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Kelly Olynyk could drastically change the Mavericks’ ceiling for 2022

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Kelly Olynyk isn’t a star, but he’s a game-changer who could help the Mavericks.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s easy to walk into a free agency period wanting your favorite team to come away with a top-tier NBA star, the Kevin Durants of the world. But that’s impossible for Dallas this offseason. Not only is Dallas not usually thought of as a high-end destination spot for NBA free agents, but outside of Kawhi Leonard (maybe) and Chris Paul (maybe again), there aren’t any top-tier guys available this time around.

The Mavs are likely going to have to settle for mid-tier guys — guys that can swing a playoff game, but won’t be All-Stars (or maybe even starters). One guy I love in this range? Kelly Olynyk.

The Basics

Olynyk will enter the 2021 free agency period as an unrestricted free agent, meaning he can go wherever he can get a deal done.

Last season, Olynyk started off in Miami (where he had been since 2017) but got traded to the Rockets as part of the Victor Oladipo deal. He struggled in Miami last year, shooting well below his career averages, but then thrived on a Rockets team that gave him the keys to the car.

Houston had no incentive to win, so why not let Olynyk try to earn himself a bigger contract in free agency? The now-30-year-old averaged a nice 19 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting from the field and 39.2 shooting from 3-point range to go along with 8.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Those numbers are similar to Kristaps Porzingis’ numbers from last year (only Olynyk was more efficient and was able to create offense for others).

Strengths

Kelly Olynyk is a legitimately talented, well-rounded offensive big man. He’s good in both the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. He can shoot the ball from anywhere. He can seal smaller players in the post. He can finish around the rim. He can knock down free throws. He can create looks for other players using his vision and passing ability. He can break down defenses using his dribble (seriously!).

There is absolutely no concern with his offense. He’s a good offensive player with a skillset fine-tuned for today’s NBA.

Weaknesses

If you’re wondering why the ‘Strengths’ section was solely focused on Olynyk’s offense, it’s because this section will be solely focused on his defense.

Olynyk certainly isn’t the type of guy you’re going to stick on the opposing team’s best big man. He’s not super athletic or super locked in on that end of the floor. There are two schools of thought with how Olynyk’s defensive issues would work in Dallas.

  • The first: Who cares if Olynyk isn’t a great defender? The Mavs aren’t winning games with defense. They’re winning games with offense.
  • The second: The Mavs are perfectly fine on offense. They don’t need more help there. They need to add guys who will help their defense, so they can become a well-rounded team.

Fit with the Mavericks

As mentioned above, Olynyk isn’t a great defensive player, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you should probably look elsewhere.

But offensively, Olynyk checks every box the Mavericks should have on their list of wishes.

Olynyk is likely a guy you can sign for cheap. His athletic prime is over, he’s not a guy who should be starting for an entire season, and he’s never had a huge contract. Even if he gets overpaid, it’ll still probably be a relatively cheap contract for NBA standards. So if the Mavs want to sign Olynyk, it won’t take away from other moves they can make.

Positionally, Olynyk is perfect for Dallas. Their frontcourt depth is virtually non-existent. He would come in right away as the second-best big man on the roster. He’s a guy who can hold down the frontcourt for the second unit when Kristaps Porzingis is on the bench. Speaking of Porzingis being on the bench, it’s crucial that the Mavs get a guy who is perfectly happy being a bench guy for most of the season but can also step in as a quality starter when Porzingis is battling an injury, which he’s almost guaranteed to be doing at some point during every season. That guy is Olynyk — a three-level scorer with playoff experience who you can get for a cheap price. It doesn’t get much better than that.