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The Mavericks should sign Sir’Jabari Rice as an undrafted free agent

Penn State v Texas Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks are going to be in some version of salary cap hell as long as they have Luka Doncic on the roster. That’s just the way it is when a team has a perennial All-NBA player and are striving to win a championship. So they’ve got to find creative ways to shore up the back end of the roster in order find an edge. And one of the best ways to do this for a team already over the cap is through signing undrafted free agents.

Look at the Miami Heat, who feature three undrafted free agents (Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, and Gabe Vincent) in their NBA Finals rotation. The Mavericks have already had success in this area, turning Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber into solid playoff rotation guys. Dallas will have to do it again going forward, and a good player to start with would be Texas Longhorns guard Sir’Jabari Rice.

Rice, a 6’4” combo guard out of Marshall, Texas, has a wingspan that touches just over 6’9.” His measurables don’t pop (a 33” max vertical, 27” standing vertical, 3.33 seconds on the 34 court sprint), but when you watch him play, you can see the skill that will translate to the NBA.

Rice averaged 13 points per game in his lone season for the Longhorns, just a touch shy of his career high of 13.2 per game with New Mexico State as a junior. He’s got a knack for scoring, and has a shot that will likely translate well when he gets to the League. Rice shot 37 percent from behind the arc on 4.5 attempts per game last year. He also shot 86 percent on free throws, a good sign as he leaps to the pros.

He doesn’t have great playmaking instincts, averaging only two assists per game for Texas. Rice’s career high in assists is only 3.1, in his fourth season with New Mexico State. And with his slight build, teams can hunt him on defense, though he held up okay on that end in college. You can’t put too much emphasis on individual defensive rating numbers, but Rice’s 98.5 per 100 possessions isn’t bad.

But really, the main reason the Mavericks should sign Rice is his pump fake. You might be wondering—how good could his pump fake be? Well.....

Just look at it! Jimmy Butler could learn something from that pump fake. Rice doesn’t just fake a shot and get defenders off-balance. He pump fakes opponents into the shadow realm, never to be seen again.

Then watch him after the fakes get him into the lane. Rice has a herky-jerky game that gets him separation without elite athleticism. Mavericks fans should be familiar with this type of player after watching Jalen Brunson do his thing in Dallas. Rice and Brunson don’t have the same body type, but their games are similar, using hesitations and quick bursts to gain a little space in a crowded lane to get shots off.

Rice is a good finisher at the rim. He’s got a soft touch on layups, can finish through contact, and has a decent floater. And just look at that fall away jumper above. Rice just has a nose for the basket, and even better, he’s just fun to watch.

It’s unlikely he’ll ever be even a borderline all-star, but Rice can be a valuable contributor off the bench for a contender. He came up big again and again in the Longhorns’ run to the Final Four last year, never once wilting under the bright lights of high-pressure basketball. He’s the exact type of player the Mavericks need, and all the better, he’ll likely be available for them to sign after the draft. Dallas should pounce immediately.