The Dallas Mavericks will look to use the summer of 2019 to re-sign some of their own free agents, and either chase a third star to pair with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis or surround those two with quality role players.
The 2019 off-season will feature perhaps the most competitive free agent market in league history, as almost half the players in the NBA will be free agents. This means there are more teams with an abundance of cap space than ever before. Combine that with a weak 2020 free agency class, and teams will be desperate to get the most out of their cap space this summer.
The Mavs enter the summer with almost $30 million in cap space and only five players under contract for the 2019-20 season. Those players are guards Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and forwards Luka Doncic and Justin Jackson. Forward/center Dwight Powell has a player option for just over $10 million and is likely to return. Guard Ryan Broekhoff has a non guaranteed contract for $1.4 million.
The franchise’s first priority this summer is signing Kristaps Porzingis to a long-term contract. The Mavs gave up multiple first round picks and cap flexibility when they acquired Porzingis from the Knicks on Jan. 31, 2019. It’s clear they envision him as a franchise cornerstone alongside Luka Doncic. It’d be a surprise to many if a deal to keep him in Dallas isn’t agreed to.
Porzingis is a restricted free agent, meaning the Mavs can go above the salary cap to re-sign him. This allows the team to use their cap space on players from other teams, but still have the ability to keep their own free agents.
Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith are also restricted free agents for the Mavs. If there is interest in bringing them back, they could agree to a deal early in free agency, but wait a few weeks to sign the contract. Kleber and Finney-Smith have yet to make significant money in their NBA careers so they could sign offer sheets elsewhere, if other teams show interest.
There are many different ways the Mavericks can approach free agency. Luka Doncic can play practically any position but center and Porzingis can play either power forward or center. Because those two are so versatile, the Mavericks don’t have to hunt players at specific positions in free agency.
This is a realistic look at free agency. Players rumored to have no connection to the Mavs, and payers largely rumored to re-sign with their current team, will not be mentioned. This includes players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson.
Restricted free agents from other teams will also not be mentioned. If you sign a restricted free agent, the team with his rights has two days to match the offer. If you combine that with the six day moratorium period that begins free agency, signing a restricted free agent could tie up the Mavs cap space for the first eight days of free agency. The risk is not worth the reward. Most starter level players will be signed by or committed to another team by then.
Best Option: Patrick Beverley
This may be a shock to some. Beverley is clearly not the best free agent point guard, but he is exactly what the Mavs need. Beverley is a tenacious defender with a fiery personality who can shoot threes. He’s a perfect fit if the Mavs don’t want to move Doncic to point guard full-time.
Beverley will be 31 at the start of next season and has never been on a big money contract. There could be a bidding war for his services, and he earned it with his performance during the first round of the 2019 playoffs against the Warriors. The bidding war may not feature his current team, as the LA Clippers have their sights set on Kawhi Leonard and other max level free agents.
It could take up to $12 million per year to bring in Beverley, but that would still leave the Mavs with over $17 million to work with. A three year contract worth around $36 million seems fair for both sides.
Next Best: Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker’s fit in Dallas has been a topic of debate among Mavs fans since April when Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the Mavs are seriously interested in the veteran point guard.
Walker might be selected to an All-NBA team this summer when awards are announced. He is a better basketball player than Patrick Beverly, but he’s also a completely different player. His game is all offense. An undersized point guard, saying Walker isn’t very good on defense is generous. But a Walker, Doncic and Porzingis led offense could be good enough to propel the Mavs back into the playoffs.
Some fans question the fit because like Doncic, Walker is a player who likes to have the ball in his hands. If the Mavs sign Walker, they’ll figure out a way to make it work. LeBron James and Kryie Irving made it work. Chris Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant all figured out how to play with ball dominant players. The best teams make it work.
The reason Beverley is ranked ahead of Walker is the fit defensively and the price tag of Walker. He will no doubt demand a max contract from any team interested in him this summer. The Mavs could meet his demands with some minor salary cap maneuvering, but they likely wouldn’t have any cap space left over. Walker is eligible to sign a four year contract worth $141 million.
Best of the Rest: Goran Dragic (player option)
It is unknown whether Dragic will exercise his $19.2 million player option and return to the Miami Heat next season. If he doesn’t, the Mavs are an obvious fit. Dragic has experience playing alongside Luka Doncic with the Slovenian national team, winning the 2018 EuroLeague tournament. He spent time coming off the Miami bench this year after an injury-riddled start to the season. Perhaps he’d be willing to give up a few million to start beside his old Slovenian friend, but it’s unlikely he’d accept below $15-16 million per year after turning down a $19.2 million player option.
Stay Away From: Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, Darren Collison, Rajon Rondo.
Best Option: Danny Green
Green bounced back from a disappointing 2017-18 season with the Spurs to have arguably the best season of his career after being traded to the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2018. Green finished second in the NBA in three point percentage during the 2018-19 regular season and is still a very good defender. He’s the kind of player that would be a great fit on any team, and the Mavs would be no different. A two to three year deal worth $12-$15 million per season is likely what it will cost for Green’s services.
Next Best: Trevor Ariza
Ariza is a similar player to Green. He’s bigger than Green, which allows him to guard larger players, but he’s a few years older and not quite as good of a shooter. He turns 34 this summer, and after playing for three teams in two years, he may be looking for one last long-term contract. Ariza is much older than the players the Mavs are building around, but if he’s willing to sign a one or two year deal, the Mavs should absolutely consider him.
Best of the Rest: JJ Redick, Bojan Bogdanovic
Both are questionable defensive fits alongside Doncic but would provide elite shooting and floor spacing which would allow Doncic and Porzingis to thrive offensively.
Stay Away From: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyreke Evans
Best Option: Al Horford (Player Option)
Horford is a Swiss Army knife on the basketball court that any team would be fortunate to have. He would be an excellent defensive fit next to Porzingis, and his ball movement, screen setting, and shooting ability make him a tantalizing offensive option alongside both Doncic and Porzingis. Horford has a player option that he could pick up and return to the Boston Celtics, but that may be less likely after the Celtics were easily dispatched by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Horford will have many suitors, and it would likely take a three year contract worth at least $25 million per season to lure him to Dallas.
Next Best: Julius Randle (Player Option) and Nikola Mirotic
The Mavs passed on Randle last summer, but his fit next to Kristaps Porzingis makes him a more intriguing option in Dallas moving forward. Randle is a center on offense and a power forward on defense. It so happens that Porzingis is a center on defense and a power forward on offense. Randle is likely to decline his player option after outperforming his contract this season. The Mavs should see if he has any interest in playing for his hometown team.
Mirotic doesn’t offer the positional versatility of Randle. Spending significant money on a power forward is only an option if Porzingis is willing to play the majority of his minutes at center. If he is, Mirotic would be a solid addition. He’s an underrated defender and an excellent stretch four offensively. This will be the first time Mirotic has tested unrestricted free agency, and he will likely want to maximize the opportunity. His asking price may be higher than the Mavs want, but he’s a player they should absolutely kick the tires on.
Best of the Rest: Marc Gasol (Player Option), Paul Millsap (Player Option)
Gasol and Millsap are veteran players known for their defensive prowess, but both have the ability to score when called upon. Gasol is a 7-foot-1-inch center, while Millsap is a 6-foot-8-inch power forward, but the positional versatility of Porzingis would allow the Mavs the option of chasing either one should they decline to pick up their player option.
Stay Away From: DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Vucevic
Cousins offers a unique skill set for his position, but he’s dealt with serious injuries over the past year and the Mavs would be wise to let another team take a chance on the Kentucky product.
Vucevic is a good player and deserves credit for the way he’s improved his game. However, Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris said it best when asked about a conversation he had with Warriors star Draymond Green, “There are 82-game players, then there are 16-game players.”
Vucevic was very good for the Orlando Magic during the 82 game regular season, but his predictability offensively combined with his lack of athleticism and defensive inefficiencies were exposed in the playoffs by a good Toronto team. Paying over $20 million per season to a guy who’s style isn’t suited for the playoffs is a risky proposition the Mavs should pass on.