The Dallas Mavericks reload more than any good team in the league. Mark Cuban has worked tirelessly to get the right team around Dirk Nowitzki, and has another shot this offseason.
The free agency period is off to a good start, as Monta Ellis declined his option, freeing up more cap room for the Mavericks. Ellis is a talented player, but he doesn’t fit the current Mavericks roster, especially on the wing.
Armed with plenty of cap room, Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons, here are the steps to a successful offseason for Dallas.
Sign DeAndre Jordan to a maximum contract
The offseason success for the Mavericks will largely depend on whether the team can lure a maximum free agent.
Jordan may be a more limited player than the other potential maximum free agents, but he’s by far the best fit in Dallas. The Mavericks desperately need an elite defender next to Nowitzki, and Jordan can protect the rim as well as anybody.
Jordan can also replicate a lot of what Tyson Chandler did on offense. Jordan isn’t skilled offensively, but his athleticism makes him good at rolling to the rim and finishing. Dallas loved using Chandler as a roll man to open up the perimeter, and Jordan can do the same type of thing.
Overall, Jordan would be a perfect fit, and Cuban shouldn’t mess around with an offer. With the cap set to rise dramatically, Jordan is worth the maximum four-year contract. Since he has completed seven years in the NBA, that contract would start at 30 percent of the salary cap’s total, per Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ.
So, with the projected salary cap at $67.1 million, Jordan’s contract would start at $20,130,000. The contract would total four years and just over $86 million.
This contract won’t be near a max in a few years, so it’ll look excellent if Jordan fits in well in Dallas. And with his skillset matching the Mavericks’ needs perfectly, that is a good bet.
Give Wesley Matthews a three-year, $37.5 million contract
Matthews is coming off an Achilles tear, and will be a gamble for any team willing to pay him. But with his elite skillset, Dallas should be willing to take that gamble.
When healthy, Matthews is a jack-of-all-trades wing who brings excellent three-point shooting and defense. He was crucial to Portland’s success, and can fit in any system.
The Mavericks could use a good defense wing, since Parsons’ defense is a bit overrated. If Matthews heals, he could combine with Jordan to give the Mavericks a huge defensive upgrade.
Matthews is reportedly seeking $15 million average annual value, but, since he is coming off an injury, the Mavericks could get a deal done with a three-year, $37.5 million deal starting at $12 million.
Betting on Matthews is a risk, but he didn’t miss a game in four of his five years before last season. He may take half a season or more to regain his form fully, but, when he does, the team that signs him will be getting one of the most underrated players in the league.
Dump Raymond Felton’s contract along with a pick, and sign Rodney Stuckey to a two-year, $12 million deal
Jordan and Matthews both will command big deals, and that would take up most of the Mavericks’ cap space. The team could get a little extra room by shipping Felton’s contract and a second-round pick or two to a team with plenty of room. (Sam Hinkie is probably dialing Cuban’s number as we speak.) Since Felton’s deal is just under $4 million, it wouldn’t cost Dallas a lot to move him.
This $4 million would give the Mavericks enough money to make a run at Rodney Stuckey, who could be a valuable piece off the bench. Stuckey quietly had an excellent year for the Pacers last season, and improved his three-point shooting from 27.3 percent to 39 percent, per Basketball-Reference. Dallas could use a real weapon off the bench, and Devin Harris and Stuckey would combine to make a solid point guard combination. The free agent market for lead guards is weak, so Dallas would be wise to spend the big money elsewhere and rely on these two solid players.
Sign Alexis Ajinca to the Room Mid-Level Exception of one-year, $2.8 million
With no cap room left in this scenario, the Mavericks have one more weapon at the team’s disposal. The room mid-level exception allows teams under the cap to sign players to a set amount, despite the team not having cap room left.
For 2015-16, that amount is $2,814,000, according to Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ. Ajinca might be a bit of an unknown, but he’s worth this money.
Ajinca averaged less than 15 minutes last year for the Pelicans, but played well when he did play. He has great size and decent tough, and demonstrated good vision for a big man as well. He is a capable defender as well.
Dallas needs a backup to Jordan, and Ajinca is more than capable of this. There aren’t many quality big men that will be available for cheap, but Ajinca could be one of them.
Fill out the roster
This scenario presents a pretty top-heavy roster, so Dallas will need to sign solid fits for the minimum salary. J.J. Barea could be brought back, and Gary Neal might rediscover his form in another system offense. With Nowitzki playing limited minutes, Dante Cunningham or Reggie Evans could fit the bill as low cost players to help out at power forward.
The Mavericks hope Dwight Powell will be a rotation player this year, and first-round pick Justin Anderson could at least bring some shooting in his first year. This would leave the lineup for Dallas looking like this:
Point Guard-Devin Harris
Shooting Guard-Wesley Matthews
Small Forward-Chandler Parsons
Power Forward- Dirk Nowitzki
The Mavericks would have a few more bench spots available, with the team likely still searching for a backup big or swingman. But the team would have a very talented starting lineup, and enough punch off the bench to contend. Everything would have to break right for Dallas, but Cuban needs to try and make this team happen.