Marc Stein gave us a glimpse of the Mavs’ approach to Free Agents this summer.
In his newsletter, Marc Stein of the New York Times gave his impression of the Mavs’ thinking as we head towards free agency. This is significant as he is one of the most connected reporters in the NBA when it comes to the Mavs, so his words carry weight. Stein lays out a few key points that give us a glimpse into what to expect around July 1st as well as into next year.
Stein says the Mavs are still working out their Free Agency plans. This makes perfect sense as the Mavs are stuck with an unknown salary cap number until the draft lottery shakes out as well as the final 2019 cap number. If the Mavs retain their first-round pick and intend to use it, which eats $5-7M out of their cap, that leaves them less for free agency. On top that, I’m sure they are evaluating potential free agents who are still in the playoffs and how the team might fair in pulling them away from their current contenders.
Additionally, he gives his feelings on rumored free agents the Mavs COULD go after, but would be wasting their time. Stein pulls Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson off the table as far as the Mavericks are concerned. This makes some sense because this tier of free agents can write their own tickets and have not made it known through agents or back channels that they have interest in joining the young tandem of Luka and KP. This being known to the Mavs front office allows them to bypass setting up pointless meetings at 12:01am on July first and can focus in on players they feel much better about obtaining.
Stein also pulls one of the names off the table that has been most linked to the Mavs throughout the season: Nikola Vucevic. Stein has said previously that Vuc wasn’t high on the Mavs priority list and that still stands true. Most of the links between the Mavs and Vucevic have been made because he is represented by the same agent, Bill Duffy, as Luka Doncic and his idol Goran Dragic (who also has been somewhat linked). While this may hold some water, Vucevic’s performance in Orlando’s losing playoff effort might have done more to dissuade the Mavs from going after him than it helped. That and a philosophical objective change for the offseason seems to have doomed the idea of Vuc in a Mavs uniform.
According to Stein, The Mavs have opted to prioritize 3 things this offseason: Shooters, Athleticism and Veterans. Those 3 things say a great deal about the Mavs going forward. It sheds light on the direction of the team, the value they place on current pieces and what we can hope for from the front office this summer.
First, going for shooters means that the Mavs want Luka to be a Harden-esque point guard for the foreseeable future. He will most likely be the sole creator and distributor to a bevy of waiting for scoring threats. This is Luka’s team to run. Excellent. This also means that a big to pair with Porzingis is not a priority and the Mavs MIGHT pick up a center OR they might run with the situational center rotation they’ve had the past few years. The front office might like the look of KP next to some variation of Dwight, Maxi, and Salah for at least another year.
Secondly, the Mavs looking for athleticism is vague because all teams want to be athletic, but it is probably a catch-all for rim runners and water bug defenders. Luka’s pick and roll game with Powell and Maxi have shown his ability to excel with fast, smart athletes and the Mavs want to maximize that. On the defensive end, it’s no secret that this team needs rebounding and Luka needs defensive help on the perimeter while he develops his game on that end of the floor. Athletes who are two-way players can earn a ton of time on Carlisle’s team. This illustrates how the team is most likely looking to up the pace next year. At the beginning of the 2018 season, the Mavs pushed the pace with a rookie/sophomore backcourt with mixed results as they developed chemistry and slowed things down. As the season wore on and the record got worse, the pace did not improve. Athletes will help them keep pace with the contenders of the league.
Lastly, the Mavs are looking for veterans. This is the most significant update to be gleaned from Marc Stein’s newsletter. This says that the team is legitimately done “developing” and feel that Luka and KP are ready to compete at a high level. They are looking to put pieces in place to win now, not 3 years from now. They view their winning window as 2019, not 2023. Putting veteran heads around the young duo probably seeks to fill some of the effortless leadership void by Dirk’s retirement as well as help define the new team identity. Look for additions to the team with 7-8 yrs experience to match with the other two components of athleticism and shooting, rather than 12-15+ yr vets like Pau Gasol.
Lastly, he points Mavs fans towards 2 free agents the Mavs intend to target in Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker.
Middleton is a 6 yr vet who is a career 38% shooter from deep who might be the victim of Milwaukee’s upcoming financial situation this summer. The Mavs appear to be all in on trying to convince a player in his prime to leave the top team in wins this year for a young team with no proven track record. Why Middleton? Well he’s averaging 20 pts a game (useful), is shooting 60.8% on assisted 3pt shots (Luka can take care of this), and over 55% from 3 in the 6 playoff games he played before injury this year (excels in the playoffs, cool!) all while being a plus wing defender. Checks ALL the boxes.
Kemba Walker is a 7 yr veteran coming off his first All-Star appearance with an average of 25.6 pts/gm (very useful), 5.6 assts/gm (nice), 35.6% from 3 (very solid, and even better when assisted), and is an extremely athletic guard. The only downsides to Kemba joining the Mavs are that he a ball dominant guard, which is redundant to Luka if they wish to make him the primary ball handler, and he isn’t a great defender on the perimeter. Kemba might be a bit redundant to Luka, but if we revisit the Luka-Harden comparisons, Kemba could be his CP3 teammate that tells opposing defenses to pick their poison.
If the Mavs land one of either of these two players, the team’s core would consist of Luka, KP and either Kemba or Middleton for the next 4 years. Filling out the roster with 2 maxed players on the team might present a financial challenge, but Mark Cuban knows how to work numbers well enough that the roster should be alright. If they sign either of them, expect minimum salary players like Ryan Broekhoff and Salah to be back and possibly some promotions for some G-league folks like Kostas Antetokounmpo to get cheap deals this offseason.
Just think, it’s only starting to get wild, Mavs fans. As we get closer to free agency, expect this all to go nuts. Even though we know the Mavs like to play it close to the vest, there’s still a lot the rumors can tell us. And, of course, Mavs Nation has you covered. Til next time, intrepid readers!
Featured Image: Associated Press