You could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve seen all there is to see from the Mavs at this point in the offseason. The free agency feeding frenzy is over, the summer league has come and gone; all that’s left now is the waiting. Oh, the waiting.
Well, hold on, now. I’m no mathematician, but I do believe an NBA roster holds 15 players, and a quick perusal of the Mavs books shows that we have only 14 players under contract. That leaves one spot open for an unheralded (VERY unheralded), potentially (but probably not), game changing (for the Legends, maybe) addition to the roster.
Okay, the 15th man off the bench will likely not make a huge difference for the Mavericks in the win/loss column this season, but after a free agency period that left many with max-cap-sized whiplash, the player you want occupying that seat on the bench next to assistant coach Stephen Silas is a good psychological barometer to how you’re feeling this next season is going to go. So let’s take a look at some of the candidates.
Josh Reaves - 6’5” SG, Rookie - “If we sign another small guard I will jump out of a window.”
Reaves is Dallas’s latest undrafted free agent experiment. He has good size and optimistically projects as a 3&D guard. A four-year player from Penn who won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, he’s a solid defender and good athlete who — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — needs to develop his jump shot to have a chance in the NBA.
Those who watched him play in the Mavericks Summer League games have reasonable grounds for optimism with regards to Reaves, who at times looked like one of the best players on a Mavs team that was blowing out other summer league squads.
Despite their long and storied shortcomings during the draft, the Mavs have proven to possess some keen eyes for undrafted talent. As a matter of fact, 3 undrafted players (Finney-Smith, Barrea, Kleber) grace the Mavs roster as we speak. In the preview we got during the summer league, Reaves has all the markings of being the next Mavericks UFA project. That’s in addition to the defensive potential he showed in college that would make him an ideal backcourt partner to a less defensively-viable backup point guard. Like, say, a 5’11”, 35-year-old coming off an Achilles tear.
Isaiah Roby - 6’ 8” Forward, Rookie, 45th overall pick - “P O S I T I O N L E S S Basketball is the future.”
Without their first round pick, all hopes for this year’s draft hung on the Mavericks’ second round, 37th overall pick. Which, in true Mavs fashion, they traded out of, back to pick 45, where they selected Roby (who, according to the front office, is the guy they wanted all along anyway).
Despite a finger injury, Roby showed out well during summer league as a highly athletic player who does a lot of things without excelling at one thing specifically, but will absolutely throw down a monster dunk if you give him a chance.
With all the chatter throughout the league about how basketball is now positionless™, you could do worse than a guy who can put it on the floor a little, shoot a little, pass a little, rebound a little, and play anything from the wing to possibly even a small-ball five.
Antonius Cleveland - 6’6” SG/SF, 3 year vet - “I’m very worried that we don’t have a backup for Dorian Finney-Smith.”
After going undrafted in 2017, Cleveland found his way onto one of the the ever-rotating two-way spots the Mavericks were cycling that year. Since then he’s bounced to teams like Atlanta, Chicago and San Antonio as backup wing depth, but without seeing much playing time. Jump forward to now, and Cleveland has found his way back to Dallas on a recently-announced two-way deal.
He played as well as you’d want someone with NBA experience to play in his most recent stint with the Mavs Summer League team: starting all five games and averaging 16 points on 56 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2.4 steals in 25 minutes per game. Granted this was against competition that made Cam Payne look like an all-star, so it remains to be seen if Antonius can find that next gear that will get him over the hump and onto a roster, as opposed to just being a training camp body.
Devin Harris - 6’3” Guard, 15 year vet - “I just turned 30 and I just want everything to slow down while I reminisce about the past.”
The Dallas Mavericks can’t quit Devin Harris. Even after shipping him to the Nets in 2007 in the trade that landed them Jason Kidd, and again to Denver just two seasons ago in the trade that landed them… Doug McDermott, and despite an off-season where Harris himself said he “got more calls about coaching last summer than I did for [an NBA] contract.”
If you’re a betting man, it wouldn’t hurt to put a few bucks on the potential for the front office to collectively shrug their shoulders at all other options and say “well, might as well bring back Harris, right?”
Why not? Just as long as he can run more back-door cuts with J.J.
The Field - “I’m in a dark place and am wondering if Melo would take the minimum.”
Despite it feeling like essentially every free agent was signed within 24 hours of the opening of free agency, it may surprise you to know that there are actually more players Dallas could sign.
Do you want to give Rick Carlisle a 6-month long migraine? J.R. Smith, Lance Stevenson and Carmelo Anthony would like to humbly offer their services. Do you think we need a bench big to run with the third stringers and tell our rookies what the ‘80s were like? Salah Mejri, Kenneth Faried and Joakim Noah are all available. Do you just want literally any player who knows what it’s like to play in the playoffs? Iman Shumpert and Shaun Livingston have their pens ready.
With the Mavericks having used up all of their remaining space, if they were going to add an outside player, it would have to be for no more than the league minimum, and your expectations for how well they might play should match that level of monetary investment.
Nobody - N/A’ N/A” ATH - “I’m a Nihilist now.”
Don’t sign anyone, wait for someone to get bought out two weeks into the season.
Kostas Antetokounmpo! - “I had a chance to temper my free agency expectations following our most recent entry in a long line of disappointing off-seasons, but instead I’m turning even harder into my delusions!”
The Mavs are not signing Giannis in 2021. Let’s just accept that right now. Also, Kostas signed with the Lakers – c’mon keep up.