In a whirlwind that kicked off the 2020-21 season, we wrap up an unprecedented week of off-season action with the start to free agency.
All was quiet on the Mavericks front early in the week, as large superstar level trades were made around the league. But for the Mavericks, their focus became draft night and selecting defensive-minded wing Josh Green in the first round and scoring guard Tyrell Terry with the 31st pick. Then in a surprise move they also traded sharpshooter Seth Curry to the Philadelphia 76ers for two-way wing Josh Richardson and the 36th pick, which was used for versatile defender Tyler Bey. It was a busy and successful night to say the least.
Entering the offseason, priority one for the Mavericks had to be shoring up their wing depth and their defensive versatility. Before draft night the hole was obvious:
(Quibble with the placement of Dorian, for example, but the fact remains they needed wings.)
Credit the Mavericks for entering the evening with a plan and executing many of their goals, on paper at least. There is work to be done developing the young talent they have added, but you can’t accuse Donnie Nelson of dawdling through another draft night.
The league no longer follows this five position scheme, and if anything can be said of Rick Carlisle’s history in Dallas it’s that his creativity with lineups really broadens flexibility of a roster. If anything, what draft night has done is create less pressure for the Mavericks to hit a grand slam in free agency. A team can always be improved whether that’s through free agency — the Mavericks can sign a player, or players, to the Mid-Level Exception — or trades. This is where the roster stands entering free agency:
Unless trades are made, this is likely the clearest section of the Mavericks roster thanks to Luka Doncic and the guards that orbit him. Yes they just traded the best shooter on the team, yes Jalen Brunson hasn’t played since February 22 due to injury, yes the fit with Delon Wright hasn’t been right. But Carlisle’s tinkering is mostly effective with this crew.
Their greatest weakness last season among this unit was defense at the point of attack. Donnie Nelson went a long way to address that Wednesday night, finding versatile wings who can guard up a spot. Questions that remain:
- Can Brunson return to form and help run the bench crew?
- Is Trey Burke still on the table?
- Will Tyrell Terry see time as a de facto Seth Curry?
- Is Delon Wright going to be traded, and if so, when?
There is a mixed bag of guards that will be on the free agent market. I would be surprised to see the Mavericks focus here, unless it involves a Delon Wright trade or a veteran guard using a portion of the Mid-Level Exception.
In preparation for this article I was armoring up to implore the Mavericks to find legitimate wings, then was promptly shut up by Donnie Nelson. That’s not to say that the Mavericks can’t do more though.
Tim Hardaway Jr., who officially opted into the final year of his contract Thursday, and Josh Richardson provide the Mavericks with two starter-level wings. This is something the Mavericks haven’t had for some time, and immediately sets them on firmer ground. But while the additions of rookies Josh Green and Tyler Bey provide promising future, it will take time for them to develop into rotation regulars; especially in this shortened off-season.
This puts pressure on Richardson and Hardaway to perform. Dorian Finney-Smith, who has been molded into a true forward and spent most of his time at the four last season, will still provide spacing and defense along the perimeter. Questions that remain:
- Is Justin Jackson going to be traded, and if so, when?
- Can Hardaway get close to last year’s shooting numbers?
- Are the starting trio and rookies enough that the Mavericks don’t need to make more moves?
I have an undying appetite for wings, so this is where I’d like the Mavericks to focus in free agency, or in the sign-and-trade market. They have been linked a few times to Danilo Gallinari, though his name has floated among many teams this week (and he’s really a true power forward). Perhaps the Mavericks focus a little lower in price on players like Derrick Jones Jr. or Jae Crowder.
There is some uncertainty here, with the health of Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell up in the air. Powell has stated he’ll be ready to go from the start, but what he looks like post-injury is still to be determined.
Behind these two is versatile shooting big Maxi Kleber, and lovable giant Boban Marjanovic. Rookie Tyler Bey, who the Mavericks announced Thursday will be on a Two-Way contract should see opportunity as a power forward and maybe even ultra-small five. The addition of undrafted free agent Freddie Gillespie is an interesting prospect. But with health hanging like a giant question mark I wouldn’t be surprised to see the front office focus here as well. Questions that remain:
- Will Porzingis be ready by January, and how many games can he actually play?
- How different will Powell’s athleticism be post-injury?
- Do the Mavericks need another stop gap utility big for insurance?
If the Mavericks want veteran presence I’d expect to hear Paul Millsap or Serge Ibaka mentioned. Though it’s likely smarter to find a low cost big man if they want health insurance. Either way, the Mavericks have set themselves on a brighter path after an efficient start to this NBA offseason.