As the free agency signing period looms for the NBA, teams have begun evaluating their options to improve their rosters for the upcoming season. Many of these teams face an extremely pivotal offseason with respect to keeping their star players happy. We’ve seen numerous players over the last few years keep a strangle hold on their franchises by demanding an improvement to the roster (a la Giannis in Milwaukee) or simply asking out after years of struggling to find the right fits (like James Harden). The Dallas Mavericks are sitting firmly in the crosshairs of one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. There is little doubt Luka Dončić will sign his supermax extension, but once that takes effect in the 2022 season, the Mavericks will have to dance around the salary cap for the foreseeable future. We all know Dallas, much like Miami, was holding out hope that Giannis would become an unrestricted free agent this year. Milwaukee made the smart move and brought in players that made Giannis comfortable enough to sign the supermax contract and stay with the Bucks long term. With Giannis off the table, the Mavericks now must analyze the market and figure out one thing: which players can they bring in to build a winning franchise and keep Luka Dončić happy?
The player most talked about recently has been DeMar DeRozan. The 4 time All-Star will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is unlikely to re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs as they begin a rebuild. DeRozan, during his time in Toronto and San Antonio, is a prolific isolation and mid-range level scorer. He is one of seven active players to average 20 points per game for eight consecutive seasons. DeRozan has evolved his game over the years, averaging 6.9 assists per game this last season with the Spurs. The knock on DeRozan throughout his career has been his lack of three point shooting and his defense. Also, DeRozan’s play has shrunk considerably in the postseason. In the regular season, DeRozan’s effective field goal percentage is 47.9%. while in the playoffs this number dips to 43.8%. One interesting fact about DeMar DeRozan is that he was 4th in the NBA in assists off drives to the basket. The other three players? Ja Morant, Russell Westbrook and Luka Dončić.
The numbers will tell a certain story about a player, but the style of play to me really determines whether that player will fit. The Mavericks desperately need a secondary ball handler next to Luka Dončić and someone who can alleviate some of the pressure during games. We all saw how gassed Dončić was in the 4th quarter against the Clippers. DeRozan would certainly help to carry some of the load and get others involved as proven by his assist numbers. However, the Mavericks also struggled from a defensive and three point shooting perspective as well, DeRozan’s two biggest weaknesses. While DeRozan does have a strong isolation game, do the Mavericks really want to have a second option who thrives in isolation as opposed to a catch and shoot type of player? The other side of the equation is the money it would take to sign DeRozan. DeRozan turns 32 before the start of the season and is probably looking for his last big contract. Are the Mavericks really willing to shell out a near max type deal for a player who doesn’t really fit their system and can’t shoot the three (or defend well, for that matter)?
It is an understandable conundrum the Mavericks are in this offseason. The team is at a crucial point in which they need to build the right team around Dončić and show him that they can build a winning franchise over the next few years. One long-term goal is that Dončić remains in Dallas for the entirety of his career. DeMar DeRozan is a fantastic player, but I honestly don’t see the fit on this team. An isolation scorer who can’t shoot the three and can’t defend well are most certainly not what this team needs. While DeRozan was one of the best drive and kick players in the NBA last year, the Mavericks do not have the three point shooting around him to continue that success. Luka Dončić is not a catch and shoot player, nor should the Mavericks ask him to be. And by signing DeRozan, that effectively means Tim Hardaway, Jr. is playing for another team next year. The Mavericks should be focused on finding better three point shooters who can play defense (hello, Mike Conley?) while also being able to share some of the ball handling duties with Dončić. Free agency opens on August 2nd at 6pm EST. Nico Harrison and Jason Kidd have less than 3 weeks to formulate a plan to bring the Mavericks back into contention.