This is, without question, a consequential offseason for the Mavericks. Having just watched the Milwaukee Bucks complete a masterclass in building around a superstar, the Mavericks’ new regime at head coach and general manager have a lot of pressure to get this right immediately. But there are undoubtedly some free agents for them to stay well clear of.
Mike Conley’s name has come up consistently as this free agency period approaches. Watching the Mavericks against the Clippers, it was painfully clear that while Jalen Brunson is a more-than-capable reserve, the offense simply isn’t potent enough without another prime ball handler. There is no question that Mike Conley could be that player for the Mavericks, but that doesn’t mean Dallas should pursue him.
The Mavericks are, whether fans like it or not, a ways from winning a championship. Signing a clearly aging point guard to a multi-year deal because of his name brand simply isn’t good business for a team in need of a bit of a roster overhaul outside of just a couple or three players. Conley is still an effective player, but he’s far from his prime days in Memphis, and wouldn’t move the needle much for the Mavericks in the short term, or at all in the long term.
While not the household name that Maverick fans would hope Nico Harrison can lure into town, Evan Fournier remains one of the more unsung starters in the NBA. He makes every squad he plays on better, and would instantly become the best perimeter defender the Mavericks have, which while he’s solid on that end of the floor, says a lot about the Mavs’ shortcomings on defense in recent years.
Fournier is an excellent shooter, underrated midrange player and would be playing with by far the best facilitating point guard he’s ever had in Doncic from day one. Dallas has a good nucleus of stardom, but needs to find far more ancillary help in the starting lineup. Fournier would also not be too terribly expensive, and would likely keep Dallas in the sign-and-trade game in the future as they could steer well clear of the apron.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
THJ has become a beloved Maverick, who the team does appear to still want to bring back on a long-term deal after an excellent two-plus year stint in Dallas. He has remained healthy, and easily played the best basketball of his career since being traded from New York. The question of what exactly to do with him now that is comes time to make a long-term call on his services has always been a difficult one.
For Dallas, they simply have to get better. They can’t run back the top three players from last year’s team, and expect to make quantum leaps under a new coach. Hardaway Jr. is a very solid NBA shooting guard who has lived up and then some to a very questionable long-term deal given to him by the Knicks, but for the Mavericks, they have to think bigger and better.
Dorian Finney-Smith was all by his lonesome at times last season. The Mavericks sorely lack perimeter wings who can defend at a high enough level, as Josh Richardson was a colossal disappointment for the team a year ago. Sure, Jason Kidd ought to make people more excited about Josh Green and Tyler Bey than they otherwise were, but there was little to nothing they actually showed on the floor a year ago to get people jazzed about their development.
Torrey Craig could get lost in the shuffle in Phoenix. They are going to prioritize signing Chris Paul and Cameron Payne in free agency, while ponying up a major extension for Deandre Ayton. Craig would instantly improve Dallas’s perimeter, and join a team still searching for ways to improve defensively. The Mavericks should probably steer clear of anything longer than three years in a contract for Craig, but he makes plenty of sense for a wing-thirsty bunch.
A lot of noise has been made about whether or not Spencer Dinwiddie cashes in on a major deal in free agency. Surely, someone will cough up a big hunk of change for his ability, but there is no reason for the Mavericks to be that team. For starters, the absolute last thing the Mavericks need is a player coming off a major injury. They already have their hands full managing Kristaps Porzingis’s paper-thin knees, and need more fresh bodies night-to-night than they had last year.
There’s also no clear edge in ability from Dinwiddie to Hardaway Jr. If Dallas is going to make a big financial commitment to a shooting guard, they ought to choose the healthier Hardaway, who is already familiar with playing in Dallas and has proven what a dynamic offensive option he can be. Dinwiddie would easily be one of the worst moves the Mavericks could ever make in free agency.
This is the last offseason that Dallas has plenty of cash to play with. So, seeing as this free agent class is quite poor, the Mavs need to add someone that can give the team some headroom. If they’re not going to have cap room after this offseason, they need to get players who will get better themselves over time, which is exactly the type of guy Lonzo Ball is. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league, and fits like a glove next to Luka Doncic. Dallas will still need to add shot creators at other positions in the future, but Ball solves a myriad of issues that plagued Dallas last year.
One wonders what heights the already very-gifted Ball could reach under the tutelage of Jason Kidd. There’s no better coach for Ball, who needs a steady hand to guide him in his development. He could also help the Mavericks bring in bigger fish in the future, which will certainly appeal to Mark Cuban.
Verdict: Double Ye, Watch the Throne