The seven years since the Mavs hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy have given fans a lot of reason for pessimism about this team. Ownership and the front office opted not to re-sign virtually all key members of their 2011 championship team in order to create cap space to chase a marquee free agent to pair with superstar Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas has always managed to get themselves in the conversation, but are never able to completely land the star they target. To recap:
2012: DFW native Deron Williams opts to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets after narrowing his decision to the Nets and Mavericks.
2013: The Dwight Howard pursuit…
2014: Shoot their shot with Carmelo Anthony but settle for partying in the club with Chandler Parsons.
— sal pellone (@salpell1) July 10, 2014
2015: Don’t even ask…
Don't agree with the furniture layout but I'm not an interior designer. pic.twitter.com/23PNgQB88z
— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin23) July 9, 2015
2016: Flirtation with Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside, but get Harrison Barnes/Wesley Matthews.
After not really casting a free agency fishing line in 2017, the Mavericks appear ready to jump back into the fray when free agency begins at midnight on July 1st. With several years of relative failure on their resume, Mavs fans are probably skeptical about the team’s chances to go out and land one of the top free agents available this summer.
If the Mavericks do choose to be aggressive come July 1st, which coach Rick Carlisle and GM Donnie Nelson have indicated they will be, they currently have a way better pitch to make than ever before.
This begins with the impressive collection of young talent Dallas has added over the last two years. When the Mavs were trying to convince All-Stars to spend the prime of their career in Dallas at various points this decade, the team had been virtually stripped down to an aging Dirk Nowitzki and cap space as Dallas repeatedly signed players to short-term deals as a stop-gap in order to pursue a star in free agency. Now, Dallas can pitch playing with 26 year-old Harrison Barnes, 20 year-old Dennis Smith Jr. and the shiny new toy: 19 year-old draftee Luka Doncic.
Another thing to remember about the timing of the Mavs’ previous free agency failures: the league was seemingly wide open at the time. In years like 2012-2014, LeBron James and the Miami Heat won two out of three NBA Finals, but they certainly were not unbeatable as the Mavs took them down in 2011 and the San Antonio Spurs did it in 2014. In 2015, the young up and coming Golden State Warriors took the throne, but there wasn’t any stamp of certainty that they’d have a lock on the league or anything.
Now, those Warriors have won three out of the last four NBA titles and the consensus seems to be they can dominate the league for as long as they want to do so. How many teams even have a real chance at taking them down next season? You can make an argument for a small amount, but the point is: your options are INCREDIBLY slim if your free agency destination depends on having a chance to win an NBA title AND get the contract you want. So younger teams building towards success when the Warriors falter in a few years shouldn’t be dismissed as contenders for landing a star this offseason.
Are the Mavericks going to land LeBron James or Paul George this summer? No, but they will be looking for the services of a marquee big man like Demarcus Cousins, Clint Capela or possibly DeAndre Jordan. They have the ability to carve out enough cap space to offer a massive annual salary to each of them if they choose to, so Dallas will definitely get a chance to sell themselves to each of those big men.
There’s no certainty that the Mavs will come away with a star of their choice this summer, but the way the league has changed and current construction of their roster will definitely give them a better chance than they’ve had at any time since their championship in 2011.
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