It has been a quick and graceless fall for the Dallas Mavericks since they shocked the Big Three and the world in the summer of 2011. Only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain from the roster that won the NBA Championship, and there is a chance that Dirk is the only holdover left standing come Opening Night 2013.
Mark Cuban has promised that he and Donnie Nelson will put a title contending team together over the next two years. It’s hard to be that optimistic considering the flop that was the Deron Williams courtship last summer, but the Mavs front office delivered the ultimate prize before when the Dirk window appeared shut.
Over the next few weeks I’ll take a look at the five free agent targets at each position that I feel the Mavericks are likely to target. I’ll also list a few names that are slightly off the radar, but could end up in Dallas if the top 5 fall through the cracks.
1) Chris Paul - 1A to the overall free agency dream scenario for the Mavericks. As Mark Cuban pointed out on ESPN Dallas GameDay last weekend, the failure of both LA teams in the first round of the playoffs increased the likelihood that Paul (and target 1B, Dwight Howard) will seriously test the free agent waters.
His 25.55 PER ranks second to Lebron James for active NBA players, which is why he’s at the top of the Mavs wish list. That’s also why he’ll get a max offer from the Clippers (which includes an extra year worth $20+ million that no other team can match). LA recently let go of Vinny Del Negro in a move that many believe was made to show Paul they are willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy long term.
My guess is that the “Lob City” sales pitch (enhanced by the extra boatload of cash) is enough to keep CP3 in LA, but the Mavericks will make it a tough call.
2) Jose Calderon - Calderon is a player that has been tied to the Mavericks in the past via trade rumors, and this is my pick for the most likely guy to end up as the next starting point guard in Dallas. He was dealt to the Pistons from Toronto earlier this year, and now enters free agency unrestricted.
He has the second best career PER (17.6) of the 5 players I’ve listed, and finished 2012-13 with a career high 46.1% shooting from the 3-point line (52% since going to Detroit). He’s not a high scorer though, averaging 11.3 points p/g last season (10.1 for his career), but he turns the ball over less than even Chris Paul does (2.2 vs 2.4 per 36 minutes).
The Pistons want to keep him, but it’s not impossible to imagine that he’d choose playing in Dallas if Cuban, Donnie, and Dirk come calling.
3) Brandon Jennings - When the Milwaukee Bucks played at the AAC, Jennings talked openly about the possibility of playing in Dallas as a Maverick, and now the rumblings out of “The Good Land” are that the Bucks front office prefers holding onto 27 year old Monta Ellis instead of the 23 year old Jennings.
After seeing his scoring average rise in his first three years in the NBA, Jennings appeared to trade a few points per game (from 19.1 to 17.5) in for a slightly higher assist per game average (from 5.5 to a career high 6.5). Despite playing the most minutes in his career, his turnovers stayed right at his career average of 2.5 per 36 minutes.
He’ll cost more than Calderon, but it might not take as much money as once thought if Milwaukee is indeed ready to part ways.
4) Jeff Teague - Teague is the least likely name on the list to wind up in Dallas, but Cuban may go for broke if he misses out on Paul, Jennings, Howard, or a few other players I’ll reveal later on in this project.
Teague is still raw at 24, but each of his four years in the league his PER has risen (11.0, 14.6, 15.8, 16.8) along with his playing time as a starting PG (144 starts the last two years after just 10 in his first two seasons).
Unlike Jennings, the Hawks are expected to match any offer sheet that Teague gets, and being a restricted free agent that means he stays in Atlanta. Suitors will probably have a very short window to get Teague’s signature on an offer sheet too. It’s difficult to envision the Mavericks getting into the bidding early enough if they focus on CP3 and/or D12 as expected.
5) Darren Collison - Collison ended February looking as if he would be the 2013-14 PG for the Mavs if they missed out on Paul in free agency. Then his season went sour. He started just 2 of 25 games for Dallas in March and April after starting 45 of 56 in the previous five months. His assists fell off from 74 in February to 62 in March while playing 53 more minutes.
Even with his struggles at the end of the year, Collison is still young (25). I’ve gone back and forth between Collison and Mo Williams for the 5th spot on this list, but Williams numbers have steadily declined the last several years and he’s likely to cost more. Plus, Mo is 5 years older
The key is if the organization feels Darren’s step back was growing pains or a sign that he just isn’t capable of running point for 82 games. Rest assured that Rick Carlisle knows the answer and will have a significant say in the decision.
Off The Radar:
- C.J. Watson
- Mo Williams
- Nate Robinson
- Devin Harris