The NBA Offseason takes a second wind1 when Free Agency Season begins in just a few hours. The Dallas Mavericks have already hinted that they are not going to be going after the previously coveted ‘big fish’ this summer and they all but confirmed that they franchise is not interested in acquiring a point guard like Jrue Holiday after drafting Dennis Smith Jr.
At the Center position, re-signing Nerlens Noel to anchor the frontcourt has been made a priority, Salah Mejri has a team-favorable low non-guaranteed contract and is more than likely to return, A.J. Hammons has a guaranteed contract, and two other bigs also played big minutes at center last season. Dirk Nowitzki2 played 50% of his minutes last season at the center position and will certainly be returning for his 20th season. Dwight Powell3 is mostly listed as a 4 or ‘Power Forward’ but he also played 86% of his minutes at the 5-spot and has a guaranteed contract on the books.
Between the 1 and 5 spots in the lineup, the Mavericks are either content or log jammed so the focus in Free Agency should be up the middle of the roster. Wing players that can play/guard multiple positions are at a premium in the League and the evidence for that can be found all over the place, including the insane max-contract that Otto Porter is going to sign this summer.4 The Mavericks have a lot of players that fall into that category. Wes Matthews, Seth Curry, Devin Harris, Harrison Barnes, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Nicolas Brussino are all wing-type players who can play multiple positions but all of those players range from ‘fringe NBA player’ to ‘good NBA player.’ Strengthening and upgrading that group is the next step in the Mavs development.
The Mavericks are also a team that is obviously rebuilding. The average age of the current roster5 is 26.5–just about average in the NBA last season (26.6). Contrast that number with the average age of the 2015-16 Mavericks roster of 29.8 (three years over the League average that season) and it’s clear the Mavs are only trying to get younger.
Taking everything into consideration, the Mavericks could have upwards of $30 million dollars to spend in Free Agency. But with the intent to re-sign Noel and retain pretty much everyone else6 a realistic figure is probably closer to $15-18 million.
All of that being said, if the Mavericks were going to put together a wish list for an ideal free agent it would look like this:
- Wing-Type Player (SG, SF, Possible Small-Ball 4)
- Young Enough7
- Underused (low Usage %) or Incorrectly Used (Out of position)
- “Bad” Situation8
- Underwhelming Play but Show Flashes (Low Risk, High Reward)
- Upside/Untapped Potential
That wish list perfectly applies to two Mavericks acquisitions last off-season, Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry. Barnes and Curry went from 5th Option and Fringe NBA player to major pieces in the Mavericks young core. The goal for the Mavericks in Free Agency should be to basically replicate those signings.
Taking the Wish List and examining all of the potential Free Agents that are available, one player checks the most boxes: Ben McLemore.
- Wing-type: CHECK
- Young Enough: CHECK
Over his four-year NBA career, McLemore’s minutes per game and usage percentage has waxed and waned in an almost random fashion.
McLemore has been losing minutes on his current team and trying to overcompensate by using more possessions. That sounds like a guy that needs a change of scenery. Ben also played an odd 11% of his minutes, out of position, at the point guard spot because the Kings only employed two full-time PGs in Ty Lawson and Darren Collison.
- Underused: CHECK
- Out of Position: (Kind of) CHECK
An argument about McLemore can be made in both ways. Either his poor play has caused his drop in minutes and declined Qualifying Offer or the Sacramento Kings are overlooking one of their own players… yet again.
Over the past 10 years, the Kings have had 8 people hold the title of Head Coach (4 in McLemore’s 4 years with the team) and the drama is undeniable.
- Bad Situation: CHECK
In regards to his actual play on the court, there are a few good signs for the former #7 overall pick from 2013. His three-point percentage has increased every single season culminating in his 38% mark last season. His shooting stroke is near perfect and in a different situation with better point guards (McLemore’s PGs in SAC: Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Rajon Rondo, Ray McCallum) and more space that beautiful shot could start connecting at a higher clip. He also had three 22 point games last season, including one against the Mavericks chop full with highlight dunks and impressive threes.
- Underwhelming Play but Show Flashes: CHECK
- Upside/Untapped Potential: CHECK
Ben McLemore isn’t the sexy Free Agent option in this class like Hassan Whiteside last season, or the caliber of player that Mike Conley was last season, odds are he probably wouldn’t even start for the Mavericks. But if that Wish List is accurate then he checks the most boxes, including the final box which is ‘Affordable.’ Otto Porter, Jonathan Simmons, and Danilo Gallinari would be nice but would an open auction for any of them end at $15 million per year?
- Affordable: CHECK
Ben McLemore is an affordable, young, underused, underwhelming, wing-type player who Shows flashes of untapped potential in a bad situation that the Mavericks should take a good hard look at this week.
- Or, 3rd or 4th, this offseason has been crazy already
- Whose contract situation is George Clooney-level up-in-the-air but only in the sense of how much he will receive, not where he will go
- Whether you like him or not
- Just watch…
- Including Dennis Smith Jr and Nerlens Noel
- That hasn’t been traded to the Rockets for CAAAAASHH MONAAAAY
- Under 27 Years Old
- Looking at you Sacramento, New York, Brooklyn. But this can also apply to a guy like Barnes who was a 4th or 5th option in an offense. That’s not a bad situation per se but to display Barnes’ full potential he would need to go to a different situation
- Last season he actually played 11% of his minutes at PG because… KANGZ
- Oh, well get to them, don’t worry
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