After acquiring a former All-Star big man on Thursday when they traded for Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks are eyeing a current All-Star as a potential offseason target, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. A league source tells Townsend that the Mavs are setting their sights on Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Vucevic, 28, is enjoying the best season of his eight-year NBA career in 2018/19, averaging 20.6 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 3.8 APG with a .521/.378/.775 shooting line in 51 games (31.3 MPG) for Orlando.
While Vucevic has never been an elite rim protector – his 1.1 BPG this season match a career high – he has expanded and modernized his game within the last couple years by adding a three-point shot to his arsenal. The Mavs apparently view him as a potential fit at center alongside Porzingis, who would play the four.
If Dallas intends to make a serious run at Vucevic, it will be interesting to see how the team handles its cap situation. After adding Tim Hardaway, Courtney Lee, and Porzingis to the roster, the Mavs no longer project to have any real cap room during the offseason. In order to clear the cap room necessary to pursue Vucevic, the club may have to make a trade or count on Harrison Barnes or Dwight Powell opting out.
If Porzingis opts to sign his one-year, $4.5MM qualifying offer rather than inking a more lucrative longer-term deal, it could also create added flexibility for the Mavs, but that’s probably not the preferred outcome for the franchise.
Vucevic is earning $12.75MM this season and would technically fit into the Mavs’ newly-created $12.9MM trade exception, but Orlando seems unlikely to deal him this season, and Dallas is running out of favorable trade assets anyway. The 28-year-old appears to be in line for an offseason raise.