In continuing with our pre-June 30th free agency preview (say that twenty times), we look to a team that may have one of the more interesting off-seasons in the NBA.
The Dallas Mavericks will enter the 2019-20 season without Dirk Nowitzki on the roster for the first time since the 1998-99, with an outsiders chance of making a legitmate push towards an NBA Championship.
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There ability to content in the West will be dependant on their ability to lure the right free agents. The key there is the word ‘right’, as they should be targeting players next to the perimeter creativity of Luka Doncic as the main ball handler and Kristaps Porzingis’ crafty stretch five game.
If we’re assuming that Kawhi, KD, Klay (would be a perfect fit) and Kyrie are all off the board for the Mavs, the top of their wish list should be the ultra competitive Jimmy Butler. However it seems unlikely that Jimmy would be coming to the Mavs.
So now we have a more realistic state of play that is out there for the Mavs. The Mavs would likely need to find a solid third option to round out their top tier talent class, as well as some copetant role players.
In relation to find the third top guy, I think the Mavs need a guard scorer who can carry a load offensively in minutes where you can’t rely on the shooters on the floor or in the all important non Luka and Kristaps minutes.
However if you don’t think a scoring guard is that important to the Mavs, than there is a different route you can take when looking at the way they could build a contender in Dallas…specifically built around acquiring one player.
Top Guard Targets: D’Angelo Russell and Kemba Walker
If you follow the rumours around the NBA, both Russell and Kemba have been linked to the Mavs in recent times.
It seems likely that D’Angelo will be moving from the Nets, due to the cap constraints of the acquisition of Kyrie Irving and a possible second star (however we don’t know who this might be).
Meanwhile in Charlotte, the Hornets are seemingly very indifferent to paying their long time and tortured point guard Kemba to a super-max deal when they’re team shows no sign of being competitive under such conditions.
To get either of these players would be a huge win for the Mavs, providing some extra spacing with their ability to hit a spot up jump shot, some essential play-making ability from the back court and the line-up versatility that could spoil Rick Carlisle for choice in an NBA landscape that is predicated on rest and buy stars minutes.
If pushed to make a choice between the two, Russell appears and the better player and the player who is closer in age to the Mavs existing young stars. However there has never been a concern with Walker’s ability to be a great teammate and perhaps a change of scenery to a winning situation could make him the catalyst for a winner in Dallas.
Still, a team with an engaged Russell on a team fully committed to him with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis is too hard to pass up, so the ultimate goal should be Russell and then Kemba.
Second Choices at Guard: Malcolm Brogdon, Patrick Beverley and Terry Rozier
If you don’t get the top class free agents (something the Mavericks are familiar with), there is a nice and intriguing second class of free agents for them to pursue if they need a solid point.
Brogdon and Beverley are two personal favourites of mine for the simple reason that they can both play solid basketball on the offensive end as spacers, both can defend the best guard on the other team for long stretches of time (something the Mavs sorely need) and both have played in big games in the playoffs.
It’s hard to see the Bucks allowing Brogdon to go elsewhere easily, so you’d likely have to overpay for the asset and hope he plays up to the overpay. However Brogdon seems to have the requisite abilities to be the third best player on a championship team sometime in his career and betting on him with this team would be a good gamble.
Beverley would bring an experience and edge to a young upstart and it’s hard to imagine a notoriously harsh critic of guards in Rick Carlisle not falling in love with the grizzled vet. Pat would also help form the kind of strong defensive idenity any playoff team needs.
If you can’t get either of those but want to take a gamble, Rozier could be the kind of asset to bet on. Only one year removed from a fantastic run in the Eastern Conference playoff for Boston, it’s possible that Terror Terry can return to starting point guard form on a good team. While he’s more of a gamble than the other two, you may also get him at a lower price than Brogdon and he may have a higher ceiling on offence than Beverley, being a happy medium of the two options.
A Different Approach: Al Horford
Ok so forget everything you’ve read so far and think about this.
You have a skinny 7 foot forward in Porzingis who is predicated on contesting shots at the ring and using a combination of finesse and length to get buckets. You also have a 6’7 forward who essentially functions as your point guard and is possibly one of the most talented young offensive players the league has seen in sometime.
You then have these players filling out your core 7/8 players (at this point) – Tim Hardaway Jr who is mostly a spot up/isolation scorer, Courtney Lee who is the same but without the iso scoring ability and a rebounding forward in Dwight Powell, who makes it hard for KP to get good looks close to the ring because he clogs it up inside.
So what do you need in that core? Another play-maker at guard (the best fits of which have been mentioned) and another forward who can spread the court, cover for KP on defending the low block and pass the ball.
Enter, Al Horford. If you can’t get that elite guard talent or even the potential at some, then go ahead and pay Al Horford.
It appears that Horford will not be returning to the Celtics next season, dealing yet another crushing blow to the Celtics decade long plan of returning to playoff glory (more on this tomorrow).
So if you’re the Mavs and you have some space, giving Al the three years he’s looking for while Luka is on a rookie deal could be a worthwhile move. Not only do you make yourself more competitive right now by adding possibly one of the most underrated assets in basketball, you also get the kind of player that seems to be able to get young players and NBA journeymen to play well above their actual abilities by covering up a tonne of weaknesses and playing unselfishly to maximise their strengths.
From game 1, Horford and Porzingis become one of the most terrifying Center-Forward combos in the NBA, possibly only trailing LeBron-Davis in terms of front-court duos that you have a crap time playing.
Sure you’d have to spend some money and you’d be relegated to a class of lower tier point guards, but as long as you fill out that starting five with a competent shooter and defender, who cares?
The defence would be suffocating, with both being able to move their feet on a switch, block shots at the rim and rebound at an elite level. Both can space for the other on offence and Luka would have a reliable play-making big he can cut and slash off of.
It would be a wonderful experiment I would personally take great pleasure in watching.