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Taking the Moneyball staff pulse on the off season so far

Our contributors share their feelings through a day and a hald through 2022 NBA Free Agency

Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Every so often, and more during the non-game playing months, we attempt to take the temperature of our staff on whatever the topic of the day is. If you’ve visited our site at all in the last week, it’s pretty simple: free agency! Some Jalen Brunson (a lot of Jalen Brunson), new (old?) Maverick JaVale McGee, and more.

Where you are with regards to the Dallas Mavericks and Free agency?

Matthew: Unsurprised. The Mavericks have consistently had one of the lowest payrolls in the league over the last six years. They had one of the 5 most successful seasons in franchise history and then let the second best player on the team leave for nothing. They then overpaid JaVale McGee who will be a very useful player this season. The Mavericks have consistently ran low overall payrolls while over paying low end role players. If they are going to have the incredibly tight payroll constraints that they are clearly operating under, they must become smarter about the details of these contracts.

Ben: The Mavericks, as usual, have not done well in free agency. There’s still time to do something to recover from losing Jalen Brunson, but the Mavericks have done a variation on an old strategy: “let good players walk for nothing and overpay for end of bench players”. It is disheartening.

Matt: Worried - barring another move it doesn’t feel like Dallas is addressing its needs. After Jalen Brunson’s ascension and the addition of Spencer Dinwiddie showed how more creators and ball handlers could unlock Dallas’ fullest potential as a 5-out nightmare, they lost Brunson, the player most crucial to that play style and replaced him with an overpaid traditional center. I’m still bullish on the addition of Christian Wood, but after mowing through teams with Gobert, Ayton, and McGee, using our full tax payer MLE on a big feels misguided.

Kirk: Concerned. At this point in any free agency over the last decade I’d be cooking the Mavericks like fried chicken. But there has to be something to why Jalen Brunson leaving; I’m sure not being offered enough money was part of it, but he just seemed to want to play in New York. At that point, it becomes less about free agency and more about how did no one with Dallas anticipate that? There’s got to be something in the works because JaVale McGee is a fine addition to a rotation, but it’s not enough for actual progress. And look at the rest of the NBA. Teams in the West are getting competitive in new and different ways whereas the Mavericks are taking a step back at the moment. That stinks.

Jordan: I guess to start, sad. I was a big fan of Jalen Brunson, on and off the floor. It isn’t worth discussing the numbers now, but that bummed me out. Outside that I’m trying to focus on the addition of Christian Wood, rather than the contract of JaVale McGee. Wood could be really fun with Luka Doncic, Reggie Bullock, and Dorian Finney-Smith.

Still, hard to characterize the off-season as a success so far. Owner Mark Cuban continues to be remarkably cheap, and for every good move the front office makes there is a head scratcher to follow. Which sort of makes me foolishly believe another move is on the horizon.

Tim: After day one of free agency I went to bed bummed. Even though we were all prepped that Jalen Brunson was signing with the Knicks 3 or so days before the start date of free agency, it was still a bummer when it happened. Landing JaVale McGee fills a need for the Mavericks that General Manager Nico Harrison was very vocal about in exit interviews, but he doesn’t move the needle much for me. He’ll be good and he’s a better big than Dwight Powell — but the Mavericks better have some moves up their sleeve to better the roster via trades. Free agency doesn’t seem to like us.

David: Feeling a sense of Deja Vu. Every year hopes are high and production is low in the Mavericks front office for free agency. This year is no different thus far. Do I think that Tim Hardaway and Spencer Dinwiddie can replace Brunson’s production? Yes. Am I still upset we didn’t extend him? Also yes. Dallas hasn’t gotten worse after the addition of Christian Wood, but I would like to see them make some moves to get better for once.

Josh: This free agency period was always going to be quiet and unassuming. A capped out Mavericks team only had so many options to fill the handful of roster spots. But Brunson leaving sours just about anything the Mavericks could do. They lost the second best player on their Western Conference Finals team for nothing, and regardless of the fault, that just stinks, flat out. The Mavericks are capped out for two more seasons regardless, so retaining Brunson was critical.

The Javale McGee contract is just so utterly bizarre that I’m not surprised it’s caused some Mavs fans to jump into the deep end. Dallas entered free agency likely needing a cheap backup big to round out their rotation, but signing a 34-year-old journeyman center to a three year contract is weird. It’s the second biggest contract of McGee’s career! McGee helps in a vaccuum, but the move on its own doesn’t make sense unless the Mavericks do something else. And that’s the rub right? Too many offseasons have been given the “wait, let’s just see what the Mavericks are cooking” modifier. And it almost always ends the same way.

To sum up: the Mavericks entered the off-season desperately needing to add one or two more playoff rotation players. So far in free agency, they’re a a net minus-one with McGee entering and Brunson leaving. That’s tough.

Doyle: The Mavericks certainly haven’t gotten better. After an unexpected run to the Western Conference Finals last season, expecting a repeat seems far fetched after watching their second best ball handler walk away. Either the Dallas front office got caught completely off guard by Jalen Brunson’s departure or they mishandled it for months. Both can be true, but it will go down as another free agency blunder for the team—the list is long—if only because they got nothing in return.

As for the addition of JaVale McGee—um, OK? McGee has had a journeyman career, and this will be his second stop in Dallas. He’s no spring chicken, so his three-year contract is befuddling. And he expects to start? He should not start. But hey, I’m not the coach.

I do like them bringing back Theo Pinson. Pinson didn’t see much playing time last season, but he was the heart and soul of the bench. I expect a similar role for him this season, although he could crack the rotation now that Brunson is gone.

All things considered, maybe free agency isn’t Nico Harrison’s thing. No one should have come into this off-season expecting him to sign a championship caliber player, but there is every reason to be upset and frustrated that it looks like he and the front office got duped by Brunson. At least they read some of the tea leaves and moved into the draft to snag Jaden Hardy.

Xavier: There is a lot of disappointment surrounding Brunson’s departure and JaVale McGee being the teams primary target in free agency. It’s understandable but there is a path forward for Mark Cuban and the Mavericks. It’s time for the team to take a look in the mirror and hit the reset button. The roster is old. It lacks upside and versatility. The team and it’s trajectory can look a lot different 18 months from now if the team is willing to take a temporary step back in order to build a sustainable winner capable of contending for a title on a yearly basis.