NBA free agency is upon us yet again, but this time the Mavericks have limited options for improvement. Dallas is capped out regardless of Jalen Brunson’s decision, so they’ll have to get creative and be smart to make roster improvements.
The Mavericks currently have +1500 odds according to DraftKings to win next season’s NBA title, and that can only drop if Brunson leaving becomes official. Despite that, and the fact that the Mavericks will be capped out, Dallas can use the tax payer’s mid-level exception and veteran's minimum to fill the empty roster holes.
Here’s what you need to know going into free agency:
Brunson’s decision will shape free agency
While reports on Tuesday night and most of Wednesday indicated Brunson is almost assuredly gone, a ray of light emerged when Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes said Brunson will still be holding meetings with the three teams that want to sign him — Knicks, Heat, and Mavericks.
It’s very likely that this is just to help cover up the obvious tampering the Knicks have done, but it’s at least something. Brunson staying is the best case scenario for the Mavericks, as they will be capped out even if he leaves. With the Mavericks cap options limited, retaining Brunson is the biggest and best move they can do this summer, barring an unexpected trade.
There’s not much else to add here. If Brunson leaves it’ll be a gut-punch, if he stays it’ll be a miraculous save.
Options with the Tax Payer Mid-Level
After the Brunson decision, the next thing the Mavericks can do is try to sign a player with the tax payer mid-level exemption, which will be worth a little over $6 million per year over three years. It’s not much, but they can at least do something with that exemption.
Since the Mavericks traded their first rounder from the 2022 draft for Christian Wood, it’s likely Dallas looks for perimeter or wing help with this exemption. If Brunson leaves, they’ll likely expand that to a guard as well.
Knowing that, here are some potential names of players that might fit in that exemption:
- Malik Monk, guard: Had a breakout season with the Lakers, averaging almost 14 points per game on decent shooting numbers (47.3 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from three). Likely to return to LA and doesn’t play much defense, but an option to help improve the bench scoring the Mavericks will need if Brunson leaves.
- Victor Oladipo, guard: The former All-NBA guard has had a brutal injury history the last four years and he barely played last season with the Miami Heat, returning from his latest lower leg surgery. He showed some promise and flashes of his former two-way guard self, but will be a risky gamble with the injuries.
- Donte DiVincenzo, guard: Sort of got lost in the shuffle after getting traded to Sacramento, which is usually what happens when players get traded to the Kings. Showed previously in Milwaukee that he can be a capable role player off the bench for a contender.
- Gary Harris, guard: It wasn’t that long ago when Harris was considered a premier 3-and-D guard, before some injuries in Denver derailed his career, leading to him being included in a trade for Aaron Gordon. Harris got healthier in Orlando and started to resemble the quality starter he was in Denver. He made almost $21 million last season, so it seems absurd he could be had for the mini mid-level, but he’s fallen off the NBA map since being shipped to Orlando. There will be a competitive market for him.
- Bruce Brown, forward: A jack-of-all trade glue guy for the Nets. Would fit well in Dallas off the bench but might have earned a slightly bigger payday than the mini mid-level and the Nets will want him back to surround their star core.
- TJ Warren, forward: Had an incredible bubble run in 2020 and has always been a decent scorer, but he hasn’t played a game since Dec. 2020 because of a foot injury. A total unknown, as his rehab has been extremely slow. Wouldn’t offer much defense or rebounding or passing, but he puts the ball in the bucket on somewhat efficient numbers. With no Brunson, he’d help.
- Otto Porter, forward: After playing on a huge contract in Washington and Chicago, he reinvented himself as a solid role player last season with the Warriors, starting in the Finals and help the team win a title. Would fit well as a backup wing in Dallas, providing critical minutes so Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock can get some rest.
- Jalen Smith, center: Only 22-years-old and a former lottery pick, Smith was dropped from the Suns and showed some good things during a stint with the tanking Pacers. Hard to tell how real his numbers are, but the talent that got him drafted as high as he was is still there and the tape from Indiana is intriguing.
Filling out the roster with minimum deals
If the Mavericks lose Brunson, the Mavericks will have four open roster spots they can fill. They can use the tax-payer mid-level to fill one spot, but that’ll leave three more the Mavericks can use as dart throws on veteran’s minimum contracts.
Here are a few names that might make sense:
- Goran Dragic, guard: Will this finally be the time? After flirting with the possibility of bringing Dragic to Dallas for the past few years, the Mavericks are likely finally in the driver’s seat to attain him. He didn’t do much in his 21 regular season games last season, but was one of the few bright spots in Brooklyn’s first round sweep, where he averaged 10 points on 56.3 percent shooting in 20 minutes per game.
- Juan Toscano-Anderson, forward: A bouncy defensive forward that had moments with the Warriors, but wasn’t consistent enough with his jumper to consistently stay in the rotation. Might be more expensive than the minimum, but he’d be decent depth and come with experience playing on a title-winning team.
- Danuel House, forward: Might be more of a candidate for the mini mid-level, although he only played for less than $1 million last season. Turned himself into a decent 3-and-D role player in the final years of the James Harden Rockets and then had some moments with the Jazz. If you remember against the Mavericks, he felt like one of the only Jazz players with a pulse at times during the Mavericks first round win. Career 36.6 percent shooter from three, shot 41.5 percent in 25 games last season with Utah.
- Eric Paschall, forward: Always seems more interesting than his actual play. Looks like a forward that can play big in a small ball lineup, but usually isn't consistent enough.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.