butler. Why the hell would Dallas make one of their priority plans to start free agency be to get a backup rotation big that’s owed $23 million over the next two seasons and a raw prospect? It doesn’t make any sense. It makes even less sense when you consider Dallas-based reporters initially had the trade with Dragic and Dragic’s agent Bill Duffy saying the Mavericks pulled out because they decided they didn’t want Dragic’s cap hit this summer in lieu of other deals. Dragic makes sense — he fills a position of needs and is a friend/mentor to Doncic. Olynyk and Jones makes none. My guess is the Mavericks are trying to save face and not admit they pulled out on a deal to appeal to Duffy, who is also Doncic’s agent. What’s really funny though is that the Mavericks are now insisting they wanted to do the bad trade instead of the good trade and that looked even more wonky when the Heat ended up doing the trade anyway, but with the LA Clippers instead. The Clippers, for their cooperation, got a future first round pick and a serviceable wing in Moe Harkless, who is also expiring. So if the Mavericks version of events is actually true, it means that instead of getting a somewhat useful expiring wing and a first round pick, they were going to get a rotation big owed money next season and a raw prospect. I refuse to believe the Mavericks are that dumb. There is no way. Everything about this trade snafu stinks, whether the Mavericks decided to ultimately pass on Dragic for their continued belief that the grass is always greener or if the Mavericks were the dumbest team in the NBA and wanted two blah players and no useful assets for helping the Heat get Jimmy Butler.
- I’ve been getting a lot of heat on Twitter for my criticism of the Mavericks off-season and I’m struggling to see how what the Mavericks are doing is good, compared to the alternatives. Apparently guys like Redick, Lamb and Ross are overpaid “wow” signings? What it is going on! These are quality players with warts, just like every other mid-tier guy. Newsflash: Here’s the Mavericks roster post All-Star break to finish the season, sorted by made three pointers per game:
- Don’t tell me that someone like Ross or Lamb wouldn’t be a sight for sore eyes with this group. The Mavericks won 33-games last season and as good as Doncic and Porzingis are, that record happened for a reason. The Mavericks need good players! Good players cost money! A player like Ross might not be good at a lot, but he made 38 percent of his threes on seven attempts per game last year. Lamb isn’t an All-Star, but he was quietly the Hornets second best player for most of last season. Redick is slowing down, but he’s still deadly from deep, has extensive playoff experience and would be a good presence in the locker room. The Mavericks simply need good guys (even if they have flaws), which is why I’m so baffled about how much they’ve sat out free agency so far.
- Switching gears to what the Mavericks have done — the deals for Maxi Kleber (4-years, $33-$35 million) and Dwight Powell (3-years, $33 million) were remarkable. Powell is good, I don’t care what you say! His rim-running and quick feet will be useful playing next to Porzingis, even if the Mavericks are a little light in the paint. Kleber had a low-key (for non-Mavs) great season and if his three-point shooting can even out and be consistent, he’ll easily overplay his contract. Powell, Kleber and Jalen Brunson were the only non-Luka Mavs I felt from last season that should definitely stick around for the long haul. Glad that’s settled!
- We have little birdies that tell us Mavs people read the site and listen to our podcasts. But jeez, Mavs, don’t make it so obvious next time. Basically, y’all are welcome for Seth Curry. You can have that one for free.
- Seriously though, everything about the Curry signing is wonderful. His annual number is fair for the shooting he brings, it’s a very trade-able contract and the four years means the Mavericks are finally committing to more role players to try and keep some continuity for their young superstars. Curry shot 26-of-53 (49 percent) from the corners last season. It’s a dream shooting fit next to Luka, who will be feeding him all season. Plus, Curry has some defensive chops despite his smaller frame. He was never someone the Mavericks had to worry about on that end of the floor during his one season of play. Here’s the most wild stat from Curry’s first stint in Dallas — ff the Mavericks four most played lineups that season, Curry was in three of them. All three were net-positives, according to NBA.com/stats. For a team that won 33 games, that is absolutely remarkable.
- I’m at the point of the off-season where I’m pulling up Marcus Morris’ basketball reference page and talking myself into some things. There are definitely worse options as a forward to pair next to Luka right now, even if this past season was a contract year for Morris.
- It is absolutely wild to me that the Mavericks main free agent target, Danny Green, is still someone they have to wait out a star decision for. Green was the only free agent the Mavericks were reported to contact on Sunday, so of course their ability to sign him has nothing to do with the Mavericks, but the whims of a superstar free agent. Time is a flat circle, the more things change, yadda, yadda.
- Do not underestimate the ability of the Mavericks to pull a remarkable trade out of their asses and make me look like a moron in the next two weeks. The Tyson Chandler trade in 2014 came out of nowhere, much like the Porzingis one. Chances are perhaps less for another wild card trade, if only because the Mavericks have two future first rounders tied up from the Porzingis trade. If the Mavericks can’t get Green, they’re going to have around $20-$22 million in cap space still, even with the Curry signing. Maybe they spin that into gold through a trade. Who knows. They’ve done stuff like this before.