When it comes to free agency it is impossible to predict what type of money a player will receive in the open market. The best we can do is look at things like a player’s age, production, injury history, and future potential to determine what a team will be willing to pay for their services.
It is hard to put a measurement on injury risk and potential, so the main thing we have to go on when trying to determine a players value is based on their age and production.
One metric to measure production in the NBA is to use a “Game Score” calculation invented by John Hollinger, previously an analyst and writer for ESPN, now Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Memphis Grizzlies. This Game Score gives weighting to different statistical categories, taking into account shooting percentages, to determine a rough measure of a players productivity for a game.
I have applied this Game Score formula to the season stats of the players that were signed to contracts last summer in free agency. Taking the top 75 contracts based on the average annual salary we can get an idea of what kind of production relates to what level of money earned in free agency. To adjust for the amount of minutes played we will look at Game Score per Minutes Played to make sure that everyone listed is on an even playing field.
2018 Top 75 Free Agent Contracts
|J. J. Redick||33||1||12,250,000||12,250,000||0.39||23|
|L. M. a Moute||31||1||4,320,500||4,320,500||0.23||70|
The reason we care about this right now is to try to gauge how much money Restricted Free Agents Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, and potential free agent Dwight Powell ($10M Player Option) will demand in the open market this upcoming summer.
When trying to piece together what the Mavericks can accomplish in free agency we need some idea of what it will take to keep these players. All 3 seem to be players that the Dallas Mavericks would like to retain as important role players to run with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis for the next several years, but only at the right price.
2018-2019 Season Stats
Based on his production per minute this season Finney-Smith would have ranked 66th on the above list, just ahead of Avery Bradley and just behind Marcus Smart, both of which received contracts of $12M per year. Both Bradley and Smart, much like Finney-Smith, are known more for their defensive prowess than stuffing the stat sheet with points, rebounds, and assists.
At the same time he is next to players on the list like Yogi Ferrell (63th, $3M/year) and Doug McDermott (67th, $7.3M/year) who are of similar age to Finney-Smith.
If you look at the players who have between 0.24 and 0.26 Game Score per Minute, the average annual salary of $7.3M over an average of 2.3 years.
The recent addition and emergence of Justin Jackson for the Dallas Mavericks has come at a bad time for Doe-Doe. The last few games Finney Smith has seen limited playing time (11, 10, and 13 mins) while Jackson is getting a lot of run and making great use of his minutes (33, 32, and 21 mins). Jackson is two years younger than Finney-Smith, a much better offensive prospect, and is already under contract for at least two more seasons ($3.3M 2019-2020, $5M 2020-2021). The fact that he is already under contract and plays a similar position/role as Finney-Smith, the Mavericks now have the ability to let Finney walk if another team comes at him with a contract that they are unwilling to match.
If Dorian Finney-Smith does re-sign with the Mavericks this summer, I expect it to be somewhere in the $3-$6M/year range.
Maxi Kleber would find himself 59th on the list of the most productive 2018 free agents given his 2018-2019 Game Score per Minute of 0.28. You would find him among the following players from the 2017-2018 free agent class: Oddly enough the average annual salary for this group of players is less than those we looks at for Dorian Finney-Smith’s grouping even though these players were more productive while on the floor. If it was not for the outlier of the $15 million that Trevor Ariza received from the Suns, the average here would plummet even lower.
Maxi Kleber may not be the most productive but he has a skill set that is highly coveted in today’s NBA. He can protect the rim and he can knock down threes. He is not necessarily elite at either but for a backup Forward/Center he can definitely hold his own. He made very nice improvements from his rookie year last season to this season, namely improving his 3 point shot to 35% on the year and furthering his prowess of swatting shots, rejecting 1.1 per game over just 20 minutes.
Injury concerns are there, Maxi has had several knee surgeries, one reason why he was off most scouts’ radar, and has missed several games this season due to knee swelling/soreness.
But he is still only 27 years old, coming into his basketball prime, so I think there will be several suitors for Maxi’s services this summer. It is really hard to put a number on what he will demand on the open market, I could see him going as low as $5M per year and I can see him earning as high as $10-12M per year.
I knew Dwight Powell was productive, but to see that his Game Score per Minute of 0.45 would land him as the 13th most productive player from last year’s free agents was pretty shocking. This productivity would place him just ahead of former Maverick DeAndre Jordan and right behind the “thankfully not former Maverick,” Dwight Howard. This is a credit to Powell’s incredible energy, never ending motor, and very high shooting percentage.
Despite being near the top of available free agents in production per minute, these players on average earned a salary of $8 million per year, a million less per year than players 62-67 that we looked at for Finney-Smith. This average of $8 million is less than Dwight Powell’s Player Option for the 2019-2020 season of $10 million.
Since Dwight is healthy, coming off a very productive year, and only 27 years old, I think it makes sense that he would opt out of his $10M player option and try to ink a longer term deal at similar to potentially larger per year numbers.
Just based on their production and the contracts signed last year it seems like Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell can all be retained for very reasonable contracts. But as you can see at every level of production there are some players that under/over paid. More than anything it is important for the Mavericks not to overpay Maxi, Finney-Smith, or Powell despite how much the Mavericks like their play and commitment to the franchise the last few years. The Mavs have a pretty blank slate to build out this roster over the next few years and overpaying just to keep their own guys could cost them an opportunity of adding additional players down the road.
However, if the Mavericks could keep these three at reasonable contracts while adding some top level talent this summer, that would be a major win for the Mavericks and their playoff hopes next season.
Mavericks Free Agent Signing History
The above information is good to get an idea of how the NBA, as a whole, values various levels of production, but to get a better idea of what kind of contracts the Dallas Mavericks front office gives out let’s take a look at their recent signing history.
Below is a list of players the Mavericks have signed in free-agency since the summer of 2015. It shows the date they signed, number of years, average annual salary of that deal, and how productive they were in the season leading up to free agency.
The most productive players that the Mavericks have signed since 2015 are DeAndre Jordan (0.43 Game Score/Minute), Nerlens Noel (0.43), and Dirk Nowitzki (0.42).
The fact that we gave a max deal to Harrison Barnes coming off a season with a Game Score per Minute of 0.29 does not look like a good decision in retrospect. Also, scanning this list it is very easy to tell why the Mavericks franchise has endured its roughest stretch in over 20 years with the level of players we have been bringing in.
According to Game Score per Minute, Dorian Finney-Smith (0.25) and Maxi Kleber (0.28) would be the least productive players that the Mavericks have signed since 2015. By no means do I think Doe-Doe and Maxi are bad players, they are certainly better than a 30 year old Charlie Villanueva and Quincy Acy, their on-court performance just does not translate to traditional stats like points, rebounds, assists. Making the right pass, cut, or defensive rotation may not end up in the box score but it is how winning basketball is played. Hopefully the fact that they have not racked up huge games or many traditional statistics will keep their market low this summer allowing the Mavericks to capitalize and lock up two really solid role players who are entering their prime at very reasonable costs.
Dwight Powell (0.45) and Kristaps Porzingis (0.47) are a different story. These two’s Game Score per Minute would be the highest of any free agent that the Mavericks have signed since 2015.
Dwight Powell, especially over the last quarter of the season, has played himself in a spot where he will have to strongly consider opting out of his $10M Player Option to lock in a long term deal as mentioned previously. His production per minute is near the top of the league and he is just now entering his prime.
Kristaps Porzingis is just coming off of his rookie deal and will be looking to cash in on free agency with a max contract. He has been extremely productive when healthy and has a unique skill set of handles, good movement, elite shooting, and elite shot blocking. I expect the Mavericks not to mess around with Porzingis and give him the max contract he wants. For a player of his tenure, this would be a 5 year commitment of $158 million. For someone with his skill set, age, and seemingly great fit with Luka Dončić, I expect the Mavs to give up the bag and feel great about doing so.
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