There’s still a lot of free agency to go, but following the Kawhi Leonard news last night, where he signed with the LA Clippers (along with the Clippers trading for Paul George) and Danny Green signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, a ton of things have cleared up in a muddy free agency.
For one thing, the Mavericks’ options to pick up a quality player who fills needs on the team are extremely limited at best. Unless Dallas makes a Godfather-type offer to Delon Wright, last season’s trade of Harrison Barnes to the Kings for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph was essentially for nothing.
At the moment, before signing any players they’ve come to agreements with, Dallas has just under $23 million in cap space. Because they have the Bird rights of so many of the players they extended, the plan was to sign free agents then go over the cap to sign Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Dorian Finney-Smith.
However, unless they make a big offer to a restricted free agent or come to terms with someone out of the blue, those signings will all take up the cap space that remains.
There are two ways of looking at this result. First, that it’s a failure by the front office to sign quality players using the available space and tools provided by the collective bargaining agreement.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst talking on The Hoop Collective podcast, the Mavericks’ standing offer to Danny Green was for 3 years/$36 million. That’s $3 million less per year than the Lakers offered (2 years/$30 million). Yes, it’s an additional year and potentially more guaranteed money, but the Mavericks don’t have the luxury of proven superstars (yet) and/or the Los Angeles lifestyle to lure free agents to Dallas. They have to overpay to get quality free agents, period. Maybe Green was never coming to Dallas, but that offer, if true, wasn’t competitive enough for a team that’s always a free agency underdog.
The second option is that they wanted to part with Barnes for something (in this case Justin Jackson), since they were not planning on extending/re-signing Barnes and the space was a byproduct they didn’t intend to use.
The latter option seems extremely unlikely. The Mavericks positioned themselves so well with the Porzingis trade and the Barnes trade in terms of leveraging the rules and allowances of the CBA. Trading for the right to offer Porzingis a contract is a massive win, make no mistake. Seth Curry is a nice pickup on a reasonable deal. But the Mavericks still have pressing needs, and largely whiffing on free agency to date is a problem.
Dallas could have a been a playoff lock and instead will likely be a fringe team, dependent on factors outside their control. Signing Wright would be a significant move in turning the off season around, but for the moment things have gone very poorly for the Mavericks following the Porzingis agreement.