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Are Kelly Olynyk and the Mavs Meant to Be?

On June 27th, 2013 the Dallas Mavericks selected Gonzaga forward/center Kelly Olynyk with the 13th pick in the NBA draft and immediately traded him to the Boston Celtics. After selecting Olynyk for Boston and getting the 16th pick and two future second-rounders in return, the relationship between the Mavs and the seven-foot Canadian was over as soon as it began. 

Fast forward to 2017 and Olynyk and the Mavs have the opportunity to establish a longer history. Once the Gordon Hawyard free agency drama came to an end Olynyk was the first victim of the superstar’s max contract agreement with Boston. Per ESPN, the Celtics renounced the restricted free agent, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent and choose where he signs without giving Boston the chance to match and retain him.

Aside from being tied together via the draft, Olynyk and the Mavs have other similarities due to another seven foot three point shooter: Dirk Nowitzki. Don’t be mistaken, Olynyk is nowhere close to the legend that Nowitzki is (see: 30K+ points, NBA Champion, One-Legged Fade) but there are valid points to the comparisons.

Wear number 41? Check.

Shoot the 3 ball? Check.

Foreigner? Check. 7

Footer? Check.

With so many surface level similarities to Dirk is Kelly Olynyk a free agent that is worth a serious look by the Mavs front office?

Why He Should Be Considered

Offensive Fit
Olynyk played at both the forward and center positions in Boston. In Rick Carlisle’s system Dirk has also played at the power forward and center positions. Olynyk’s 37% career rate from three allows him to step out and space the floor. He shot 51% from the field during the 2016-2017 season which is 90th amongst all players and would be 24th amongst qualified players if he qualified. Assuming he would take on a role similar to Nowitzki’s he would need to be able to make mid-range shots and three pointers off of pick-and-pops with newly drafted point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and backup Yogi Ferrell.

Last year Nowitzki shot 44 percent from 16 feet to the three point line and 38percent from three. Olynyk shot 39 percent and 35 percent respectively. Although Olynyk’s shooting is not as refined as Dirk’s he has the ability to hit the same type of shots (minus one-legged fades). Sure, his numbers aren’t as great as Nowitzki’s, but that kind of efficiency will suffice when Dirk is on the bench.

Both of the players rebounding numbers are also comparable. Per-36 minutes stats have Olynyk averaging 8.4 boards per game and Nowitzki averaging 8.9 boards per game during the 2016-2017 season. The projections show that Nowitzki is slightly ahead of the younger player on the glass, which is something that Olynyk will need to work on if the Mavs want him.

Aside from shooting and rebounds, the per-36 minutes stats have Dirk and Olynyk averaging 2.1  and 3.5 assists respectively last season, suggesting that the younger of the two could be a better distributor.  Overall, the per-36 stats suggest the Olynyk can be a suitable backup and fit seamlessly into Dirk’s role in the Dallas offense.

Youth Movement

The Mavs are rebuilding while still trying to be competitive during Dirk’s final seasons. Because of this the front office has decided to go younger. After turning 26 in April Olynyk fits right into the Mavs search for young blood. He is the same age as Seth Curry and one year older than Harrison Barnes. He has only averaged around 20 minutes a game during his NBA career and bounced in and out of Brad Steven’s rotation in Boston, so he doesn’t have a ton of mileage under his feet. Although he is young and hasn’t averaged many minutes per game he has something only Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, Devin Harris, and JJ Barea have: conference finals playoff experience. This experience could be valuable to the younger players for future Mavs playoffs teams.

Why He Should Not Be Considered

Too Many Big Men

There are currently seven forwards/centers on the Mavs roster if you include Harrison Barnes at the power forward position. Assuming the roster doesn’t change, adding another front court player will make it difficult for Dallas to find time for all of the younger players they are trying to develop. Barnes, Powell, Dirk, and even Finney-Smith can play play power forward. Nerlens and Mejri will play center, with Dirk in the middle during small ball rotations. AJ Hammons is also on the roster. Adding another big to the roster will create even more of a logjam and will not help address the Mavs need for back court players.


As with everything in free agency, it all comes down to the money. Olynyk is entering a free agent market that has already given out “$870 million” in the first 24 hours, per Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver. That does not include the new contracts for Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, and Kevin Durant. To put it simply, the available money from teams is drying up each passing day, leaving free agents that are not signed yet at a disadvantage when negotiating the dollar value of their deals.

Olynyk now finds himself in this predicament. It is also difficult to determine what his market value is. Patrick Patterson, who is also known to be a stretch four type player, signed a four year contract for roughly $5 million a year. Other comparable contracts are Amir Johnson (1 year, $11 million), Taj Gibson (2 years, $28 million), and Zach Randolph (2 years, $24 million). Based on these deals it looks like Olynyk could command anywhere between $5 and $14 million a year.

The Mavs are already paying Dwight Powell, who is also a forward, $9 million this year. Bringing in someone similar in age and position for an annual salary up to $5 million more would be irresponsible of the front office. Unless Dallas has the ability to get Olynyk’s deal down to a similar range or move Powell, creating a log jam in the front court and paying more for a similar player already on the roster seems misguided.

Staff writer covering the Dallas Mavericks | I was in Miami when the Mavs won in 2011 and I was in the building to see Dirk's 30K point. I follow the Mavs and NBA religiously, with the Cowboys and Rangers sprinkled in. Outside of sports I like The Office, cooking, and good beer.

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