Offseason Outlook: Dallas Mavericks

May 26 at 10:00am CDT By Chuck Myron

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 2nd Round (34th overall)
  • 2nd Round (51st overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $28,267,575
  • Options: $915,243
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $2,067,282
  • Cap Holds: $47,731,773
  • Total: $78,981,873

For a third consecutive summer, the Mavs plan an offseason pursuit of a marquee player to put next to Dirk Nowitzki. This time, Dallas has nonetheless expressed interest in retaining a handful of its own free agents, with coach Rick Carlisle having spoken of the team’s fondness for continuity after two years of roster turnover and GM Donnie Nelson‘s open to keeping the team together. The club seems to have competing goals, but it’s possible for the Mavs to retain nine players under contract for next season, re-sign Nowitzki at a reduced rate, and still approach the kind of cap flexibility necessary to chase maximum-salary level free agents.

That two-pronged approach hinges on Nowitzki’s willingness to re-sign at a discount. Neither he nor the Mavs have expressed any doubts that he’ll return to Dallas next season, but the former MVP wants the team to show respect to his continued strong play. The 7-footer averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per game with 39.8% three-point shooting this past season. His 23.6 PER was his highest since 2007/08. Were he not turning 36 next month, he’d fit the profile of a maximum-salary player. Instead, he’s staring at a significant decrease in pay from the more than $22.7MM he made this past season. He’s already acknowledged he won’t be receiving anything resembling the two-year, $48.5MM extension that’s about to kick in for Kobe Bryant, just two months Nowitzki’s junior. Reports indicate he’s in line for deals ranging from a three-year, $30MM pact to a contract with annual salaries of as much as $12MM. I think he’ll probably wind up on the high end of that range, but in any case, the Mavs are poised to have Nowitzki at a bargain price next season.

There will be pressure on Dallas to rapidly close the deal with Nowitzki so that the team can make the deal official as soon as the July Moratorium ends and wipe his massive cap hold off the books. That shouldn’t be too tough a task for an organization that’s intimately familiar with the down-to-earth star who lets mentor Holger Geschwindner negotiate his deals in place of an agent. It’ll nonetheless be the first time the Mavs are asking Nowitzki for such a sacrifice, so it won’t necessarily be an open-and-shut procedure.

A $12MM salary for Nowitzki and the club’s planned retention of Samuel Dalembert and his full salary would give the Mavs about $42.3MM in commitments, $20MM shy of the projected salary cap. That wouldn’t be enough to accommodate a maximum-salary offer for free agent target Carmelo Anthony, who can make close to $22.5MM next season, particularly given the roughly $1.5MM in roster charges the Mavs would incur if they were to strip down to nine players. The Mavs would nonetheless be reasonably close. They could clear additional cap space if they find a trade partner for Shane Larkin, last year’s 18th overall pick. Larkin is somewhat redundant on a roster that features three other point guards under contract for next season. Still, Dallas is nonetheless reportedly uninterested in paying Anthony the max, suggesting the team might not want to go so far as to dump last year’s first-round pick just to get as close to Anthony’s max as possible.

The Mavs will certainly make a run at ‘Melo, but it doesn’t appear as though their offseason plans are dedicated to a pursuit of the top free agent target, as was the case in 2012 with Deron Williams and to a lesser degree with Dwight Howard last summer. It seems most likely the Mavs will miss out on the top four players in the latest Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings. LeBron James appears increasingly likely to stay in Miami, the Suns intend to match all offers for restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, Anthony doesn’t have Dallas high on his wishlist and the Mavs and Chris Bosh have a mutual disinterest. That still leaves a coterie of players more valuable than Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, the Mavs’ headliners from last summer’s free agent effort, and for the likes of Greg Monroe, Kyle Lowry and Zach Randolph, there’d be no need to strain to clear extra cap room.

Luol Deng and Marcin Gortat are reportedly two of the team’s primary targets. Of the pair, Deng appears more valuable, if more expensive, but he’s also more likely to leave his current team, as his brief Cleveland experience seemed to go south nearly from the beginning. Deng would be a younger replacement for Shawn Marion at small forward, and he’d provide the defense needed to offset the presence of Calderon and Ellis with enough offensive firepower to give the Mavs a frighteningly potent attack. There will be plenty of competition for Deng, but even a rumored $13.5MM price tag for the 29-year-old would be doable. It probably wouldn’t take that much to land Gortat, but it might require money not too far removed from that figure to pry him from the Wizards. He’d instantly become the team’s best center since Tyson Chandler, whom Dallas not coincidentally has interest in reacquiring.

There’s no telling if Chandler can recapture his status as an elite defender after an early season injury led to a down year this past season, and his contract, which calls for him to make $14.5MM next season, would scare off most. Dallas didn’t want to give him that kind of money when he agreed to that deal with the Knicks right after the lockout, but this time, doing so would only require a one-season commitment, since Chandler’s contract is up a year from now. Still, such a trade would probably require the Mavs to relinquish one of Calderon and Ellis or much of the team’s cap flexibility this summer, and neither option seems all that appealing. Larry Sanders is another defensive-minded center whom Dallas is apparently eyeing, but he’d be significantly more of a risk. His new four-year, $44MM extension kicks in for next season, and while he’d be less expensive than Chandler would be for next season, the long-term commitment would be the stumbling block. The Mavs can’t afford an $11MM albatross for each of the next four years as Nowitzki’s biological clock ticks.

The Mavs had one of the oldest rosters this past season, as 36-year-old Marion and 37-year-old Vince Carter embodied. Those two won’t combine to make the nearly $12.5MM they hauled in this past season, but they’re not minimum-salary fodder, either. Each has shown interest in returning, but Marion can envision playing elsewhere, and it’s conceivable that Carter will end up with offers for a salary greater than the $3.18MM he made this year. The Mavs are apparently worried about how they’ll be able to retain both without compromising their cap flexibility. In Marion’s case, just as with Nowitzki, there’s pressure on the team to quickly reach an agreement to wipe his outsized cap hold off the books. There seems a strong chance the Mavs end up renouncing his Bird rights if they can’t close a deal by the end of the moratorium.

Dallas has another decision it has to make regarding its team option on Jae Crowder. His ability to carve out a niche in the team’s rotation would in many cases make it a no-brainer to keep him at less than $1MM for next season, but declining the option would give the Mavs an extra shot of cap flexibility. That money could make all the difference when it comes to finding room for either a big fish like Anthony or a mix of second-tier free agents and new deals for Carter and Marion.

The Mavs showed they can compete with the very best in the Western Conference during their seven-game challenge of San Antonio, and they’ll have a few methods of giving themselves more than a puncher’s chance for next season. Which method they end up employing might not be as important as their willingness and preparedness to use all the tools at their disposal rather than just banging away with the shiniest one.

Cap footnotes

* — Crowder’s qualifying offer would be $1,115,243 if the team declines its option. That would represent his cap hold, unless the Mavs elect not to tender the qualifying offer. In that case, Crowder’s cap hold would be $915,243.
** — The Mavs hold the draft rights to Koponen, who’s yet to sign an NBA contract. He was the 30th overall pick in 2007, and his cap hold is equal to 100% of the rookie scale for the 30th overall pick in this year’s draft.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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